Name: Walid Nimer As’aad Daqqa
Date of Birth: July 18, 1961
Residence: Baqa al-Gharbiyya – 1948 Occupied Territories
Marital status: Married
Date of Arrest: 25/03/1986
Prison: Ramleh Prison Clinic
Walid Daqqa was born on July 18, 1961, in the town of Baqa al-Gharbiyya in the north of Palestine. Daqqa completed his school education in 1979, and like many other Palestinians who witnessed and endured the racist colonial violence policies, he joined the national movement under the banner of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1983, to defend a homeland that had suffered through massacres and wars. After three years of continuous struggle, he was arrested on March 25, 1986, and sentenced by the military court in the city of al-Lidd in March 1987 to life imprisonment, which was later reduced by the occupation state's president to 37 years in 2012. He was expected to be released on March 24, 2023. However, on May 28, 2018, the Central Court in Bir as-Sabe’ issued an unjust sentence against him, adding two more years to his imprisonment, alleging his involvement in a case related to the smuggling of mobile phones for prisoners to communicate with their families. As a result, his new date of release was pushed till March 24, 2025.
Body arrested … Mind liberated
The long ruling and inhumane imprisonment could not diminish Walid's creative mind and abilities in academics, writing, and art. The long years of captivity could not break his determination to confront the conditions of imprisonment. He soared like a phoenix in the dark skies of prisons, making a name for himself and standing out as one of the thinkers of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement and its leaders. He pursued his university education within the confines of a tightly sealed cell. In the year 2010, he obtained a Bachelor's degree in Democratic Studies from the Open University of Israel. Several years later, in 2016, he earned a Master's degree in Regional Studies with a focus on Israeli Studies from the University of Jerusalem.
“There is nothing more intense and harsher than living with a sense of oppression and suffering without being able to describe it or identify its cause and source. It is the feeling of helplessness and loss of human dignity when uncertainty meets oppression, making you feel that not only the world has abandoned you but also your language has failed you in describing and defining your agony. It has failed you to the point where you say 'ah' - a concept understood and acknowledged by the other free soul.”
(The Melting of Consciousness, Sahr el Wa’i, 2010)
In addition to his studies, Walid exhibited an ardent presence in the intellectual, cultural, and artistic realms, which always kept him within the direct targeting circle of oppression, torment, and punishments. Throughout his continuous 37-year imprisonment, Daqqa faced a series of sanctions and policies imposed by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) system against Palestinian prisoners. These measures aimed to target the senses and minds of Palestinian prisoners, turning them into daily torture instruments that torment them, as described by Daqqa in his book "The Melting of Consciousness." He endured various punishments, including deprivation of family visits, confiscation of his writings and personal books from his cell, financial fines, and arbitrary transfers between prisons, solitary confinement, and deliberate medical neglect, which exacerbated Daqqa's health condition to the critical state he faces today.
However, this did not deter Walid from continuing his writings generously, bestowing upon us a wealth of articles, novels, and writings that mirror the reality of the Palestinian prisoner and the challenges they face inside the detention centers. Despite the confined space, Walid Daqqa's words and writings transcended the prison walls. He contributed through his works to the cultural, academic, Palestinian, Arab, and global scenes, especially in prison studies, particularly in the philosophical study presented by Daqqa in 2010 titled "The Melting of Consciousness - Or in the Redefinition of Torture, “Sahr al Wa’I or Fi I’adet Ta’rif al Ta’zib” which has now become a scholarly reference in prison writings. Among his other works are "The Chronicles of Resistance in Jenin Camp 2002” (Yawmiyat Al-Muqawama fi Mukhayyam Jenin 2002) in 2004, "The Tale of the Forgotten in the Parallel Time”, (Hikayat al-Mansiyin fi al-Zaman al-Muwazi) in 2011, "The Tale of the Secret of Oil”, (Hikayat Sir al Zait) in 2018, "The Tale of the Secret of the Sword”, (Hikayat Sir al Saif) " in 2021, "The Tale of the Specter / Martyrs Return to Ramallah”, (Hikayat at-Tayf / ash-Shuhada’ Yau’doun Ela Ramallah) in 2022, in addition to dozens of articles translated into several languages, most notably "The Parallel Time”, (az-Zaman al-Mowazi) in 2021, "Birth: Writing to a Child Yet Unborn”, (Milad: Aktubu li Teflen Lam Yowladu Ba’d) in 2011, "Set Yourself Free”, )Harrer Nafsaka bi Nafsak) in 2020, and "Control in Time”, (as-Saytara bil Zaman) in 2021.
"Love, Conception, and Birth (A Story of Love and Struggle)"
Despite the overpowering scent of moisture from the walls of Askalan Prison cells, gentle breezes of love blew upon Walid's heart, alleviating the weight of the place. His heart touched the heart of a young woman from Palestine named "Sanaa’ Salama," who visited him in prison for an interview. Afterward, they decided to continue their journey together, bound by a love story known throughout the land, celebrated in its rivers, and sung about in its seas. Recognizing the right of every human to live their human life with love and connection, even in the harshest of places, Walid undertook a fight to obtain permission from the prison administration to hold his wedding with Sanaa’ inside the prison.
