“In our Eastern culture,” he says, small or childless families carry a significant social stigma. For prisoners’ wives, the doctor performs each $3,000 IVF procedure pro bono. He says that there are currently 65 sperm samples in the Nablus lab, that more than 20 prisoners’ wives are now pregnant from IVF, and that demand is only growing. Though Razan isn’t the only infertility clinic catering to prisoners’ wives, it is the biggest, and it often gives out technical advice to other centers.
Suhad says that her husband’s past as a member of Fatah’s military wing during the second intifada has brought honor to her family’s home in the squalid Askar refugee camp. Neighbors regularly drop in to praise Samir’s bravery, and to check on baby updates.
Following the advice of Abu Khaizaran, Suhad had to first inform everyone she knew of her plan to smuggle her husband’s sperm for the purpose of IVF, lest they assume she had cheated on Samir. “Everyone told me, do the IVF, they heard of it from the news and were very supportive,” says Suhad.
Bolstering the community’s support, religious authorities have also issued fatwas authorizing the procedure under certain conditions, including, for example, that two family members from each side sign an official document confirming that they knew of the smuggling plan, and that they believe the sperm came from the imprisoned father. Another stipulation requires prisoners’ wives to resort to IVF only if their husbands are serving long sentences, according to a Palestinian Supreme Fatwa Council fatwa issued in April. “The ages of the couple will also be compared to the imprisonment to evaluate the couple’s chances of producing children when they unite,” the fatwa stated. (IVF clinics are prevalent throughout the Middle East, and fertility treatment for married couples is generally considered permissible under Islamic law.)
Politicians have also hailed the procedure as an important contribution to the Palestinian resistance movement. “We support the centers offering IVF to prisoners’ wives, helping them fulfill their natural right to continue their husband’s name, which is denied by the Israeli occupation,” says Abeer Abu Kishek, an advisor to the Palestinian Authority’s minister of social affairs. And while both Hamas and Fatah representatives have offered to donate money to the Razan clinic, Abu Khaizaran has refused, saying his interest is humanitarian, not political.
Yet without DNA proof, Israeli prison authorities say they have no reason to believe that these accounts are true, and they don’t seem particularly concerned about looking further into the matter. If the reports are accurate, the sperm smuggling would constitute a crime, Israeli prison authority spokesperson Sivan Weitzman says, adding, “I can’t rule it out 100 percent of course.” When the Associated Press contacted Jennifer Kulp Makarov, a fertility expert at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York, earlier this year about the feasibility of sperm smuggling, she suggested the stories could be accurate, since IVF treatments only require "a few viable sperm" to succeed. "It's possible," Kulp Makarov explained. "After a few hours [outside the body], you would still have a few million" sperm.