Families reunite at Sharjah Central Jail
SHARJAH // Mothers and wives on Tuesday shed tears of joy as they were reunited with their sons, husbands and other relatives for the first time in years at Sharjah Central Jail.
Members of six families from Oman, Sri Lanka, Syria and Ethiopia were flown to Sharjah on Monday to meet their loved ones as part of a humanitarian initiative for the GCC Inmates Week this year.
Emotions were running high at the reunion at the prison courtyard. A Sri Lankan mother in her late 60s was on the brink of fainting as she waited to see her son for the first time in 11 years.
At another table, a young Omani woman held her two-year-old daughter in her arms, trying to keep the child awake so that her father could hold her for the first time.
When the prison doors were finally opened and the inmates were led into the courtyard, the women leapt from their seats and ran to hug their loved ones.
“I can’t believe she is in front of us,” an Ethiopian woman said as she hugged her niece.
“She is a single parent. She came to this country to support her daughter, she left her baby in our care when she was one and half years old. God only knows when we will see her again after this. We would never been able to come visit her here if it wasn’t for this initiative.”
The Omani woman tried to hold back her tears as she explained why her husband was sent to jail when she was carrying his child.
“I am my husband’s second wife. He went to prison when I was eight-months pregnant. He also has nine children from his first marriage,” she said. “My 40-year-old husband is serving a life sentence here.”
She said she had been visiting her spouse every two months from Oman, but they had always been kept apart by a glass partition in the prison’s visitor room.
“Up till now he had never been able to hold his daughter,” she said as her husband hugged his child tearfully.
The reunion was the second such event in two years that the Sharjah Correctional Department had organised, said Col Ahmed Abdulaziz Shuhail, the head of the reform and rehabilitation department.
Families of inmates with the best behavioural records are flown to the UAE to encourage the prisoners to behave well.
The department paid for the families’ travel expenses, visas and accommodation.
“It greatly boosts the morale of the inmates,” said Col Shuhail. “Social and psychology experts evaluated and monitored the inmates. They shortlisted those with the best achievements and behaviour. We then contacted their family members and invited them to come to the UAE to visit them.”
He said the department would hold such reunions every year, adding that it hoped to allow inmates to enrol in community colleges or universities in the near future. It allows them to finish their secondary-school studies at the prison presently.
A Syrian who was visiting her brother praised the initiative. “Activities and initiatives like this are not unheard of in our country,” she said. “Here they focus on rehabilitation more than punishment. It’s a good boost for the inmates, their morale will definitely reach the skies.”
After the reunion, the families were served a meal outdoors, a rare treat for the inmates. They also watched a traditional performance by Emirati and Indian dancers before the inmates were led back to their cells.
Their family members were taken to a hotel before being flown back to their countries the next day.
Updated: December 9, 2014 04:00 AM