By Hossam Ezzedine Agence France-Presse JORDAN TIMES
NABI SALEH, Palestinian Territories – Nizar Tamimi has only seen his fiancée Ahlam once, when she visited him in prison shortly before she was sentenced to life in jail for assisting a suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
Their families feared they would never start a life together, but on Tuesday they walked free under a landmark prisoner exchange deal – Nizar back home to the West Bank, and Ahlam sent to her family in Jordan.
The pair are second cousins, but never met growing up, and no one in their family expected them to fall in love.
They grew up in different places, Nizar in the village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah, Ahlam across the border in Jordan. He joined the Fateh movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; she belonged to Fateh’s bitter rival Hamas.
Their paths did not cross early in life, but Ahlam knew that Nizar was sentenced in the early 1990s to life in prison for his role in the murder of an Israeli settler.
It was his brother Mahmoud who first met Ahlam, on a visit to Jordan, where he was astonished to find his young cousin’s room covered in Palestinian nationalist posters and pictures of Nizar.
“I found this young girl totally wrapped up in all things related to Palestine, her room covered with pictures of Nizar, who represented the thing she loved most,” he said.
At Ahlam’s request, Mahmoud helped her enrol in Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, but shortly after she moved there, he was also arrested and joined Nizar in prison after receiving a four-year sentence.
In August 2001, aged 20, Ahlam escorted a Hamas suicide bomber to a Jerusalem restaurant where he detonated his charge, killing at least 15 Israelis.
She was arrested shortly afterwards and received 16 life sentences.
Once in prison, the relationship between her and Nizar began to bloom, according to Mahmoud, who watched his brother compose long letters to Ahlam.