By Hannah Prytherch
It started in Kiritimati, a small island in the pacific. As the globe turned, hour by hour the fireworks were lit, the champagne flowed and people wished each other a happy new year. If they were together, they hugged, if they were apart they sent texts, some people used that magical moment to remember loved ones they had lost. A mixture of joy, nostalgia and for some sadness, but all agreed on one thing; happy new year.
But I know one for whom it was not so happy. His name is Abu Sakha. He is being held in an Israeli prison. On the 29th of December he was sentenced to six months of administrative detention without charge or trial. This can be renewed indefinitely. In an era of growing Islamophobia, many people make sense of this baffling denial of human rights by an allegedly democratic country by assuming he must be a terrorist. He must have done something. Well, I know Abu Sakha and I can tell you what he did.
He worked at the Palestinian Circus School. Over the course of a year he taught about 350 students and worked with thousands as a performer. He transformed the frustration of young Palestinians into hope and optimism through his energy and passion. He promoted peaceful forms of expression and resistance. He also specialised in working with children with physical disabilities. One child who has cerebral palsy took his first steps with Abu Sakha. This child has not walked since Abu Sakha was detained.
As the clock struck 12 in Palestine, Abu Sakha missed out. He didn’t speak to his family or friends because he has not had contact with them since he was detained on 14th December. Perhaps he didn’t even know it was midnight; solitary confinement is common practice in Israeli prisons. If he had the luxury of knowing the time of day and another in-mate to share this knowledge with, I doubt they had much to celebrate. Because sadly Abu Sakha is not the only one. He is one of 600 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons without charge. He’s just one that I happen to know. So I wish Abu Sakha a happy new year. Please sign the petition: