There are two civilian detainees with special needs are currently being held illegally and against their will, Hisham Al-Sayed, a Bedouin Israeli from the town of Al-Hura in the Negev, and Avraham “Avera” Mengistu an Ethiopian Israeli from the coastal town of Ashkelon. The two men have mental health conditions and a history of leaving their homes unexpectedly.
In 2015 and 2014 respectively, they independently wandered into the Hamas controlled Gaza strip and have not been seen or heard from since. Hamas has yet to comment on the status of the detainees, nor has any sign of life or communication from them ever been provided to their loved ones.
The families are distraught at the detention of their sons and have met with the Red Cross and Amnesty International to ask for assistance in getting them released. They have also held an interfaith vigil with Muslim and Jewish spiritual leaders to pray for their release.
The detention of these innocent civilians has caused international concern. In 2017 Human Rights Watch issued a report condemning Hamas for holding Mengistu and Al-Sayed. Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said “Hamas’s refusal to confirm its apparent prolonged detention of men with mental health conditions, and with no connection to the hostilities, is cruel and indefensible.” The report also supplied proof of the men’s civilian status despite Hamas claiming they are soldiers.
As South Africans, we know the pain of unlawful detention, of being cut off without communication with family or legal counsel. We affirm our human rights centered foreign policy as set out by our late former president and Robben Island prisoner Nelson Mandela. It is because of our history and the values enshrined in our constitution that we are obliged to not forget the forgotten.
Therefore, as South Africans, and other supporters of the detainees, we join together, regardless of race, class, ethnic community, political allegiance, or religious affiliation, to ask that the South African Government intervene, using their relationship with Hamas, to request the speedy implementation of the demands in the Human Rights Watch Report, including, but not limited to:
- An immediate and unconditional declaration from Hamas of the status of the detainees.
- The immediate opportunity for communication with their families and legal counsel.
- The humane treatment of the detainees by Hamas, including visits from human rights groups and immediate medical attention.
- Acknowledgment of the detainee’s rights, under international law, including the right not to be “enforceably disappeared”, their rights under The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- A declaration that the status of the detainees will be separated from other negotiations, or political considerations in Hamas’s war with Israel.
- For Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release the detainees to their families.
The Free Avera and Hisham campaign is a non-political, grassroots movement to raise awareness about the plight of Hisham and Avera and work for their release. We welcome support from all members of South African society and beyond, regardless of religious and ideological beliefs.
For the sake of him and his family please sign and share the campaign petition.
Sign petition here