ASKAR REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank: Suad Abu Fayed and her husband have had no physical contact for more than 11 years. That is how long he has been in an Israeli prison.
And yet on a recent day, Abu Fayed cradled the couple’s 9-day-old baby, Hurriyah — a daughter whose birth earned her a place in an unusual but growing group: Infants conceived over the past two years by in vitro fertilization, using sperm from Palestinian prisoners that has been smuggled out of Israeli jails.
The aim of the clandestine process, those involved say, is two-pronged: To help prisoners’ wives have children while their husbands are behind bars and to chip away at one facet of Israel’s control over Palestinian life.
Hurriyah’s father, Samir Abu Fayed, 37, is serving an 18-year sentence for involvement in terrorist activities. He is a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Israel does not allow conjugal visits to Palestinian prisoners, and carefully screened relatives can meet with them only through glass dividers.
But young children are allowed brief physical interaction with their fathers, and that is how Hurriyah, whose name means freedom in Arabic, came to be. Abu Fayed’s sperm was secretly slipped to one of the couple’s three older children during a visit at the Nafha prison in southern Israel, said Suad Abu Fayed, 34. It was immediately transported to the Razan Medical Center in Nablus, which specializes in the IVF treatment that led to her pregnancy.
“I know it won’t be easy raising a baby with a husband in jail, but this is our way of breaking Israel’s siege on us,” she said, referring to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. “We are challenging (Israel’s) occupation and getting something beautiful in return.” Israeli prison authority spokesperson Sivan Weitzman said Israel is aware of the growing phenomenon, and she acknowledged that little could be done to stop it.