Graffiti on a wall in Gaza shows an ageing Gilad Shalit

More from Ayman

 Updates on Twitter.com
 Previous diary entries

During Israel's war on Gaza last January, Ayman was one of the only international correspondents able to cover the story from inside the Gaza Strip.

He now writes on the Prisoners' Remembrance Day, commemorated by thousands of Palestinians demanding freedom for their loved ones.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Imprisoned but not forgotten. It is a motto that resonates across the Palestinian territories when it comes to Prisoners' Remembrance Day.

Every year, thousands of Palestinians commemorate the day by holding rallies and candlelight vigils on April 16, with further events held on Apfril 17. Residents demand freedom for their loved ones - many of whom have been held in Israeli jails without charge. According to human rights organisations some are regularly tortured and abused.

Throughout its 42-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has detained at least a quarter of a million Palestinians. Today, nearly 10,000, including men, women and children, are behind bars in Israel.

What makes this year's remembrance day so significant was that hundreds of Palestinian families were hoping that by April 17, their loved ones would be freed as part of a deal in exchange for the release of an Israeli soldier held since 2006.

That soldier is Gilad Shalit, a name that has become known the world over.

The deal never materialised, so, as a reminder to Israeli governments which have so far refused to release Palestinian prisoners, a mural in a Gaza refugee camp has been painted depicting Shalit - looking 30-years older. The painting reflects a common public sentiment here that he should be held as long as Palestinians continue to languish in Israeli jails.

So on this day, Palestinians reaffirm their pledge to not forget those in Israeli custody. A march to the International Red Cross building kicked off a day of public rallies, a candlelight vigil and calls for the release of all prisoners.

It is often a sombre day for the prisoners' families but one of great importance to Palestinian society. Their struggle for national freedom is directly linked to the individual freedom of their Palestinian prisoners.

Source: Al Jazeera