Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Two days earlier than her arrest by the Israeli military, 28-year-old Palestinian human rights lawyer Diala Ayesh had been visiting Palestinian detainees in Israel’s Ofer Prison.
Little did she know that the following day, she would grow to be one of many individuals she has spent her life’s work defending – a prisoner.
On January 17, Israeli forces arrested Ayesh at a checkpoint close to Bethlehem within the occupied West Bank at about 2pm. One week later, Israeli authorities issued an “administrative detention” order towards her, that means she will likely be held with out trial or cost for 4 months.
News of Ayesh’s arrest unfold rapidly throughout the occupied West Bank. She has labored for years – usually professional bono – defending Palestinian political detainees in each Israeli or Palestinian Authority (PA) prisons.
Her household are nonetheless in shock over her arrest.
“We feel that it is getting harder every day. The feeling of loss and of missing someone only increases – it doesn’t get easier,” her 26-year-old sister, Aseel, advised Al Jazeera.
“Whenever I cry at night in bed, or feel like I miss her, I try to remember how extremely strong she is,” continued Aseel, sobbing. “We feel that we are the ones who are weak, and she is the strong one. We derive our strength from her.”
Targeted by Israel and the PA
Even whereas behind bars, Ayesh’s high concern is the opposite prisoners.
After October 7, when Israel launched its ongoing assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, Ayesh shaped a volunteer collective of feminine attorneys to comply with up on the unprecedented numbers of Palestinians being arrested by the Israeli military within the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“She would train these female lawyers to conduct visits to the occupation’s Ofer prison, particularly amid this information blackout about prisoners,” Muhannad Karajeh, her former colleague and head of Lawyers for Justice, the place she used to work, advised Al Jazeera.
Ayesh and her workforce’s visits to those inmates in the one Israeli jail within the occupied West Bank had been a small flash of hope as visits to prisoners in prisons in Israel had been stopped after October 7.
“This group would act as the link between the prisoners and their families,” he continued.
A number of weeks into her arrest, she advised Aseel via her lawyer, to speak with the households of the prisoners she had been following up with and to present them the most recent updates on their sons, which she had written onto a notepad.
“She’s in prison, and we don’t know anything about her – whether she’s eating or not, sleeping or not, or what conditions she is being held in,” stated Aseel. “Yet, all of her worries are to go on a message from a male prisoner to his fiancee exterior.
“That’s Diala for you.”
During her arrest, Ayesh was subjected to assault, threats, and insults by Israeli troopers, in line with the Addameer human rights organisation. She was transferred to Israel’s Hasharon Prison earlier than being later taken to Damon Prison, the place she is now being held.
Ayesh’s work as a human rights defender rose to the fore throughout her time on the Ramallah-based Lawyers for Justice, representing Palestinian political detainees in PA prisons. In July, she attended a session on behalf of the group on the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
“She was like a power engine to her whole team and all the lawyers,” stated Karajeh. “She has a big soul for volunteering, and people love her on the personal and professional level.”
Her efforts to observe and doc abuses towards Palestinian detainees have made her a goal for each the Israeli occupation and the PA.
During well-liked protests within the occupied West Bank towards the killing of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat by PA forces in June 2021, Ayesh was “exposed to physical assault” by safety officers, stated Karajeh. She was amongst dozens of different girls who had been violated on the time.
Her household stated, regardless of the issue of Ayesh’s arrest, they’ve been showered with love by individuals who got here to assist them.
“We were very shocked by how many people reached out to us after Diala was arrested,” stated Aseel. “She is a social person, but it was so surprising to realise how many people were following her work.”
“This gave my parents a moral boost – it helped them to push forward and be patient,” she added.
Tala Nasser, from the Addameer prisoners’ rights group, defined that Ayesh’s arrest comes amid a “violent mass arrest campaign” carried out by Israel since October 7.
The incontrovertible fact that the overwhelming majority of the greater than 6,900 Palestinians arrested within the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since October 7 have been transferred to administrative detention highlights the arbitrariness of Israel’s arrests, she stated.
“This campaign includes activists, human rights defenders and political leaders,” Nassar advised Al Jazeera, noting that it’s “an attempt to silence them and prevent the exposure of the occupation’s crimes across the whole country”.
In December, Israeli forces additionally arrested political and civil society chief Khalida Jarrar, who was equally transferred to administrative detention.
Despite releasing all however three Palestinian feminine detainees through the newest prisoner change with Hamas on the finish of 2023, the Israeli military rearrested dozens. Some 80 feminine prisoners are being held at present, all of whom are within the Damon Prison.
Among the 80 are dozens of girls from the besieged Gaza Strip, however attorneys are forbidden from visiting them or figuring out something about them.
Several stories have emerged of feminine detainees from Gaza being bodily crushed and abused, together with an unknown variety of them being held at Israeli army bases and never in jail.
Lawyers say situations for all Palestinian detainees, together with girls, are unprecedentedly tough. Eight Palestinian male prisoners have additionally died or had been killed in Israeli custody since October 7, most of them within the days and weeks after their arrest.
Over the previous few months, many movies have emerged of Israeli troopers stripping, torturing and abusing male prisoners from each the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“It is important to note that every female that is arrested is violated in one way or another,” stated Nasser. “They are all facing threats, intensive strip searches, verbal assault and physical violence.”