After 23 years in an Israeli prison, Halid Asakre, one of the Palestinian prisoners, returned to his homeland and was welcomed as a hero.
Israel has released 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Many prisoners, who were freed despite their sentences of life imprisonment, went back to their families who had lost all hope for their sons’ return. After 23 years in an Israeli prison, Halid Asakre, one of the Palestinian prisoners, returned to his homeland and was welcomed as a hero.
Celebrations have been held in various villages of Gaza and the West Bank for the released prisoners. Halid Asakre, who was released after 23 years in an Israeli prison, spoke with people in the yard of his home. Relatives, acquaintances and his friends who had been released earlier than Asakre visited him. However, the old prisoner was seemingly unable to overcome his ‘freedom shock’. His parents died when he was in prison but he was happy to see his brothers and sisters, something he did not even dream of being able to do again.
A 23-year long coma
The Palestinian man fulfilled his longing to see his relatives and friends but still hardly believes that he is no longer in prison. “Since last night, I have been staring vacantly at all the people around me. Everything seems very different and very novel. I feel as if I have been reborn and am being re-introduced to the world. I am trying to understand what had happened during the time I was in prison. The kids have become adults and the elderly have died. It was like I recovered from a long coma,” he said.
Asakre explained what he experienced during the process of release saying, “We became extremely happy when we learned the names of the Palestinian prisoners who would be released from the television. The next day we were transferred to the Ayalon prison in Ramle. There, officers interrogated us for nearly 8 hours. Then they revealed the conditions for release according to which we are not allowed to go out of the province we live. Furthermore, entering Israel is completely forbidden for us. If we violate one of these restrictions, the decision of release will be abolished. At midnight we were transferred to the Ofer prison. The bus was stoned by Israelis. When we arrived at the prison we were turned over to the Palestinian authority.”
Noting the difficult conditions in the prison, Asakre said “It was really a tough experience for me. We were devoid of many things and exposed to different kinds of tortures. But the most difficult one was the idea that we would never see our families again. I never thought of leaving since I was sentenced to life imprisonment. Now, I leave these dark days behind me and I am working on starting a family and on being beneficial for my society here. I feel like supporting the Palestinian cause and in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israel.”
Asakre who was amazed to regain his freedom declined to share his opinion about the recently initiated peace negotiations.