The suffering continues even after his release

Tayseer Al-Najjar, the detainee who was haunted by UAE prisons until his death

22 Feb 2022
Tayseer Al-Najjar, the detainee who was haunted by UAE prisons until his death

It is the first anniversary of the death of the Jordanian journalist, Tayseer Al-Najjar, who died at dawn on Friday, February 19, 2021, at the age of 45, due to many diseases that many believed it was because of his detention in the UAE.

Al-Najjar, the father of five children and a member of the Jordanian Journalists Syndicate and the Jordanian Writers Association, was working in Abu Dhabi, until he was surprised in December 2015 that he was prevented from traveling to Amman without knowing the reason, as the UAE authorities requested him for the security apparatuses, before the Abu Dhabi Police contacted him and asked him for an interview on December 13, 2015, where he was arrested.

After that, Al-Najjar disappeared for several months, before appearing in court in March 2017. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison and a fine of half a million AED (135,000 USD) for "insulting state symbols", due to facebook posts criticizing the stance of the UAE authorities on the Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2014, posts he wrote before traveling to work in the UAE in 2015.

Although he was released in February 2019 after the end of his sentence, the illnesses and psychological pain caused by his poor prison conditions continued to haunt him. He was hospitalized several times, and he was speaking about his pains several times through his Facebook posts before his death.

Read also: UNWGAD Calls on the UAE authorities to release a Jordanian detainee

His wife, Magda Al-Hourani, referred to his suffering in previous statements, as she said that Tayseer had suffered from several diseases since his release, such as migraine, and he was facing a difficulty in hearing in one of his ears, in addition to dental problems and other health issues afflicted him during his detention, she said

But chronic diseases are not the only ones that accompanied Al-Najjar, as the psychological suffering he felt in his detention continued to follow him even after his release, a suffering that was never absent from his Facebook posts, as he constantly stressed that the period he spent in prison is still chasing him. In one of his Facebook posts, he wrote about this: “Prison still with me. It is not easy to escape from cruelty, pain, injustice and oppression of 3 years and two months.” He added in another post: “I still could not believe that I was released.”

The “world of Facebook" was not the only place where Al-Najjar expressed the psychological pain he was experiencing. He wrote an article on website under the title: "A Message in Freedom: Pain Now", in which he addressed part of his suffering during prison, complaining: “Everyone wants me to be strong, because “this” everyone did not taste the summation of human pain, and because “this” everyone did not know the meaning of the movement of the body, and how the jailer mastered it in my solitary prison.

Al-Najjar documented in his article the pain he felt since his release from prison, revealing “burning bouts of crying and convulsive fits,” and their recurrence, until, according to him, they turned into a “continuous bout of silence.”

In that article also, Al-Najjar described his feelings inside his solitary confinement, where he “wish to see the sun, or enter the bathroom without restrictions, or even see any face, and he was constantly screaming that mercy would touch the hearts of his jailers,” which he described those hearts as “stones.”

Al-Najjar didn’t feel that he was set free, because “whoever is imprisoned in the UAE is accompanied by prison at every moment of his life,” as he said, he was wondering: “How can you explain to a person who did not know the security prison in the UAE, the great importance of seeing a tree, a street, or children, or clean clothes? How can you explain to those around you the importance of the speech between you and yourself: "Praise be to God, at last my skin was not frayed".

Read also: Father of Jordanian detainee Baha Matar appeals to MBZ to release his son

Al-Najjar said that "his heart was broken, and blood no longer flowed in it, but rather pains and harsh memories because the interrogator, according to Al-Najjar’s description was “trampling on his heart, as if trampling on a pane of glass,” saying that what was happening in solitary confinement was “a process of destroying his soul” , which he says “it’s no longer exists, because "the important thing in prison is to maintain your existence and stay alive."

Many feelings of pain were overflowing from Al-Najjar’s articles and publications, in one of which he said a few months before his death that he “will not forget the faces that he will hold accountable before God” a sentence that his friends and loved ones continued to circulate after his death.

Certainly, the intellectual Jordanian journalist was not the only one who pushed years of his life into the UAE prisons for his political opinions. Scores preceded him in that, but his broken heart could not bear the amount of pain he lived in prison.

Al-Najjar may have died officially on February 19, 2021, but his real death began from the first day of his entry into UAE prisons. For over the three years of his detention and the months that followed, the man was in a state of slow death. He was hospitalized more than 30 times, and he underwent several surgeries, the first on his retina and the last of which was a stomach haemorrhage.

With the death of Al-Najjar and its circumstances, a new page is added to the deteriorating UAE human rights record. His death was only the tip of the iceberg, which reveals a lot about the truth of what is happening inside UAE prisons.