In the summer of 1999, the drums of joy resounded from within a small room in Askalan Prison, heralding a legendary wedding celebration. Not the legends of the world that we read about, but the legends of the Palestinian people, who transform places of oppression into spots where the sun's rays shine. The extraordinary celebration lasted for three hours, gathering the groom "Walid" the bride "Sanaa’" a few of Walid's fellow prisoners, and some of their respective families and friends. The harshest place in the world turned into the most beautiful, joyous, and hopeful location during this extraordinary event.
The battles of the couple did not end with this decision. Their struggle continued for 12 years to obtain a court decision allowing them to have children, like any normal human family in the world, consisting of a husband, a wife, and children. However, living under a colonial system and its discriminatory judiciary, everything we strive for and seek to achieve is met with the label of "rejected for security reasons."
In response to the court's refusal to grant him permission to be alone with his wife Sanaa in 2011, the prisoner Walid Daqqa wrote a letter to his yet-to-be-born child:
“I write to a child who has not yet been born... I write to an idea or a dream that unwittingly terrifies the jailor before it even comes to fruition. I write to any child... I write to my son who has not yet come into life... I write to the Milad (Arabic for birth) of the future, that's how I want to name him/her, and that's how I want the future to know us. Dear Milad .. Today marks the end of my 25th year in prison – nine thousand, one hundred and thirty-one days and a quarter (9131) ... It is a number that does not end at a certain point. It is my age of incarceration that has not yet ended ... And here I am, reaching fifty, with half my life spent in prison and the other half in life. The days have engulfed each other, with each day I spent in prison flipping through the pages of my life, like a bag trying to empty what remains of my memory. The prison, like fire, feeds on the wreckage of memory ... and my memory ... you are my message to the future, after prison months sucked the nectar of the life months, and prison years equated with the life years.
Do you think, my dear, that I have gone mad? Writing a letter to a creature who has not yet been born? Which one of us is mad? A nuclear state that fights a yet-to-be-born child, deeming them a security threat, making him present in its intelligence reports and court pleadings ... Or is it mad to dream of a child? Which one is madness? To write a letter to a dream or to have the dream become a file in the hands of Israeli intelligence? You, my dear, now have a security file in the Israeli Shin Bet's archive ... What do you think? Should I stop dreaming? I will continue to dream despite the bitterness of reality ... and I will search for meaning in life despite what I have lost of it... They dig up the graves of ancestors in search of presumed authenticity, while we search for a better future for our grandchildren ... Undoubtedly, it is coming ... Peace, Milad ... Peace, my dear.
After that, the couple resorted to the option of conceiving a ‘smuggled sperm” from inside the prison, planted in Sanaa's womb. Nine months later, on 3 February 2020, Sanaa’ gave birth to a girl. This date became a new birthday for Walid's resilient spirit and Sanaa’s determined heart. In the face of this significant human moment, Palestinians celebrated the birth of Milad, the families, women, youth, and elderly, as well as the prisoners inside the jails - a dream of a prisoner that turned into a reality. On the other hand, the colonial oppressors exhibited their arrogance by preventing Sanaa’ from visiting Walid for many months, so there would be no communication or assurance of Sanaa’ and the fetus's condition. They also isolated Walid for several months in harsh and inhumane conditions. Even after giving birth, they did not allow him to meet their daughter "Milad" for a certain period. After that, the dream visited Walid from time to time, renewing hope and life for him.
From the Letter of the Prisoner Walid Daqqa, to his daughter Milad on her first birthday:
"Who will take my life away just to grant me a moment to embrace you with your little arms? My beloved Milad, who wipes her tiny hands on my heart, calming the pulse, soothing the body, and dispelling years of pain. Who, feeling the joy in my heart, will come to rest on her father's chest, as he gently caresses her soft hair. Happy birthday, my dear Milad, may you be blessed and have a joyful birthday."
Your father, Walid Daqqa – Jalbou’ Prison / 2021
What comes after 37 years of imprisonment and deprivation, health-wise?
37 years is not just a number; it represents a human life lived inside a prison deliberately deprived of its basic rights, including life, stability, and proper medical care. The persistent lack of medical attention throughout Daqqa's imprisonment and the prison authorities' neglect in conducting regular check-ups had a negative impact on his health. He began experiencing severe pain in various parts of his body, leading to a general diagnosis of neuromuscular disease in 2015. Despite his deteriorating health condition due to the ongoing medical neglect, it became evident in 2022 that he was suffering from myelofibrosis, a rare form of bone marrow cancer. Due to the negligence in providing urgent medical intervention, the disease progressed, reaching a critical level three notches above the danger threshold. Physicians for Human Rights have issued warnings of the serious danger posed to Daqqa's life: with the continued lack of treatment, the threat to his life will only worsen further.
