Prominent Palestinian leftist activist and women’s organization leader Khitam Saafin was placed under administrative detention for six months on Monday, November 9. Saafin, who was arrested by Israeli security forces in a late-night raid on November 2, was placed under administrative detention by an Israeli military commander, the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network said. Saafin was arrested along with several well known other Palestinian leftist and trade union leaders and activists, women student organization leaders, as well as former political prisoners, in raids that took place across the occupied West Bank.
Administrative detention is a policy by which Israel can hold Palestinians for an indefinite number of prison terms without any charges or trial. The detention is based on evidence provided to authorities which are not shared with the family or lawyers of the detainee.
Saafin is the president of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and is also a member of the general secretariat of the General Union of Palestinian Women. She has previously served as chair of the Palestine chapter of the Global Women’s March. Her arrest and abduction a week ago was strongly condemned by a plethora of women’s rights organizations in Palestine and the region, who in a statement, called for the immediate and unconditional release of Saafin and the other Palestinian leaders and activists arrested in the raids. The statement also called for the release of all other Palestinians being held in Israel under the administrative detention policy as well as all the political prisoners that are being detained without being charged or without trial.
Organizations that expressed solidarity with Saafin and demanded her release included the Palestinian Working Women Committees Union, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, World March of Women (MENA region), the Women’s Sector – Democratic Way (Morocco) and the Jin Women Association (Lebanon) among others. Following her detention order, the Alkarama Palestinian Women’s Mobilization also released a statement calling for her release and accused the Israeli occupation authorities of specifically targeting Palestinian leaders, activists, human rights defenders and civil society figures to deliberately damage and destabilize the Palestinian struggle against occupation.
Manu Pineda, member of the European Parliament and chair of the parliament’s delegation for relations with Palestine, also issued a statement to the European External Action Service (EEAS) in which he implored the European Union and the EEAS to “mobilize its diplomatic resources to obtain the prompt release of Ms. Saafin and all other Palestinian citizens detained without formal charges.”
Currently there are about 40 Palestinian women being detained by Israel, out of close to 5,700 Palestinian prisoners. Of the approximately 5700 prisoners, 470 are being held under the illegal administrative detention policy. As per the human rights group Addameer, four of these Palestinian administrative detainees are women. This includes the leftist member of parliament and women’s rights activist, Khalida Jarrar.