February 10, 2007
During the day Friday, the words of 11-year-old
Mohammad Hazahza have filled him up and weighed him
down. On Friday night, he pours the words back out, as
if wanting to be lifted back up.
"Mohammad is so protective of his mother," says Ralph
Isenberg in a weary and reverent voice, recalling the
day's visits to Dallas reporters. "I watched as he got
her chair and made her comfortable. And that's what he
did in jail. He protected her from forced labor. When
she was ordered to clean the common area, he did that
work for her. He really understands family and duty."
For mother Juma, jail was a very difficult time.
Because of her food allergies, she has come to rely on
some foods. Tomatoes for example. Family supporter
Riad Hamad of the Palestine Children's Welfare Fund
says Juma asked her jailers for tomatoes, but they
never gave her any. Not one tomato in a hundred days.
She lost 12 pounds.
"I was shocked at what the jail has done to her
physically," says Isenberg. "There were times when I
thought she would pass out. They are both very
traumatized. And all I can say is we're cranking up
real hard for the release of the rest of the Hazahza
Like two other families of Palestinian heritage who
were abducted by USA immigration authorities in early
November, the Hazahza family had been split up. Juma
and Mohammad were jailed at T. Don Hutto prison in
Taylor, Texas, while father Radi was locked up at
Haskell, Texas along with his four adult children.
The mother and son recall a hard knock at the door and
then a crash as men with guns filled their apartment
in a pre-dawn raid on November 2. Mohammad describes
the guns as AK-47s. If that's not the model number, he
was definitely looking down barrels of semi-automatic
assault rifles. The family of seven were ordered out
of the house. No time to change out of bed clothes.
For Juma, memories of America are mixed with memories
of life in Palestine, where she could never stop
thinking about the missiles that flew over the house.
She knows what it is like to live in fearful
conditions. But even in Palestine, she had never been
thrown into jail.
On their second day out of jail, memories are
difficult enough that Juma and Mohammad might cry once
or twice, but Juma is angry and determined. She will
see the rest of her family free as soon as possible.
Then they will get their things out of storage and
start their lives all over again. On to the next
reporter, if that's what it must take. She wants her
Inside the jail, Mohammad was ever the bright and
curious kid. He was certainly not impressed with the
school lessons they gave him. Math was like adding one
plus one. Last week he noticed his jailers making all
kinds of sudden improvements to the jail. There was
simple math in that, too. A media tour was coming up.
By the time the cameras got there, Mohammad and his
mother would be gone.
In jail, Mohammad wondered about things like where
does the electricity come from and are the windows
bullet proof? He would ask these questions to guards
who carried little black books, and they would write
his questions down. A few days later the guards would
return with questions of their own. Was anyone
planning to bomb Hutto jail?
Hideous is the word Isenberg uses to describe the
situation of the Hazahzas, the jail, and the
prejudicial paranoia that surrounds a curious boy from
Palestine and his family. Juma has not been allowed to
talk to her husband for 100 days.
Owing to poor construction and design of toilets and
bathrooms, the smell of raw sewage is a nightly trauma
at Hutto prison. Who can sleep with such a smell in
the air? The temperature is never right. Either it's
too warm or too cold, except for the water, which is
always too cold. And the sanitation of the cold-water
shower room was very suspect to Juma as herds of men
were exchanged for herds of women in bathing
conditions that made her feel very humiliated.
Confirming complaints made weeks ago by the Ibrahim
family--who have since been released--Mohammad and
Juma talked about prisoners being made to stand still
for cell counts that always lasted too long because
guards could not get the count right.
"They are so hurt, so hurt," says Isenberg as
Mohammad's words spill out. "It's clear that the Hutto
facility has the ability to destroy people, to break
their will to want to live. It's also clear that it
will be shut down shortly."
Saturday will be "legal day" for the movement as
Isenberg confers with attorneys about how to get the
Hazahzas released. Once again the New York attorneys
Joshua Bardavid and Ted Cox are standing by if a
federal habeas corpus motion is required.
"I'm not used to meeting people who have been in jail
for 100 days and who are perfectly innocent. I'm
ashamed to be an American right now. But the more I
see people start to care, the more I have hope."
Greg Moses is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. He can be reached at email@example.com
"Further: the consequences of War, when impartially examined, will be found big, not only with outward and temporal distress, but with an evil that extends where in the darkness and tumult of human passions it is neither expected nor conceived to reach"--Anthony Benezet