In 1992, following a hunger strike protest, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were given the opportunity to receive education during their imprisonment. Over the years, many of them have obtained academic degrees, including a doctorate awarded to prominent Fatah leader Marwan Al-Barghouti.
Israel restricted the right to higher education as part of its attempts to pressure Hamas on the issue of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit – a move that was sanctioned by the Israeli Supreme Court, which ruled that the Prison Service is not required to grant prisoners the right to study in prison.
In response, the Hamas government launched a project some three years ago in which teams of prisoners teach fellow prisoners for a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree that are recognized by the Hamas authorities in Gaza. The project, named Jami'at Al-Ahrar ("University of the Free"), was launched by the Education Committee of the Hamas Senior Leadership in the Prisons, with the assistance of Hamas's Ministry of Prisoners Affairs and in coordination with its Education Ministry. Currently, the Education Committee is seeking to expand it to include a master's degree program as well.
The following are some details about the project.
Hamas Project Enables Prisoners In Israel To Study For High School Diplomas And Academic Degrees
Fuad Al-Khuffash, director of the Palestinian Al-Ahrar Center for Prisoners Studies and Human Rights, who was himself a member of an academic team in one of the prisons, said that 1,157 prisoners, which constitute about 25% of all Palestinian prisoners in Israel, are currently enrolled in the Al-Ahrar University.
The committee's announcement on the launching of the prisoners' studies program
According to data recently published by the Education Committee, 361 high school diplomas approved by the Gaza Education Ministry were granted to prisoners in the last two years. Currently there are 131 prisoners studying for a diploma at the Jami'at Al-Ahrar Faculty of Applied Sciences, which has already granted diplomas to 153 prisoners. Furthermore, last year saw the addition of studies for a bachelor's degree in history from the Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, according to an agreement reached some two years ago between the university and the Ministry of Prisoner Affairs. This program has 512 prisoner students, and it includes classes in history, social sciences, Arabic and Islam.
The Education Committee states that it has managed to implement the studies project in all Israeli prisons, including an expansion of available programs and degrees.
Facebook page of the Education Committee of the Hamas Senior Leadership in the Prisons
Books Published By Palestinian Prisoners
The Education Committee's Facebook page advertises books published by prisoners and released prisoners. The following are several examples:
Book by former prisoner Zaher 'Ali Jibrin titled The Story of the Blood [Spilled] From the Veins of Al-Qassam
Book by prisoner Mahmoud 'Issa titled The Story of a Patient Man
Book by Education Committee head Muhammad Sabha titled Guerrilla Warfare
The author of the last book, Muhammad Sabha, is the head of Education Committee and is serving a 15-year sentence for his activity in the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. The text of the book is available for download on the palinfo.com website, which is close to Hamas.