When Hasan Karrajah was released in November 2017, Ma3azef team replied to his letter by dedicating to him few of our favorite song (below).
Hasan Karrajah is a Palestinian activist from Safa village in the West Bank. He was detained by the Israeli forces in July 2016 and served one year and a half in prison for unknown charges. He is one of the founders of the initiative “Tajwal Safar” (Wandering and Travelling) and the youth coordinator of the National Campaign against settlements and the Wall of Separation in the West Bank.
My dear friends in Ma3azef,
I extend my warm greetings to you, my greetings filled with resistance and resilience, greetings of yearning for you. Greetings to your spirit that stands still amid a world that destroys beauty and spreads ugliness. Blessed are you. Blessed is your resilience.
I am writing to you now as I am eagerly looking forward to meeting my loved ones in two months and a half after I had spend more than a year in prison, with no charges nor accusations. All languages fail to describe the great people I lived with here. They go through torture and oppression that is beyond anything real.
I thank you for reminding me of songs I will listen to when I am released… I think you for your care…
I write to you in small letters so that the paper I will try to smuggle could fit all the words and news I want to share with you. First, I cannot list the torture and deprivation techniques we witness here. One of the forms of deprivation is the deprivation of listening to the songs and music we desire. I will narrate to you the details of that condition. I also give you the permission to use my words however you want. And if you don’t want to use it that is also fine.
On the song you cannot describe
In the yard of the prison, the song Shemali (The Northern One) came to me. It is by The Palestinian Folk Music Band from their album Tallat (She has come). I started humming its melody and I wanted to tell the other prisoners about it. But what would I tell them? How would I describe it to them? Neither my voice nor my memory of the lyrics could be fair to the fusion between the melody and the lyrics of that song. Where can I play this song so that they could listen to it? There is no internet, no music shops, nothing. For that reason, my friends will always be deprived of that song, until the day of freedom…
On the song you like to listen to with others
Sometimes while you’re listening to a radio station, a song plays and you think that someone else would want to listen to it with you, with reason or with no reason… That is wishful thinking. If that happens after 10 pm, then we are not allowed to call others in other cells. If that happens at any other time, it would probably be during evening gatherings or naps or supervision or at any other time when you’re not allowed to shout from your cell (which is 99% of the times). The song may also happen to be on a station that cannot be reached from another location or room because of the walki-talkies of the guards. In some cells, they don’t even have one radio. The poor-quality radios we have cost us twenty-five dollars in prison when they cost three dollars outside.
Now if you happen to be able to circulate the news about a song playing on a radio station, you should know that other prisoners don’t possess earphones: which means you cannot listen together while other prisoners may be sleeping or reading. What do you do then? You wait until you’re out of prison to share the joy of listening to music with others.
On the song you forgot its lyrics
You accidentally stumble upon a song on a radio station. The music intro of the song pleases you but you can’t recognize the lyrics of the song—most probably because of the dialect or because of the bad quality of the radio waves…. How will you ever find its lyrics?
On the Unknown Singer
For some reason you hear a song whose music or lyrics pleases you, but you can’t recognize the singer. You can’t tell anyone or dedicate that song to anyone because you simply don’t know whom it is for….
On the song you like to re-listen to
How can you re-listen to a song or an album you like? One time I was following, for two weeks, the news of the release of a Palestinian vocalist’s album. The date and time of the release happened on a day when we had to schedule an emergency meeting in the cell to solve a problem that erupted on that day. I could not listen to the album. It’s been eight months now, and I still haven’t listened to the album.
There are so many songs we like to re-listen to, so many…. and there is so much deprivation, so much…
Most radio stations play the best hits at night and most times one cannot find any working earphones in the cell. Night time is also when it’s harder to borrow earphones because inspectors are more active at night. Some prisoners turn joyful when an inspector stops by their cell because that means going out to the yard and seeing the moon (because prisoners are asked to leave the cell when inspection is going on). Back to our topic, how will we be able to enjoy ourselves at night with no speakers, or with no earphones? It’s impossible to listen to the radio on loud speakers at night. The internal regulations of the detainees don’t allow it especially when everyone has suffered enough during the day. We also have to be considerate of elders. There is a detainee in my cell who’s 72 years old.
The cell I live in, there are detainees from the National Front and the Hamas movement. One day, I was speaking to others about alternative music when one Hamas militant asked: “what is alternative music?” I briefly told him what it is. Another day I informed him about an episode about alternative music on Al-Arabiyya TV station. He unfortunately did not follow the episode given the little interest the topic enjoys because of religious considerations among followers of Hamas. There was another soap opera episode he follows with other detainees happening at the same time anyway. In other words, they wouldn’t give up on watching an episode of their favorite soap opera to learn about a topic that doesn’t not represent them and that they ignore. During the eight months that young man spent in prison, he did not learn anything about alternative music. He did not get the chance to learn whether any of the songs he listens to are considered alternative or not.
The sources of music in prison are radio, TV, CDs… TV stations: MBC, MBC drama, Channel 3 (Israel), RT, National Geographic, Al-Arabiyyah. CD players are of bad quality. This is not to mention that we only have two of them (and we are a hundred twenty detainees). We only have very few CD albums. Every year, less than ten albums enter our center: most of which is either old or pop music.
The types of deprivation in prison are uncountable to an extent that I’ve forgotten many details and anecdotes about that issue… Most of the detainees are not interested in the topic given that priorities lie elsewhere namely medical negligence, bad food, awful treatment, the duration of detainment and unjust rulings. An accurate description of detention centers is “cemeteries of living humans”. It’s not easy to grasp the situation unless you experience it (and I don’t wish that at all). When Thameena told me that Ma3azef dedicated a song to me, I got happy and sad: happy for the support and sad because I can’t listen to the song. I was very happy as I also plunged into utter puzzlement about the song’s melody and lyrics.
I cannot describe how much I desire to listen to songs of Thameena’s SoundCloud profile. I have no words to express how much I want to get out of here to continue the music school project that I started with Thameena in our village. A music school that will offer something to humanity.
One day, the time of Thameena’s visit ended when I was just about to tell her to listen to a song. A glass barrier separates us. How could I tell her about that song when we’re not even allowed to have a pencil and a piece of paper during the visit? I returned to my cell and Thameena returned to where she came from without knowing about the song. What kind of human designed prisons???
My friends in Ma3azef: Please continue planting music in this world until the harvest of happiness comes…
Freedom is around the corner. I will embrace Thameena with no restrictions, no costumes. I will embrace life freely.
I am filled with passion for that moment, and nothing else but that moment.
The problem with Fairuz songs is that everyone likes to listen to Fairuz in the morning. Fairuz voice gets silenced after 8:00 am. By that time, most of the detainees are either sleeping or doing something other than listening to Fairuz obviously. In this case what does someone who wants to listen to Fairuz after 8:00 am do??? Especially those who live on the ground floor of the prison where only two or three radio stations reach them, from where do I bring them Fairuz’s voice?
Every day I try to find a piece of an Um Kulthum song that goes: “I missed you while you were here”. I listen to Um Kulthum songs between five and seven thirty in the evening. I need to hear that lyric because I miss Thameena every day, and I will still miss her even when she will be with me.
I hope that this letter clarified just a part of our struggle with music in prison.
Photographs of the letter are below. The letter in Arabic can be found through this link.