Abbas with a Jerusalem background 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
While the Palestinian Authority continues to demand the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails, it has long been ignoring the fact that thousands of Palestinians are languishing in prisons in several Arab countries.
The families of the prisoners held by Israel at least know where their sons are, and most are able to visit them on a regular basis.
But in the Arab world the story is completely different.
The daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi
recently revealed that dozens of Palestinians have been held in Kuwaiti prisons since 1991, and their families don’t know anything about their conditions.
The fact that Palestinians are being held in prison in an Arab country is not surprising.
What is more surprising is the Palestinian Authority’s position on them.
According to the report, the PA has never approached the Kuwaitis concerning the fate of the prisoners.
Muhammad al-Udwan, the father of one of the Palestinians held in Kuwait for the past 25 years, said he still doesn’t know exactly where his son Essam is being held.
He and other families complained that the PA hasn’t done anything to help them.
The PLO ambassador to Kuwait, Rami Tahboub, refused to comment on the plight of the prisoners.
Reached by phone, the ambassador first said he was busy with a meeting. He later stopped answering the phone.
Hassan Khraisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, urged the emir of Kuwait to put an end to the “tragedy” of the Palestinian families whose sons are held in his prisons without trial.
He called on the emir to inform the families whether their sons were still alive.
“If they are dead, then we want confirmation and information where they are buried,” he added.
Kuwait expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after US-led coalition forces liberated the tiny oil-rich emirate in 1991. The move came in retaliation for the PLO’s support of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait a year earlier. After liberation, the Kuwaitis also arrested many Palestinians on suspicion of collaboration with the Iraqi occupation army.
Recently, the Kuwaitis finally allowed the PLO to reopen its embassy in the emirate.
The move came after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas apologized for the PLO’s support of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
But the PA leadership appears too afraid to ask the Kuwaiti authorities about the Palestinians who went missing in the emirate over the past two decades. Abbas does not want to alienate the Kuwaitis because he’s hoping they will resume financial aid to the Palestinians.
Two weeks ago, Abbas boasted that he had acted as a mediator to secure the release of nine Lebanese nationals abducted 17 months ago in Syria.
Abbas’s announcement enraged families of Palestinian prisoners in Kuwait and other Arab countries. The families said Abbas’s top priority should have been to secure the release of Palestinians, and not Lebanese, from Syrian prisons.
Hundreds of Palestinians are held in various prisons in Syria, some for more than two decades. In the past year, at least two prisoners were reported to have died in Syrian and Egyptian prisons.
Again, the PA leadership has not even demanded an inquiry into the deaths or the continued incarceration of Palestinians in the Arab world.
A prominent Palestinian writer who spent three weeks in jail in Syria described the prisons there as “human slaughterhouses.”
Salameh Kaileh was arrested in April last year on suspicion of printing leaflets calling for the overthrow of Bashar Assad.
“It was hell on earth,” Kaileh told The Associated Press. “I felt I was going to die under the brutal, savage and continuous beating of the interrogators, who tied me to ropes hung from the ceiling.