The struggle of Palestinian prisoners to have children: smuggling sperm out of prison

In a small house in the humble neighborhood of Al Shujaia, in the city of Gaza, the quadruplet babies of Rasmiya Shamali, a woman who became pregnant by her husband Ahmed, rest. Palestinian prisoner in Israel for 15 years who managed to smuggle his sperm out of jail.

This practice has become more common among Palestinian security prisoners serving long sentences or life sentences in Israeli jails, where they are not allowed conjugal visits. However, they try to have children in unconventional ways, looking for ways to send their sperm to their wives.

Born in May, the sons of Rasmiya and Ahmed Shamali -in prison since 2008 and who will finish their sentence in 2026- embody yet another case of a practice in the rigid Israeli prison system that dates back to 2012, when there was “the first successful attempt to conceive a child with smuggled sperm,” a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Detainees of the Palestinian National Authority (ANP) told EFE.


Since then, some 120 children have been born through the artificial insemination with sperm smuggled out of some 70 Palestinian prisonersa process financed by the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees through specialized clinics and laboratories and gynecologists who monitor it.

However, bypassing the controls and getting a certain amount of sperm in good conditions out of prisons is not an easy task.

Rasmiya, 38, has been trying to get pregnant with Ahmed using this method since 2018. The first two attempts failed, but the third time was the charm. On this occasion, the semen was taken from prison through a fellow inmate of Ahmed who finished his sentence.

After that, Rasmiya proceeded with the fertilization and with a complex pregnancy of quadrupletsthree boys and a girl, named Rakan, Rayan, Abdul Rahim and Najah.

They were born prematurely in Jerusalem, at seven months, and after spending more than 45 days in the incubator, they are now at their family home in Gaza, where their grandmother Najah longs for the moment when her son Ahmed, father of the babies, will be released to be together.

“It’s a victory against the Israeli occupation,” is how Najah Shamali, Ahmed’s mother, interprets the birth of her four grandchildren, who she cares for on a hot summer afternoon.

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The family -also made up of two sons aged 17 and 15 that Rasmiya had with Ahmed before his imprisonment- lives “a difficult situation” facing the economic hardships of Gaza, and survives only on the monthly financial aid that the Palestinian authorities provide to prisoners and their families, “insufficient to support the children” or pay for the necessary daily milk, laments her grandmother.


Israeli law allows the conception of children in prison with conjugal visits. These are authorized for regular prisoners if they comply with the required rules, but they are not applied to so-called security prisoners, subject to more restrictive conditions, a spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service specified to EFE.

There are currently some 4,000 inmates in this situation and in general they are Palestinians imprisoned for reasons of political background, usually sentenced to tens of years in prison or life imprisonment for terrorism convictions.

One of them, known to the public, is Walid Daqqa, imprisoned for 39 years and who long ago took his sperm so that his wife would conceive a son who is now three years old.

Daqqa, 61, has terminal cancer and served his life sentence for his role in the murder of an Israeli soldier four decades ago, but in 2017 was sentenced to two more years for helping to smuggle mobile phones into prison.

Faced with his advanced illness, his family, human rights groups and doctors are demanding his immediate release, a request rejected to date by the Israeli authorities.

In his case, he seeks to spend his last days in the company of a son he has only known about behind bars, like many other Palestinian prisoners who hope to be released from prison in the future to meet their children outside of jail.

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