Between-walls and rumours: Women on the margins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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Some 6,000 Palestinian security detainees are held in Israel. Their wives and mothers travel up to 12 hours to see them once a month for 45 minutes through a glass separator. Prisoners receive a lot of attention, while the women visiting them remain largely unseen.

Invisible victims of the conflict, wives and mothers of Palestinian detainees organise their lives around prison visits. At the same time, they have to navigate a complex system of permits and checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, while trying to keep their families and community together.

Mediating between prison and family life, they are isolated physically by checkpoints and socially because a woman living without her husband is often subject to scrutiny and the power of rumour.

The wives and mothers of detainees we spoke to didn’t show any sign of happiness or the ability to go out and live a normal life. Whether these limitations are self-imposed, a sign of mourning for absent loved ones or an obligation towards society, they define these women’s lives and create their shared sense of identity. Over the past year, we accompanied Iman, Fatmeh and Mazyouna on their journey.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been facilitating family visits for Palestinian detainees in Israeli detention facilities since 1968. Over 3.5 million visits have taken place to date.