Despite the various international conventions affirming the right of prisoners to receive adequate medical care and treatment, the "Nelson Mandela Rules" emphasize the prisoners' entitlement to proper medical care and treatment without discrimination, urging the implementation of all preventive measures to meet their medical needs. However, the Israeli occupation authorities and the prison administration persist in colluding to violate these conventions. The deliberate medical neglect and denial of Daqqa's right to treatment escalate to the level of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Nelson Mandela Rules.
The Israeli occupation did not settle for the policy of deliberate medical neglect; instead, they employed their tools and methods to torture him. In 2018, Daqqa was accused of attempting to smuggle mobile phones into the prison, resulting in an additional two years added to his sentence, making it 39 years. He was also classified as a "high-security prisoner" after this incident. Following this classification, the prison authorities intensified their violations, particularly in terms of medical neglect, claiming that prisoners under this category undergo complicated security procedures, leading to his confinement in extremely poor conditions, solitary confinement, and intentional denial of medical examinations and treatment.
As Daqqa's critical condition escalated, the prison authorities continued to disclaim their responsibilities towards him. He remains detained in a poorly equipped clinic in Ramleh prison, which is inadequate for handling his critical condition. Despite his demands, they refused to provide an air purifier in his cell to aid his respiratory system's functioning and intensified physical therapy sessions to help him stand and walk again.
Considering the real danger to Daqqa's life and the continuous denial of appropriate treatment by the prison authorities, his family applied to the "Conditional Release Committee" on May 10, 2023, requesting early release. They relied on Article 7 of the "Conditional Release from Detention Law of 2001," which states that "the committee is authorized to release any prisoner under certain conditions after reviewing medical reports, particularly if medical reasons indicate a limited life expectancy or that the illness poses a danger to their life." However, on May 31, 2023, during a session held at Ramleh Prison, the committee decided that Daqqa's case does not fall under its jurisdiction as he is classified as a high-security prisoner. Consequently, they referred the file to the "Early Release Committee," which handles prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment and others.
After transferring the case to the "Early Release Committee" for consideration, the committee reviewed the file and adopted the legal advisor's viewpoint, treating the two sentences as one unified term. Consequently, the committee decided to recognize Walid's legal status as a prisoner serving a life sentence for the purpose of assessing the committee's jurisdiction to review his file. Accordingly, the committee applied Article (40/A) of the "Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016," which states that early release is not granted to prisoners accused of murder or attempted murder when the court deems this act as terrorist.
Based on this law, the committee rejected Walid's request on June 26, 2023. The committee relied on this law, despite its specific targeting of Palestinian prisoners and the discriminatory measures imposed against them. The Israeli occupation employed this law to further its political objectives, depriving Palestinians of their legitimate rights and denying them equal rights compared to its Jewish citizens. This law merely serves as a tool to legitimize human rights violations committed by the Israeli occupation.
The Anti-Terrorism Law highlights the Israeli occupation's blatant disregard for its fundamental obligations under international law, as stipulated by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant international agreements. In addition to violating its political commitments and agreements with the Palestinian Authority, where it was supposed to release prisoner Walid along with 25 other Palestinian prisoners who were arrested before the Oslo Agreement in 1993, known as the "Fourth Batch" of prisoners, under an agreement reached during the resumption of negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in July 2013. According to this agreement, Israel committed to releasing 104 Palestinian prisoners in four batches, all of whom were arrested before the Oslo Agreement. However, when the time came to implement the release of the fourth batch, Israel reneged on the agreement and has denied to execute it to this day.
Despite the arbitrary and racist nature of the law on which the committee based its decision, the decision itself is also arbitrary and clearly demonstrates the complicity of the colonial system as a whole against Palestinian prisoners. It sheds light on the injustice of the Israeli occupation, which continues to prosecute Walid based on an old file that ended with the completion of his life sentence. Yet, Israel still attempts to keep him in unsuitable conditions and neglects his medical needs.
Walid's story is far from over; his family continues to struggle to reclaim his freedom and confront this colonial system that is based on violating international agreements and implementing arbitrary policies against Palestinians. Recently, the family appealed to the Central Court in al-Lidd to object to the decision of denial of release, only to be once again denied release on August 7, 2023.
Walid, Milad, and freedom embody the essence of life and its spirit that cannot be uprooted from the hearts of those dreaming of their liberation. The tyranny of the nuclear state and its tools of persecution and oppression will not endure for long in the face of the dawn of Milad and the inevitable arrival of hope. In this sense, Sanaa’ Daqqa wrote on her Facebook page: "If there must be a dream, let it be like ours, simple ... like having dinner together in two days, the three of us, celebrating the truth of the prophecy in our dream, that the three have not been diminished by one."