Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 595–606 | Cite as

Experiences of torture and ill-treatment and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among Palestinian political prisoners

  • Eyad El Sarraj
  • Raija-Leena Punamäki
  • Suhail Salmi
  • Derek Summerfield
Brief Report


The relationship between the nature and severity of experiences of torture and ill-treatment and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms was studied in 550 male nonhelp-seeking Palestinian political ex-prisoners from the Gaza Strip. Results showed that the more a prisoner had been exposed to physical, chemical and electric torture, psychological ill-treatment, and sensory deprivation or bombardment, the more he subsequently suffered from intrusive reexperiencing, withdrawal and numbness, and hyperarousal. Existential problems were not related to torture experiences. Furthermore, duration of imprisonment, health problems during the imprisonment, harassment during arrest and after release, family, marriage and economic difficulties all predicted intrusive reexperiences of trauma. Also, ex-prisoners who continued to be harassed by military authorities and had economic problems suffered more from withdrawal, numbness, and hyperarousal than others.

Key words

torture victims political prisoners PTSD 


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Copyright information

© International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eyad El Sarraj
    • 1
  • Raija-Leena Punamäki
    • 2
  • Suhail Salmi
    • 1
  • Derek Summerfield
    • 3
  1. 1.Gaza Community Mental Health ProgrammeGazaPalestine
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Applied DivisionUniversity of HelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of TortureLondonEngland

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