Antonio Faccilongo

2015 - Ongoing

Palestinian Territory

Habibi is the story of Palestinian prisoners’ wives who have turned to sperm smuggling in order to conceive children through in vitro fertilization (IVF) from their husbands who are serving long-term sentences in Israeli jails. In the past 3 years, 60 babies have been born.

There are around 7,000 Palestinians, classified as "security prisoners”, facing sentences of 25 years or more. Israel detains them if their alleged or convicted offenses are deemed threats, or potential threats, to national security.

Conjugal visits are denied, Palestinian prisoners see their immediate family for just 45 minutes every two weeks, if at all. While kept physically separated from visiting spouses and adults, inmates can play with their children for ten minutes at the end of each session. During these short visitations, some of the prisoners have smuggled sperm to their kids. This is one of the methods used, but not the only one, however, is the only known at the moment.

Fertility clinics in the occupied territories increasingly offer Ivf treatment to prisoners' wives free of charge. The Razan fertility clinic in Nablus and the al Basma fertility clinic in Gaza have frozen numerous sperm samples recently smuggled from behind bars.

Women in the “Ivf” program believe that one day the prisoners will be released, and when they do return home, they should have a family waiting for them.

My work is mostly focused on Asia and the Middle East, principally in Palestine, covering social, political and cultural issues. Documenting the aftermath of Palestinian-Israeli conflict in Gaza, I sought to unveil and highlight the humanitarian issues hidden within one of the world’s most reported conflicts.

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  • Bethlehem, Palestine.
    Manal Assaf (32) is the wife of Imad (37). Imad was sentenced to 25 years.

  • Kobar, Palestine.
    Signs of a life suspended at Iman Al Barghouti's home. Her husband, Nael Al Barghouti, has spent 38 years in prison. He was arrested on 4 April 1978 after carrying out a commando operation in which one Israeli was killed. He was released in Shalit agreement between Hamas and Israel in 2011 but he has been arrested again and sentenced to a life imprisonment.

    After undertaking various trips and becoming close to people there, I realized the value of the family, which is still the strongest social structure there. But one of the troubles involving the Palestinian people, in addition to the difficult socio-political situation, is that a very large number of their men are in Israeli prisons. This picture tells the story of the mothers, wives and daughters of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons. Waiting for the return of their men, these women struggle to support their families, both economically and emotionally, often finding themselves with many children to raise, and this picture shows how the lives of these women are suspended as they wait for the return of their men.

  • Bethlehem, Palestine.
    Hanadi Moussa Moghrabi (37) and her twins, Nour and Sondus (3) born through IVF in their home. Her husband Ahmed Moghrabi (42) was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 11 life sentences on charges of being the local head of “Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades” during the Second Intifada.

    This photo shows an intimate moment of daily life in one of the families of my work and at the same time shows how the IVF increases the chances of having a multiple births.
    About one in six IVF pregnancies result in a multiple birth. This is very high compared with natural conceptions of twins which occur in about 1 in 80 births.

  • Nablus, Palestine.
    The entrance of “Razan” fertility clinic in Nablus.

    The Razan fertility clinic in Nablus offers treatments free of charge to prisoners' wives. This has facilitated them to conceive new children.

  • Bethlehem, Palestine.
    Prisoners store seminal fluid inside tubes or old pens, which they hide inside snacks. During the ten minutes of permitted playtime, they pass the snacks to their children, practicing one of the methods used to smuggle their sperm out of prison.

  • Nablus, Palestine.
    Remah Bauod (39) with her sister and her daughter Racha, born a few hours before, in a room at “Razan” fertility clinic in Nablus.
    Her husband, Usama Bauod (41), was jailed for 4 life sentences plus 50 years.

  • Gaza, Palestine.
    Two newborn twins born through IVF at the hospital in Gaza. Families and women are often afraid to reveal that they had participated in the IVF treatments because happened in the past that their husbands receive punishment in prison.

  • Ramallah, Palestine.
    A Ramallah view.

  • Yatta, Palestine.
    Basimah Nawaja (37) in her living room shows a photo of her husband Issa (41) sentenced to 22 years in prison for military operations. They have a new child Sadeel (2) born through Ivf. In front of her are sitting all the family members.

    This picture shows how the relationship between families and detainees is still strong despite the difficulties. Many detainees send to families their portraits made in prison so that their families, particularly their children, can maintain a strong relationship with them.

  • Gaza, Palestine.
    Hana El Zanen (28) is the wife of Tamer (29) jailed for six life sentences. Their son Hassan was born through Ivf in January 2014, becoming Gaza's first "prison baby".
    Tamer was jailed for 12 years after being convicted on four counts of aiding an attempted murder and for membership of the militant organization Islamic Jihad. Tamer was arrested in this very room.
    Tamer's sperm was smuggled out of the Israeli prison in the jacket worn by the young son of Hana's brother, a fellow prisoner, during a visit. The sperm was then taken on a six-hour journey via a strict Israel checkpoint, to “Al Basma fertility clinic” in Gaza.

    Hassan was the first baby born through Ivf in Gaza. His story gave courage to many other women to conceive new children in this manner.

  • Tulkarem, Palestine.
    Amma Elian (39) is the wife of Anwar Elian (39). He was arrested in 2003 and sentenced for life imprisonment.

  • Bethlehem, Palestine.
    A tent at Hanadi's home (32), she had twins born through IVF. Her husband was sentenced to 18 life sentences.

  • Ofer, Palestine.
    A bus bar where families await the release of prisoners from Ofer prison.

  • Hebron, Palestine.
    A picnic of Nabeel Masalwa (47) family, his wife, brothers and son, on the mountains of Hebron. His wife Samaher (40) had a new baby called Kareem (2) born through Ivf. Nabeel was sentences to 23 years in jail.

    This picture is important because it shows how the other men of the detainee's family are trying to fill the absence of the father taking care of children born through IVF.

  • Gaza, Palestine.
    Ruins in Gaza.

  • Jericho, Palestine.
    Sarah Ka'abneh (41) in her garden with her two-year-old daughter, Rafeef, who was born through IVF. Her husband (49) was sentenced to 2 life imprisonments.

  • Bethlehem, Palestine.
    Fateh (54) is the grandmother of twins born through IVF. Hanadi (32) and her twins born through IVF. Her son was sentenced to 18 life sentences.

  • Ramallah, Palestine.
    A night view of Ramallah city center.

  • Ramallah, Palestine.
    Lydia Rimawi (38) with her two-year-old son, Majd, who was born through IVF, during the trip to reach the prison the day of the visit to her husband. She lives in West Bank village of Beit Rima, her village rests between Ramallah and Nablus. She leaves home at 5am, taking a taxi to the main road, where she boards a bus to Ramallah. She goes on a second bus, organized by the Red Cross in partnership with the Prisoners Club, to the Israeli border, where she crosses on foot. From the border, she rides a third bus to the prison.
    Lydia’s husband, AbdelKarim (44), has been arrested since June 2001 and sentenced to 25 years for involvement in the 2001 murder of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi.

    This picture helps to understand with delicacy and sensitivity the difficulties that these women face with their young children every day, and in particular on the day of the visit in prison.

  • Ramallah countryside, Palestine.
    An Olive tree near the wall on Palestinian territory. The dim light from Tel Aviv illuminates the hill.

    The olive tree, as well as being one of the symbols of Palestinian identity, in this case also represents a message of hope thanks to the meeting between the light from Israel that illuminates the Palestinian hills, metaphor of a meeting of these two societies and cultures.