In no other part of world is being in love so difficult as it is in Palestine
These Palestinian couples are giving us amazing life goals. In the game of love, the chances that a girl’s engagement to a young man who will serve hundreds of years in the occupation prisons are impossible to understand. Psychologically, a life sentence is devastating to anybody. For Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, it is tantamount to being lifeless, embalmed, and stuffed into a coffin. Sadly, they keep dreaming while shrouded in concrete walls and steel bars., They continue their education and achieve MAs and PhDs, and some even get engaged.
The stories of two couples, Gufran al-Zamel and Hasan Salameh, and Manar Khallawi and Osama al-Ashqar, are excellent examples for proving that love can defeat concrete wall and steel bars.
Manar Khallawi and Osama al-Ashqar
“It wasn’t an easy decision to be made, it too me two years to convince my family to agree to my engagement to a person who will never get out of prison.” These are the words of Manar Khallawi, 23, a recently-enrolled Master’s student at Al-Quds University. She lives in Wadi Rahal, south of Bethlehem, with her family of four brothers. Manar and Osama’s story began two years ago. Manar has a relative in Israeli prison who was friends with Osama al-Ashqar. Osama, 37, from Tulkarem, has been in prison for 18 years.
He is currently serving five life-sentences and fifty years in Israeli jail after he was accused of conducting military operations against Israeli occupation forces. Osama was detained on November 14, 2002, in an ambush set up in Tulkarem Province after evading Israeli occupation forces for years. He was subject to harsh torture and intensive interrogation for months and was isolated in solitary confinement prior to sentencing.
Manar used to send messages and greetings to all prisoners via a radio program that all prisoners listened to, including Osama, who eventually asked for Manars’ hand via her relative. Manar agreed, and while her family initially refused, after two years they finally agreed. “My family wondered how could a young and well-educated woman like me could be engaged to a man who will spend the rest of his life in the jail,” Manar says, “but at the end they agreed and left the choice to their daughter.”
Two weeks ago and, during the launch of Osamas’ first book ” Prison has another taste”, they announced their engagement. What impressed Manar most about Osama was that he authored a book and continued his education in prison. He completed high school and received a Bachelor’s degree, and he planned to further his studies toward a Master’s degree. He learned English, French, and Hebrew, in spite of the harsh conditions that he is subjected to and the lack of access to learning he has in Israeli jails.
“Osama is full of love, his love for freedom for his country leads him to the unjust Israeli occupation prison,” says Manar of her fiancé. “How can they think a person who is full of love to be full of hate?”
Manar wishes to one day visit Osama because she has never had the opportunity to see him before. She is filled with hope that this injustice will not last forever and that they will be together soon.
Gufran al-Zamel and Hasan Salameh
For Ghufran and Hasan, the decision to be engaged happened outside the prison. An ex-prisoner and journalist, Ghufran Zamel, 36 from Nablus, sent a message to the life-imprisoned Hasan Salamah, whom she had never met, that she would accept if he asked her hand in marriage. Hasan, in return, sent her his marriage proposal. They were soon engaged and were full of hope that they would meet very soon.
“My decision came from my admiration of the spirit of freedom fighters held in the occupation custody,” Ghufran said. Her face flushed with anger, when she recalled her days in the prison “I was once in the jail and I know how the occupation forces try to destroy Palestinian detainees’ spirit, and to kill their love by all cunning means,” she added. She describes the life sentence as harsher than a death sentence. ” There are over 500 Palestinian prisoners are sentenced for life in Israeli prison facing all kinds of degradation and oppression by the Israeli occupation”. “50 of them have spent more than 20 years in prison, all have been detained for more than a quarter of a century.”
She explained that she had often heard of Hasan and his heroic acts for his beloved occupied country. Hassan Salameh is from Khan Younis city in central of the Gaza strip.
He was imprisoned in 1996, and received 48 life sentences from an Israeli military court. Since then he has spent about 25 years, 14 of them in solitary confinement.
Ghufran confided that Hasan’s only worry was the torment his long incarceration was likely to cause her. He always said “you are full of life and beautiful, I don’t want you to spend your youth waiting for me”, and Ghufran always replied and insisted “I’ll be happy to sacrifice my youth for you”. she recalled ” After our engagement, I felt his happiness and his resilience stronger and renewed,” added. She and Hasan were engaged in 2010 when she was only 26 years old.
Ghufran was incarcerated in the Israeli occupation prison for 10 months on charge of incitement against occupation. The story of the freed prisoners Ahlam Tamami and Nizar Tamimi also inspired Ghufran a lot. Both Ahlam and Nizar were sentenced to life imprisonment, yet they both were engaged in the occupation prison, while their jailers were mocking them, saying that would die there in prison. In 2011, both were released in a prisoner exchange between the Palestinian resistance and Israel, and the couples finally met. Their story remains legendary. Ghufran ended her speech smiling and says “No pain, no gain. I will wait him forever and I do believe that we will gather one day.”
Definitely, these Palestinian couples are giving us amazing life goals.
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