A Palestinian man imprisoned in an Israeli jail became a father on Wednesday. While that does not constitute news in itself, the announcement has made headlines because Abdul Kareem al-Rimawi has been imprisoned for the past 13 years and has only seen his wife from behind a glass wall.
Lida al-Rimawi, Abdul Kareem's wife, says she became pregnant by smuggling her husband's sperm out of the prison where he is being held on charges of attempted murder. According to the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency, the woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Majd on Wednesday in the Razan clinic in Nablus in the West Bank. Her husband is set to be released in 2026.
"We challenged the Israeli authorities," she told NPR in May, then seven months pregnant. "We challenged the jailer."
Lida al-Rimawi is one of several prisoners' wives who say they underwent in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in the Nablus clinic.
In February 2013, doctor Salem Abu Khaizaran announced one of his patients had given birth to a healthy babyin August 2012, the Guardian reports. The woman's husband was serving 32 life sentences.
Khaizaran told the newspaper at the time that more than 20 women had been inseminated with the sperm of their jailed husbands, and that four were pregnant. The doctor explained the low success rate by pointing at the difficulty of keeping the sperm fresh while traveling from the prison to the West Bank.
The women involved have been reluctant to specify how they were able to smuggle the sperm past prison guards.
Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for Israel's prison services, told Al Jazeera in February that she was "very skeptical" about the women's claims. "The women who do come to the prisons don't have direct contact with the detainees, and when they leave they must pass through controls," Weizman said.
Weizman specified to the NYTimes that while the spouses are not denied conjugal visits, they are separated by glass. Children are allowed to embrace their fathers if they are younger than 8 years old.
Khaizaran, who first spoke out on the procedures at the Razan clinic, told the New York Times he considers the procedure a human issue, and not a political one. He explained that many women are too old to conceive more children once their husbands are released from jail, and that he received a fatwa from a cleric allowing the procedure. The Razan clinic does not charge the women for the $3,000 procedure.
About 4,800 Palestinians are jailed in Israel prisons, Al Jazeera notes. At least 1,000 are serving sentences of more than 20 years.
On Sunday, Israel announced it will release 104 Palestinian prisoners charged with deadly attacks, the AP reported. The detainees were arrested between 1983 and 1994, and according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, they would be released in four stages over several months.