Eid for Families of UAE Detainees: A Harsh Deprivation

In an interview with the wife of detainee Abdul Salam Darwish

18 Jul 2021
In an interview with the wife of detainee Abdul Salam Darwish

On the eve of Eid, a new level of grief begins for the families of political detainees in UAE jails.
What perhaps makes these moments even more difficult is that detainees and their families look at the annual pardon lists issued on the occasion of the holidays, which include hundreds of criminal prisoners, while the names of all detainees of conscience are completely missing.

On the eve of Eid, families of detainees of conscience in the UAE prisons, start a new level of grief.

Perhaps what makes these moments more difficult is that detainees and their families watching the annual pardon lists issued on the occasion of holidays and containing hundreds of criminal prisoners, while completely devoid the names of any detainees of conscience.

Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC) conducted a lengthy interview with the wife of UAE detainee Abdul Salam Darwish, Mrs. Awatef Al-Rayes, during the interview, Mrs. Al-Rayes talked about feelings of detainees and their families and their conditions during the Eid period, as well as the suffering experienced by the families of detainees during normal days, and the difficulties they face during visits and communication.

1. What are the conditions of UAE detainees during the Eid?

Currently, it is difficult to know the detainees' conditions accurately due to the intense and continuous restrictions that are being exercised against them, but through the available information that we received previously, the conditions of detainees on Eid are no less bad than their conditions in the rest of the year. They do not feel the joy of Eid, because they are deprived of everything that can bring joy and happiness to them, starting with visits, private calls and even the Eid prayer.

2. Are detainees currently prohibited from performing the Eid prayer?

Yes, since 2014, political detainees have been prevented from performing the Eid prayer in the mosque of the prison, whether they are a group or individuals, and not only the Eid prayer, but they are also prohibited from performing Friday prayers.

3. What about visits and calls during Eid? Are there any special visits or calls for detainees and their families during Eid?

Since 2014, all visits and calls related to Eid have been stopped, although before that, the prison administration allowed them to make calls on the first day of Eid to exchange congratulations, they also were arranging a schedule of visits for the first three days of Eid, and calling the detainee’s families to tell them that they can visit the prison during the day. Of course, detainees in solitary confinement were excluded from that.

4. What are the visit conditions during normal days?

Each detainee is allowed one visit per week on a specific day and time, and only the families of the First-degree relatives are allowed to visit, but in many cases the detainee’s relatives arrive at the prison after suffering from the road that may reach 3 hours by car only to be surprised that the detainee is forbidden from visits for unknown reasons. They don’t tell the families - before the visit- that the detainee is forbidden from visits, or the visit has been cancelled, No, they are always shocking families by the cancellation when they arrive at the prison gate!

Currently, and since the Corona pandemic, approximately from March 2020, visits have been suspended in general, and until this moment, even though the visits are conducted behind the glass or plastic insulation, and there is no any physical contact such as “shaking hands or touching”. Even before the pretext of Corona, there were families who were prevented from visiting the detainees for a year, such as the detainee, Dr. Muhammad Al-Mansoori, who had not seen his family for two years.

There are many examples of restrictions and violations that are practiced against detainees and their families during the regular weekly visits. The story of the mother of Dr. Muhammad al-Roken, a woman in her seventies, who went through the road, fatigued and exhausted to make an eye contact with her precious son, when she reached the prison gate, they prevented her from the visit, and despite many attempts with prison officials to allow her to visit, all went to no avail. She went back sad and heart broken.

5. Was there any incident of pestering that happened to you personally during the visits?

Yes, on one occasion we applied for a private family visit, which is a visit for the detainee and his family inside a private room and not from behind a glass barrier. and although we obtained permission, the officer prevented us from it on the pretext that we did not obtain a permission! even though the permission was inside the file.

This incident led to my ill sons who suffer from convulsions and autism disorders to entering a fit of crying as a result of the fatigue and stress they suffered during the visit because it took us three hours to reach the prison, and then we’ve arrived, we were prevented from the visit.

Since this incident, I asked for a special appeal from the “Baniyas” Prosecution, and then from “Al-Wathba” Prosecution to allow a private visit for my sons to their detained father in Al-Razeen prison.

I also sent a letter to the Abu Dhabi Police General Command to provide an ambulance to drive my sons for a visit, and they responded to my request and provided an ambulance twice.

However, after that, a person from the Abu Dhabi Police, who was responsible for the arrangements for the visit, called me and asked me not to ask them to provide an ambulance again, and this request affected my children’s visit to their father, so they only visited him two or three visits throughout the year, it was difficult for me to arrange a visit for them due to their illness, but I was trying my best to let them see their father and achieve physical and spiritual rapprochement with him, because of its great positive impact on their psychological and behavioral health

6. You are currently outside the UAE because of a medical trip for your children, when was the last time you contacted your husband?

