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Letter: From Palestine to Burnside

It is said that “Only two can sympathize with what you are going through: one is who suffered the same situation as you and the other is who truly loves you.”

I have been reading about the prisoners’ strike at Burnside. I understand that the conditions are not humane and that prisoners at Burnside are asking for necessary improvements in health care, exercise, visits, food, quality of air and library access.

As a Palestinian and former resident of Gaza, I get the feeling that I am reading about the people of Palestine in general and Gaza in particular.

People in Gaza are living in what even many Israelis admit is a so-called “open-air prison.” They have been living in that prison for twelve years due to a ruthless Israeli blockade. There are two million people in Gaza living in 360 sq-km, making it one of the densest places on earth.

Due to Israeli prohibitions, Gazans can’t move freely in or out the besieged strip of land; they endure poor health care conditions; suffer from shortage of necessary medication, cancer patients lack chemotherapy, and many are not permitted to travel outside for treatment.

Twelve-year-old children have lived through three brutal Israeli wars. They have lost hope and suffer severe psychological symptoms, sensing no reason to live. Gazans receive only four-hours of electricity daily; the rest of the day is spent in the dark. Graduates from high schools or university cannot travel to continue their education in other countries.

Add to that 6,500 Palestinian prisoners distributed among the Israeli prisons including 58 women and 320 children under the age of 16 years old. 1200 of those are suffering from terrible health problems, 21 are cancer patients, and 17 have heart failure. All those prisoners are living an especially harsh and inhumane life, no proper healthcare, no time for them to smell the fresh air, many of them are isolated in small dark rooms and the majority of the Gaza prisoners deprived of visits.

As a Gazan now resident in Halifax, I feel for the prisoners in Burnside and support them in the fight for their rights.

Helmi Alfarra, Halifax, member of Canadians Arabs and Jews for Just Peace


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