From the moment I laid eyes on Serwan Baran’s sculpture, I was instantly taken back to my experience in the interrogation cellars of Ashkelon: hands tied to the back of a chair in the interrogation room. I remembered how I had a need to move and rub my hands, to touch my forehead, to adjust my veil, to pray, and to do other important things that require my hands to be untied, an importance I did not acknowledge until they were impeded.
Poster for Osama Hjaj, 2008, Palestine Poster Project
While taking a close look at the sculpture, the days came back to me: bodily exhaustion from being tied to a chair, deprived of sleep... an exhaustion of the soul and the mind as in the body and the limbs. Strength fades, the body weakens, the vision of light dulls, and the ultimate dream becomes the cessation of back and neck aches by lying comfortably to take a nap, restoring balance. This dream does not manifest itself until after 20 hours of being tied to a chair in the interrogation room every day.
I was rid of the chair when I had a foul, small meal brought to me. When I asked to go to the bathroom, I was allowed five minutes. I would use these minutes to do ablutions with the murky water, but I would be taken back to the interrogation room before I could pray. When I asked for my chains to be taken off so I could pray, the interrogator would tell me: you can pray with your eyes, like other detainees do.
The sculpture succeeded in intensifying that daily state in the interrogation room with its many details. The bowing of the sculpted prisoner resembled exhaustion, not submission; an exhausted body, not a defeated spirit. It is but a long and bitter struggle with time: those who triumph are those who realize the philosophy of time and overcome its power with their nerves and soul inside prison.
Interrogation techniques in Israeli Occupation prisons do not solely aim to exhaust the body; they focus on disturbing the psychology of the detainee, on drying up the source of faith and principles, on undermining confidence in the certainties that he or she holds, on destroying the hope that floats in their eyes. When one leaves that experience bearing the fragrance of principles, holding on to dreams, determination, the radiance in their eyes, purity of their heart and transcendence of their souls, one has defeated the jailer.