The last time I saw my husband was in July 2016, before my children’s treatment trip, which was on July 23, 2016 and soon I will complete my fifth year, and it will be the beginning of my family’s exile from my homeland. The last time I heard his voice -the last call- was in May 2017, after which the prison administration prevented him from calling us as a punishment for us and him because we did not return to the UAE and they asked us to return after they stopped the treatment for my sons on December 31, 2016.

7. Does the prison administration currently allow your husband to make any phone calls?

He is currently allowed to talk to my daughter who is in the UAE and his parents twice a week for 12 minutes and sometimes up to 15 minutes, but intermittently, meaning that calls rarely happen twice a week, sometimes once, and sometimes weeks pass without him being allowed to call and sometimes the call cuts off after a few minutes without any reason. currently, since June 23, 2021, the administration of Al-Razeen prison does not allow him to communicate with his daughter and his parents, and we do not know anything about his condition in general and his health in particular, and therefore we hold the security services for any health or psychological damage caused to my husband as a result of the flagrant arbitrary violations of human rights that they practice against detainees of conscience in its prisons.

8. Why are the families of detainees residing outside the UAE not allowed to contact their relatives?

This question is supposed to be directed to those in charge of the state security apparatus, who are the actual supervisor and directly responsible for the political detainees in Al-Razeen prison.

But I think it is a part of the punishment imposed on the families of the detainees to pressure them to return to the homeland, and to continue practicing the policy of violating human rights.

and also because of the fear of leaking any information about the violations against detainees, so that their actions will be exposed before the world and the regional and international human rights associations.

9. let’s talk again about Eid, how do you feel as a wife of a detainee during the Eid during the absence of your husband?

Our feeling is a feeling mixed with sadness and pain over his absence since the first Eid without him and now we are living the twentieth Eid without him although when we were able to phone him especially before occasions and holidays, he is always encouraging us to rejoice and be happy, and bring joy into the hearts of his children. He was always telling us in his previous contacts that his joy is from our joy and his happiness is from our happiness, may God reward him with good deeds, but how can we joy without him?

What increases our pain is our thinking that he is placed between four walls, deprived of his most basic human rights from communicating with his family and with the outside world to share congratulations of Eid which cause to him and all the detainees a state discomfort and boredom. In one of the previous visits, he told me that the prison administration is strict on them in providing   their personal needs, such as personal hygiene tools, and they deprive them from getting new clothes, to the point that the prison uniform and shoes they had become very shabby, this is happening in the UAE, Zayd’s UAE.

Thus, they use all despicable methods in dealing with them, and their aim is to insult their human dignity, to break their will and subject them to their arbitrary and illegal demands.

10. How do your children with autism feel in the absence of their father during the Eid?

My children with autism do not feel the joy of Eid, because their true joy is in the presence of their father among them, who used to play with them, hold them in his chest and kiss them, there is no communication between him and them anymore, because he is everything for them, and no one can compensate them for that, The most beautiful hours and moments of their lives are sitting among their father, talking and playing with him, accompanying them on their pickings and sharing their daily activities with them.

Therefore, they were traumatized by loss when their father was arrested, which affected their psychological and physical health and significantly on their behavior, abilities and skills, and I can only say God is enough for those who have wronged them and deprived them of their father’s company and support for them to overcome the difficulties they face in their lives.

11. What is their situation on ordinary days in the absence of their father?

In fact, their situation is very difficult, especially that they do not suffer from autism disorders only, but also suffer from nervous convulsions. Their situation is very sensitive with the environment around them, because it affects them or their psyches negatively. They quickly suffer a seizure that may be accompanied by severe physical damage, as happened to them several times, The situation in which they are currently living, with the loss of their father, has increased the consequences of their illness psychologically, physically and behaviorally.

We do not say anything but praise be to God in any case, and we seek refuge in God only, there is no power or strength for us except with God, and we do ask god that all the families of detainees of conscience to be reunited, safe and secure, Amen

12. How do you feel as an Emirati citizen, watching the Emirati authorities gather foreign families with their relatives during the Corona period, at a time when you cannot meet or contact your husband?

I feel great injustice and sadness due to selectivity, double standards and racism practiced by the government of my homeland, the UAE, in its dealings with its people, citizens, and Arab and Islamic peoples, while it tries to fabricate empty and misleading slogans such as (tolerance, happiness, goodness, humanity, etc.), and it fabricates positions of Humanity to beautify its image in the West and the international community, while it does not tolerate its citizens and residents on its land were arrested because of their personal opinions that contradict its internal and external policies.

