Gaza City, Gaza Strip (AP)-After months of torture and interrogation in Hamas prison, Palestinian activist Rami Aman said he was offered an unconventional claim: divorce your wife, you You can travel freely.
Oman recently signed a marriage contract with the daughter of a Hamas official, and the ruling Islamic militant group apparently wants to eliminate any hints of support for Oman’s promotion to Israeli peace activists. He said he finally succumbed to pressure. Now he says that the love of his life has gone against her will from Gaza, and he may never see her again.
“I realized that I was sent there to do some time until I broke up,”
This is the last humiliation in the legend, beginning when he believed it was an innocent online meeting with Israeli pacifists. Instead, this episode plunged him into a notorious prison cell, known as the “bus”, and eventually ruined his marriage. His experience shows that freedom of speech is severely restricted in Hamas-ruled territories, and militant groups are hostile to any speech coexisting with Israel.
“The poor treatment of Rami Oman by the Hamas authorities reflects their systematic punishment of those who threaten their orthodox faith by speaking,” said Omar Shakir, the director of Israel-Palestinianism of Human Rights Watch.
When Oman joined the deadly Zoom call in April last year, he thought he had not done anything disruptive. In the process of the widespread shutdown at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Oman wanted to discuss the “double blockade” of Gaza, which has experienced a 14-year Israeli-Egypt lock on Hamas.
Aman, a 39-year-old freelance writer, said: “When you live under Israeli occupation and siege, I want people to know more. This is depriving the rest of the world of their rights.”
For more than two hours, Oman and his group of peace activists, the Gaza Youth Committee, have discussed coexistence with dozens of Israelis.
As news of the meeting leaked, angry comments on social media made him a traitor. Some have urged Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, to take action.
Oman said that on April 9, he and seven members of his team were summoned to the internal security agency, which is responsible for dealing with dissidents and people accused of spying for Israel.
He said that he was blindfolded and was quickly taken to a “bus” in a row in a room with two rows of kindergarten chairs and a row of toilets. He said that there, the detainees were forced to sit in small chairs for several days or weeks at a time, rarely resting.
“They did not present any evidence against me,” Aman said. He said he will sit in a chair from 6 am to 1 am, unless he is taken to ask or pray. He was only allowed to take off his blindfold after going to the toilet. The kidnapper called him using his prison number 6299.
The questions are mainly focused on the Zoom meeting and who may host it. Oman is accused of cooperating with Israel-a crime punishable by the death penalty.
The Gaza Youth Council has conducted dozens of talks with Israelis, Americans and Europeans under an initiative called “Skype with Your Enemies.” In 2019, it organized an event where cyclists in Gaza and Israel rode in parallel on opposite sides of the barbed wire fence.
He said that at 1 o’clock in the morning, the “bus passengers” were blindfolded and slept next to the chair. They would curl their coats, lie on the cold floor, and then wake up a few hours later before being awakened by Muslims to pray. In a 2018 report, Human Rights Watch recorded similar reports.
The interrogation was over a week later, but Oman said he spent 18 days of pain on the bus before being transferred to a small cell.
Then there was a new change in the questioning.
Just two months ago, Aman signed a marriage contract with the daughter of a Hamas official in exile in Egypt. Due to the lock-in of the coronavirus, the couple did not have time to hold a formal wedding to celebrate their wedding, but according to Islamic law, they are considered married.
Aman said he met her in 2018 after she separated from her first husband. He said that she believed in the message of peace and joined his team for several discussions with the Israelis. He asked not to disclose her name, fearing that it would cause her harm.
Any suggestion that Hamas members are friendly towards Israel makes the organization deeply embarrassed. In an unrelated and more serious case, Mosab Yousef, the son of one of the co-founders of Mohamb, spied for Israel from 1997 to 2007. Now living in the United States, he is a staunch critic of Hamas and the subject of Hamas in 2014.
Oman said that his new wife was arrested with him, but they soon separated.
“She doesn’t want you,” an officer told him. “It’s better for two people to get a divorce.”
He said that for two months, he resisted the pressure of breaking up. On June 28, she finally visited and told him that she had been released on bail.
He said: “This is not a woman I know.” “She is full of weakness and fear.” The officer sat in the room.
He asked her if she wanted to terminate the relationship, and she said yes. “I know she didn’t say anything from the heart, obviously she is under heavy pressure,” Aman said. He refused to grant her a divorce.
Although he has not yet been convicted of any crime, in July he was transferred to the Hamas Central Prison. No more interrogation or torture.
On August 12, an Islamic judge visited and asked if he felt forced to divorce. Oman said yes to him and was encouraged because Islamic law does not allow a divorce to be imposed on someone. But then the Imam turned against him.
“How are you forced? Did you see me holding a gun?” He said he was told.
He said that after promising to be released the next day, he finally gave in and signed the divorce papers.
However, he was still imprisoned for two months. On October 25, Egypt opened its border with Gaza, allowing the Hamas delegation to go to Cairo.
The next day, the Hamas court convicted Oman and two members of his team for “weakening the revolutionary spirit.” They were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, but the rest of the sentence was suspended and released.
Only then did Oman learn that his wife had been taken to Egypt by the Hamas delegation and handed over to relatives living there.
The Associated Press contacted the woman, who confirmed that she was forced to divorce and asked her husband to return.
The landlord of the Gaza apartment where the woman lives confirmed that she had collected her property accompanied by Hamas officials after she was released on bail. She was then taken to a women’s shelter until she moved to Egypt. The Hamas official is a well-known public figure and did not answer calls for comments.
Oman spends all day talking with lawyers, human rights organizations, and texting Hamas officials. The internal security department still holds his laptop, desktop computer and mobile phone and other equipment belonging to family members.
He also learned that he is now prohibited from leaving Gaza. In December last year, after receiving an invitation to give a speech at New York University, he said that Hamas officials prevented him from entering Israel in order to apply for a visa at the US consulate.
Eyad Bozum, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior, confirmed the travel ban, but said that the issue is “under resolution” and did not elaborate.
At present, Oman has abandoned political activism. “Now I have a personal fight: back to my wife.”