A Jordanian journalist who was once jailed in Israel told a Saudi TV outlet this month that he was ashamed to compare the dire conditions in prisons in the Arab world to the far more impressive conditions in Israeli jails.
Yousef Alawnah, who previously spent 30 months in an Israeli prison for smuggling explosives, told Saudi 24 it was like being incarcerated in an “institute of education,” where inmates were given “an opportunity to acquire culture, to read and to study many things.”
“I am ashamed by [the comparison] between Israeli and Arab prisons,” he said in the June 12 interview, translated this week by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Alawnah was particularly impressed with the extensive prison libraries in Israel; he told the interviewer they also had books in Arabic.
“They have all the important books, history books, books against Israel and against Zionism… Even Hitler’s Mein Kampf is there,” he said.
Alawnah — who MEMRI said wrote for the Kuwaiti press for many years but was deported two years ago after criticizing Iraq-based Iranian-born Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani — went on to say that political prisoners in other parts of the Middle East, especially in Syria, are certainly not afforded such luxuries.
“The prisoners held in the dungeons of the Syrian regime… Do you think that they have books?”
Last year, Amnesty International said Syrian authorities have killed at least 13,000 people since the start of the 2011 uprising in mass hangings at the Saydnaya military prison north of Damascus.
Other rights groups have found evidence of massive torture leading to death in Syrian detention facilities. In a 2016 report, Amnesty found that more than 17,000 people have died of torture and ill-treatment in custody across Syria since 2011, an average rate of more than 300 deaths a month.
In Alawnah’s interview, he also criticized the Arab world for the widespread violence in the region, saying the Jewish state has not caused as many deaths as Iran has in recent years.
“Consider what the Arabs have done to one another. If the Jews occupied Syria or Iraq, would they do all those things?” he said. “Have the Jews killed as many Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, and others as Iran’s militias killed in Mosul or in Aleppo? No.”