13. How did you receive the news of revocation of your children’s citizenship?

The news of revoking the nationality of my husband and children was a great shock to me. I did not expect this extreme level of feud would be with a person who gave all his time, effort and life to his country and people to be rewarded with all kinds of physical and psychological torture, even stripping him and his family of their national identity and nationality, which is an authentic and inalienable right for them. It is not a gift, rather it’s a something guaranteed by the text of the state constitution.

We left our homes traveling on a medical trip, but something happened that we did not expect and were not taken into account. In December 2016, I received a call from my consulate in the country of treatment to stop the treatment for my children, and the they told me that I should return to the homeland although we were at the beginning of implementing a plan treatment. On January 5, 2017, I received a call from an employee whose name is Fahd Al-Saeedi from the General Department of Abu Dhabi Passports, and he asked me to review Abu Dhabi’s passports Dept. with  the official documents of my children under the pretext of updating the data.

So I apologized to him for not being able to come because I was outside the Emirates, so he asked me for the number of my daughter who is in the Emirates to communicate with her, but at first I refused, until he gave me a promise that he would not harm her, and I agreed to give him her number, where he called her and asked her to come to the local passport building in Abu Dhabi She was accompanied by her passport and identity card. When she refused to come, he threatened to circulate her name to all state institutions, and to withdraw her official documents

Indeed, when my daughter visited her father in Al-Razeen prison on August 8, 2017, and handed them over her identity to record the visitor’s data, they refused to return her ID card after the visit. Due to that she was prevented from seeing her father for 3 years, an intimidation was practiced by the Razeen prison administration on her when she refused to leave before returning her identity to her where 11 Nibali soldiers asked her to leave the prison building, otherwise...!!

But after she was investigated by the security apparatus, she was telling them that she had been deprived of seeing her father for 3 years due to the confiscation of her identity by the Al-Razeen prison administration, they arranged a private visit for her to see her father in March 2020, and it was the last time that she was able to visit her father. And here is the blessed Eid al-Adha coming upon us. Will they allow her to visit him?

My daughter today lives in her homeland without an identity, and all citizenship rights have been withdrawn from her, and she is prevented from traveling, in order not to join us. Today, she has no father, no mother, no family, and no homeland. So what is left for her of the elements of a decent life?

And because of the many injustices that befell my family by the government, which stopped my children’s treatment, froze their father’s pension, which is the family’s only income, and withdrew the nationality of my husband and children, I felt the danger of returning to the homeland because the security authorities were conspiring against the detainees and their families, and every day new violations of their rights were being practiced, against their Patriotism and humanity!

So I decided not to return home and stay in the country of treatment in order to preserve my life and the lives of my children from being at risk, after their government stripped them of all their rights, and threatened us with charges of cybercrime for defending the rights of my family, my husband, the oppressed, the innocent and the detainees on social media, today in the UAE, a WhatsApp or a tweet may cost you ten years imprisonment and torture, a fine of one million dirhams, or it may cost you your life!

14. What is your message to the UAE authorities and to the people of the Emirates?

To the Emirati authorities, I say, stop unjustly infringe on people's rights and freedoms. Justice is the basis of governance, and stop selectivity and duplicity, enough is enough. People are not judged by law of “Whoever agrees with me is with me, and whoever disagrees with me is against me” There is no king, and no state continues to rule with the mentality of tyranny. People are not led by chains and iron, the detainees are among the elites of the UAE.

And To the dear people of the UAE, I say the detainees are the loyal sons of the Emirates whom you know, and they have not changed and if you cannot defend them, then do not be a reason to question them and their injustice. Injustice and silence over that portends the destruction of civilizations and homeland, be sure that despite the injustice inflicted on the detainees and their families, they would not hesitate to make sacrifices for the sake of the UAE, be sure that you can count on them in the toughest moments.

15. is there anything would you like to tell your husband if you could call him during Eid?

I would like to tell him that me and his sons miss him very very very much, and we would be very, very, very happy if he was among us, and that’s why we are always pray to the Almighty to hasten his release and all the innocent detainees who were imprisoned unjustly, yet we are proud of him for his steadfastness in the face of injustice for his principles.

Someday, falsehood must be defeated, truth must triumph, the sun will shine again, So let us be patient.

I conclude with you with one of the sayings of my husband Abdul Salam Darwish in his prison, where he used to say, “The oppressors will not be able, no matter how much they try to humiliate us, to make us submit to them. We are born free, we live free, and we will die free”

Thank you, Mrs. Al-Rayes, for your time and effort, and we ask God to grant you relief soon, for you and for your husband AbduSalam and the rest of the detainees.