It’s been six years since Tamer al-Za’anin has laid eyes on his wife – or had physical contact with her – but that hasn’t stopped the couple from conceiving a child.
The couple are the fourth to successfully conceive through an ingenious scheme that relies on sperm ‘smuggled’ out of prison to be artificially inseminated using IVF techniques.
Tamer’s 26 year-old wife Hana first heard about the idea from a neighbour and was later encouraged by news that a similar plan had worked for a woman in the West Bank. After consulting her mother-in-law over the phone, Hana and her incarcerated husband agreed to try it.
A visitor to the jail where Tamer is imprisoned was given the responsibility of smuggling the sperm sample – placed by Tamer in a transparent plastic bag – out of the Israeli prison and into Gaza.
The six-hour smuggling operation saw the sample frozen at a fertilisation clinic then later transferred to Hana using an injection. Four months on the couple where given the news that there mission to fall pregnant had succeeded.
Married in July of 2006, both Tamer and Hana where still newlyweds when he was arrested by the Israeli army in November the same year. Serving a 12 year sentence, the baby boy – which the couple have already named Hassan – will be five years old when he first meets his father.
While Tamer and Hana are the first known case in the Gaza Strip, five other similar cases have taken place in the West Bank over the last two years. The first baby conceived using this method was born a year ago, two others have been born since.
Baby Hassan may be the first of many IVF babies using ‘smuggled sperm’. According to the latest research more than 4,900 Palestinians have been imprisoned in Israeli jails – many of the incarcerated face a race against time to have a child. Many of the detainees from the Gaza strip have been deprived of family visits for six years due to ongoing conflict in the area.
But the process comes at a high financial cost. Hana’s pregnancy from beginning to end will set the couple back as much as $4,000 dollars. Not an opportunity that would be available to Palestinian families who could not afford the procedure.