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A prisoner named Shorouk Duyat

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I had barely slept that night when I woke up and saw a face looking and smiling at me. It was a beautiful smile; I had never seen a cooler and and more beautiful smile in my life. I saw your face this morning – my friend and cellmate Shorouk Duyat.

This smile that had visited me and left me confused. I remained helpless and could not understand the meaning of it – is it a smile of blame, pain, joy, longing, appeal …?!

Shorouk Duyat, 21, is a prisoner who is held these days at Damon prison in Israel. I met her in prison three years ago. Her face is full of life despite the pain. She was shot in the shoulder and hand, and suffered many injuries silently. She did not talk to anyone about it, or about the pain she endures.

My first conversation with her was during the recess we got at Hasharon Prison when I looked at her eyes for a while and I asked her, “Do you feel any pain from the injury?”

She looked at me deeply with her sad eyes, smiled and then shook her head. She denied that she was in pain, I answered with a smile, and shook my head the same way she did and then we laughed a long loud laugh without knowing why.

Since that moment we became close friends. We started talking a lot, and laughing, crying and rejoicing. She was 19 years old, she loved reading, she came to our cell every day and said to me with her beautiful smile, “Dareen .. Dareen what did you write recently ?! Let me hear it please, I want to hear it.”

Shorouk Duyat. (Photo courtesy of the author)

During the recess time (al-foura) on my (bersh) bunk, I began to read to her what I had written. She was touched and expressed it with a smile, or applause, and from time to time even with tears. I said to her then, “Shorouk write, write everything you feel.”

The next day she came to my cell and one could see the joy on her face as she held a notebook in her hand, saying, “Dareen, I wrote something and need your opinion on it. I wrote it and wonder if you have time to hear it?” My happiness was indescribable.

She read to me what she had written. It was the finest writing I have ever heard, regardless of its simplicity and spontaneity. We worked together on the efficiency of her language and corrected some errors and brought out the first light of the thoughts she had in prison. Her text was full of creativity, feelings and questions. On that day I heard her thoughts about the pain she experiences and got a real sense of who she was. Since that day Shorouk never stopped writing.

Shorouk Duyat likes to draw as well, although she is not very good. Whenever she paints something she laughs a lot at her own paintings. She was annoyed at the gossip and the noise in the prison, and was happiest when she ate Loacker biscuits. Whenever she ate a piece she would come to my cell and feed me with one of her biscuits.

I told her, I do not like the lukewarm taste of everything. She said jokingly, “This is the taste of life in a prison. You lose a huge part of the meaning of life in prison.” We laughed about the reality in which we lived, sarcastically. The more I said to her that I’m vegetarian, the more she made fun of me, and she joked with her Jerusalem dialect: “I’d like to understand what do you mean, vegetarian? How does that work for you?”

There was this specific word which made her laugh at me  whenever she heard me say it. That was asa (“now” in village dialect). Her laugh made me change the word to halla (“now” in city dialect) but even when I said halla, she changed it to asa, and also laughed at her own replacement.

Shorouk likes to act and imitate characters. After we moved to Damon prison we wrote a play about an investigation and she began playing her role brilliantly.

One day I asked Shorouk whether she could show me her injury. She immediately uncovered her shoulder and put my hand on the scar left by the bullet that pierced her body. I wanted to pull out all the pain and painful memories by giving her everything she loves. I do not know if I succeeded in giving some happiness to her heart, or if I failed.

We read some books together, including the novel by Ghassan Kanafani, Men in the Sun, and talked about it afterwards.

Shorouk is a ball of energy, so full of life. She has the ability to do everything – to write, to challenge herself, to live, to hope, to sacrifice, to have faith and morality, Shorouk is as full of science as well as creativity.

Shorouk Duyat is a story that I will keep telling. I will always remember her.

Shorouk is a geography and history student at the University of Bethlehem. She was arrested on November 7, 2015 in Jerusalem,after she said a settler attempted to remove her veil and her response was to pull him away. According to her, she hit him with her bag and pushed him with her hands but the settler pulled a weapon out of his pocket at fired three shots at her. The first was in her neck, the second was in her breasts and the third was in her shoulder. She was convicted of an attempted stabbing. The High Court gave her a sentence of 16 years and an $22,000 (80,000 NIS) fine.

On December 24, 2018,  Shorouk stood in the High Court to challenge the punishment she received three years ago, on the same day I also stood up to challenge mine! But the difference was huge. As I was out while she was still in prison serving her 16 year sentence! I wished the court accepted your appeal that day my dear. If only I could ease the sentence for you. I know you are one of the purest human beings. Unfortunately your request was rejected and the sentence remains the same.

As I talk and write about my story with Shorouk, I read an article about the soldier Ben Deri and his early release parole from prison. He is the murderer of the young Nadim Nuwara and was convicted of killing the Palestinian teen in cold blood in Beitunia near Ramallah during the commemoration of the Nakba on May 15, 2014. Ben Deri was in prison for less than a year, although the High Court imposed a prison term of only 18 months. As was the case with the soldier Elor Azaria, the murderer of Abdel Fattah Sharif in Hebron who was also released from prison early. As well as a minor who participated in the burning of the Dawabsheh family in Duma was released under house arrest after serving only two years. 

I might, at any minute, find myself in jail again. Maybe the court will misinterpret my recollection of Shorouk in prison as support for terrorism. It might try to argue that I am violating the terms and conditions on my release. Today I am still on a conditional order for three years, with a six-month punishment if I violate my parole.

Regardless of all of this, I am unable to be silent and I am unable to surrender to a condition of silence. Silence denies me my right to speak about how I lived and how I feel and about the suffering of my people. The powers that be do not want me to use what is most important and precious to me, and that is my voice.

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“Shorouk is a geography and history student at the University of Bethlehem. She was arrested on November 7, 2015 in Jerusalem,after she said a settler attempted to remove her veil and her response was to pull him away. According to her, she hit him with her bag and pushed him with her hands but the settler pulled a weapon out of his pocket at fired three shots at her. The first was in her neck,… Read more »

Presumably the settler had no knife wounds but knew that a claim that ‘she tried to stab me’ would be believed regardless?