By Assem al Ka’abi
Years have passed and the prison bars still won’t let us live our lives. You stand here alone: fighting death with hope, watching everything grow older while you are still fighting for your own existence. You live your life facing one battle after another, trying to defend your name and save your dreams. You try to fit in the crowd, treating oblivion with love and memory – a vivid memory that arms you with your best moments to help you through your worst.
The longer the distance, the closer you think the end is. Then, you realize it is only another beginning of another long way towards hope. You do not know what awaits you. You need to hold on to your smile.
In prison, things have different meanings. Small pleasures, like getting a needle and a thread, make you feel like you have seized the world in your hand – like your cell is as big as the universe! Joy is now a reunion with your family, whom you have not seen for years – a reunion that demands you to condense all your feelings, your joys and your questions in a 45-minute visit. Happiness is now the taste of a food you have not seen in years. If that is not deprivation, what is?
On this day, I complete fifteen years in prison and start my sixteenth. Despite the long years of suffering, this year has its own beauty. This year, tragedy is mixed with unlimited joy. I am blessed to celebrate my engagement to my sweetheart, Sumoud, daughter of our leader and mentor, Secretary General Ahmed Sa’adat (Abu Ghassan). Today was not chosen randomly for my Qiran, official signing of engagement. It marks the birthday of my beloved Sumoud, to whom I say,
“May you remain a blooming rose with the sweetest fragrance that fills my heart! May you remain a symbol of hope and steadfastness! How I hate my compulsory separation from you. How I grieve the loss of loved ones whom I wish were here to share us our happiness. Those loved ones shaped and nourished my memory with their affection and generosity. They are the pride that will remain carved in our hearts forever. They are the stars that lighten the darkest of my nights and the hardest of my days.”
Throughout those years, death has beaten me twice. The first was when it took away my mother.
O dear mother! Allow me to send you the sweetest bouquet of roses to adorn your pure grave. Once you were gone, nothing was left. O dear mother! In all these years of separation, I have saved you every smile and every joy in this world. I have woven them into a gift for the moment we reunite. I used to believe that death might put an end to my longing. How naive of me! Death has only deepened my feelings towards you.
The second time death defeated me was when it took my companion, Nader. Nader, the battlefield companion who was an example of pride and purity.
O dear friend! Will I ever forget you? No. Forgetting is betrayal to our pledge of loyalty. We both shared one dream: a life for our people like that of others around the world. But it’s our land that has the highest price of all – your precious blood. O Nader! You are gone now, you left behind a homeland that is torn apart by opportunists and conspirators, people who see the life of an entire people as a commodity they can sell and buy.
O comrade! If only you knew how hard things are now. They abandoned us along the way. Look at all those young men on the side of the road. Look how they still smile to the future despite the endless hardships. What conspirators want now is a generation of quitters, youth whose thoughts cannot go beyond securing a smoke of weed. What they want is an aimless generation, devoid of dignity, honor and pride. They want this generation to be intolerant, to get used to killing and bloodshed. They took everything and left us nothing but our names carried by our exhausted bodies that are drained by misery.
On this day that combines so many contradictions, I write to all my loved ones: my father, my brothers and sisters. I write to tell you that you are the joy that awaits at the end of this strenuous journey. I still dare to promise you of a reunion despite everything we have been through. You are the hope that gives me strength to survive. I send you a thousand kisses.
Sumoud! My one and only love, you are my soul that soars in the free sky. Perhaps days have brought us apart, but our love that thrives on the hope of meeting again will always defeat the distance between us – the distance that briefs decades and tells the stories of a nation, a history and a legacy that cannot be expressed with words. Stories that can only be told through true feelings born from the womb of sufferings. I send you these words, hoping they will carry with them a hope and a promise and a dream. May my words meet your glazed eyes and be their light that shines in the middle of the dark.
At the end, I would like to thank all the mothers, sisters, brothers, comrades and friends who came in the name of hope and freedom to share with me and Sumoud our happiness. Thank you all for answering our invitation, because this wedding is another victory over the jailer, who wants to kill our feelings, our social bonding and our revolutionary soul. Despite all their means of suppression, we will still make our own happiness and fight for our own freedom. I write my words to our great people and to every free man in this world.
I love you all. I love this people and I love this land. I love you as you draw the dawn with crayons of patience and steadfastness. You are the proof that we are alive, that we are here.
I salute all martyrs and pray for freedom to all prisoners.
Long Live Palestine!
Your comrade, Assem al Kaabi “Abu Nader”
(Negev Desert Prison)