Randa Rimawi was only 8 months old when her father was detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, Anadolu News Agency reports.
Her father, Abd Al-Karim Rimawi, was driving his car when he was stopped at the Halamish military checkpoint south of Ramallah in 2001.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of carrying out attacks against Israeli forces during the second Palestinian Intifada.
At the time of his detention, Abd al-Karim was in his last year of college at Birzeit University.
“I grew up without my father nearby,” Randa told Anadolu Agency. “He was never allowed by Israeli forces to attend my birthdays, my first school day, or my graduation from high school.”
The 22-year-old used to place her father’s photos around during her birthday celebration to feel that he was nearby.
“I celebrated my birthday 22 times without my father,” the Palestinian girl said. “My father, however, celebrates my birthdays in his own way.”
Two months before his daughter’s birthday, Abd Al-Karim used to write a letter from his jail and send it to his family.
“My father writes the letter two months before my birthday to ensure it arrives on time, as it takes a long time to arrive,” Randa said.
In every letter, a picture of Randa is drawn by her jailed father.
“One day, I returned from school to ask my mother about the reason for not having my father living with us like other children,” Randa recalled. “These questions are still in my head day and night.”
As she graduated from high school, the Palestinian girl decided to join the Faculty of Journalism at Birzeit University, the same college that her father was studying at when he was detained.
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“I’m in my last year at the college. I’m 22 years old now, the same age when my father was jailed,” Randa said.
“I have never imagined that my father would spend all these years in prison. Many times I have dreamed of me and my father graduating together.”
There are around 4,850 Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, including 40 women, 225 children and 40 administrative detainees, according to institutions concerned with prisoners’ affairs.
Recently, Abd Al-Karim received his bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Al-Quds Open University. His daughter received the graduation certificate on behalf of her jailed father during a graduation ceremony held in Ramallah.
The jailed father, however, still dreams of graduating from the Faculty of Journalism at Birzeit University, according to his daughter.
“I believe that I am a reflection of this struggling father, so I’m doing my best in my study to make him proud,” Randa said.
“I discuss with him every detail of my college projects and take his opinion into consideration all the time,” the defiant daughter said. “I’m trying to make some of his dreams come true until he is freed.”
In 2013, Rand’s only brother, Majd, was born by a smuggled sperm that her father successfully smuggled from prison.
After Majd’s birth, Abd Al-Karim was placed in solitary confinement for several months. His family was also banned from visiting him for a whole year.
“Majd’s birth has brought a new light into our life,” Randa said. “We are waiting for the day when we reunite with our father and live a normal life.”
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