23, from Saffa, Occupied West Bank, Palestine. 3rd year student in Al-Quds University studying social services. Middle child of six siblings. Recently freed following the prisoner deal between Hamas and Zionist government, but not before she was silenced by being forced to sign a downward “treaty”, thereby sacrificing her “freedom of speech” for her “freedom”*.
Sumoud Karraja was imprisoned in October of 2009 in AlDamun prison following an attack on an IOF officer at the Qalandiya checkpoint. While under interrogations, Sumoud repeatedly denied her accusation. Nonetheless she was given a life sentence, which with extreme lawyer efforts was reduced to a serving of 20 years.
Sumoud’s lifelong dream was to visit the off-bound city of Jerusalem. She got her wish, however along with the sweet came the sour-she was blindfolded and bled from the plastic handcuffs placed on her as she was being interrogated in AlMaskubiyeh Interrogation Facility in Jerusalem.
She repeatedly denied her accusations. Out of frustration, the Israeli “Justice” System attempted to pin on her many pathetic charges in order for her to serve her 20 years.
2 years in prison
She was placed in solitary confinement for a total of 25 days. She was then placed in a 3 meter by 3 meter room along with 7 other prisoners. In her 2 years, she learned Hebrew and hand crafts. Inmates prior to her coming learned from inmates prior to their coming many issues concerning politics and passed their teachings onto her.
Fridays in prison were, she describes sarcastically, “Eid” [holiday]. The Friday meal consisted of a piece of chicken thigh, topped with feathers. Many inmates had no choice but to remove bits of skin and feathers from their chicken thigh and eat it. Gilad Shalit was given a meal of stuffed chicken every Friday while captured.
In her 2 years served, Sumoud saw her family a total of 3 times. The first time her family visited her, after 6 months of her arrest, her family was allowed a visit, a rare opportunity given to families of prisoners. Her little sister Baghdad, who was 5 at the time, wanted to present her sister with red flowers she had picked from the Karmel mountains of Haifa. Zionist prisoner guards did not allow the flowers in, and forcefully took them from Baghdad, despite her tears. An everyday example of the attempts to suppress innocence and humanity. As Palestinians, we have come to the bitter realization of Zionists’ idea of psychological manipulation that is far greater than forcefully taking flowers from a 5 year old child. It goes to mock prisoners’ intelligence by denying them basics acts of innocence and beauty.
Sumoud, along with 3 other prisoners, Linan Abu Ghulma, Du’a Jayyousi, and Woroud Qasim all took part in the Palestinian Prisoners Hunger Strike. Sumoud was on hunger strike for 9 days before she found out she was to be released, all part of the prisoner exchange deal. She explains how she got the news.
“The prison warden was reading names off a list. Linan and Du’a’s names were stated, and then mine was. I thought there was a mistake. I thought they had intended to call out Woroud’s and got mixed up. I had only served 2 years; surely they had mistaken my name!”
An oppressor’s duty is to keep the oppressed from becoming cultivated. We live in our minds, and minds are always free. Novels in prison are disguised as petty books like cooking books and hidden away from the random searches that take place within. After Sumoud was arrested, around 20 military jeeps raided her room and took many personal belongings. Books and diaries were the prime targets. Education is not granted in prison, following the Shalit Law passed by Knesset in May 23rd of 2010. These are all major attempts to stifle the power of thought, attempting to keep our minds locked in ignorance.
“My dreams have no limits”
Out of prison, Sumoud is haste to pick up where she left off. She intends to finish her university studies, all the way to obtaining a PhD. She plans to establish an organization for children all over Palestine, especially those with special needs. When asked if she would continue to resist the occupation, she replies, “To resist does not necessarily mean to brandish a weapon in the face of an IOF soldier. I plan to resist using my education.”
Sumoud’s father was not able to be present on the birthday of his first daughter, since he was jailed by IOF on accusations of stone-throwing and taking part in demonstrations, keeping in mind Sumoud was born in 1988, a year after the first Intifada [uprising] began in Palestine. She recalls all her maternal and paternal uncles placed in jails for similar reasons. She remembers how they had absolutely no income, and her mother was forced to become the primary financial provider of the family, literally overnight. Her mother was forced to begin work as a seamstress in order to provide her children with the basic necessities of life. Sumoud recalls fondly of how villagers would provide her mother with red, black, green and white pieces of fabric in order to be sown together to form a Palestinian flag. This was done in secret, since any affiliation with resistance is viewed as a form of terrorism by the enemy.
Today, Sumoud, who was released from AlDamun prison days ago, still compares life in prison with life outside with every little action she performs. She is not allowed to move outside the West Bank without acquiring permission which has a less than zero chance of happening. If she does acquire permission, she faces the threat of being exiled.
No freedom of speech. No freedom of mobilization. No freedom of expression. No freedom of choice. And yet somehow Sumoud Karaja manages to find freedom in the four pillars of her home in the village of Saffa, on the borders of ’67 in the occupied West Bank in occupied Falasteen.
*Sumoud is not allowed to openly speak of the events that triggered her to attack an IOF soldier for fear of being placed back in jail and serve the remainder of her sentence. She is not allowed to openly speak about politics in general.