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‘Ahed Tamimi: ‘I cannot live my age’

November 1, 2018

‘The bad thing is that I’m 17 and I can’t live my age’

Ahed Tamimi

In December 2017, Amnesty International and others reported that an Israeli soldier had shot 15-year-old Mohammad Tamimi in the head, with a rubber-coated bullet, at close range. An Israeli military official disputed this, saying that Mohammed had admitted that the injury occurred when he fell off his bike. But Istishari Hospital records show that the injury was the result of bullet in the head, with no exit wound. As Mohammad was being rushed to hospital, soldiers forcibly entered the home of his 16-year-old cousin, Ahed. I met up with Ahed to hear her story.

Istishari Hospital records. Photo Credit: Times of Israel

After hearing that the Israeli military had shot, and possibly killed, her younger cousin, Ahed was filmed pushing and slapping two Israeli soldiers who entered her home. The video went viral. Four days later, Israeli soldiers arrested her at home in the middle of the night, and she was later sentenced to eight months in prison and given an additional suspended sentence. To Ahed’s knowledge, the soldier reported to have shot Mohammad has not yet been tried in court or received disciplinary action.

Now released from prison, Ahed describes being subjected to torture and ill-treatment by the Israeli authorities:

‘They used psychological pressure, they didn’t let me sleep. I didn’t have a lawyer with me. They screamed at me, they warned me about my family, and I was told that if I didn’t confess, they would arrest my brothers’

Ahed Tamimi

According to Amnesty International, in 2017 Israel ‘unlawfully detained within Israel thousands of Palestinians’ and ‘torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, remained pervasive and was committed with impunity’. The Israeli Military Courts Unit maintains that ‘the right of suspects and defendants to due process in the military courts is strictly upheld’ but this is disputed by Minors in Jeopardy, a recent report by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem:

‘Every year, hundreds of Palestinian minors undergo the same scenario. Israeli security forces pick them up on the street or at home in the middle of the night, then handcuff and blindfold them and transport them to interrogation, often subjecting them to violence en route. Exhausted and scared – some having spent a long time in transit, some having been roused from sleep, some having had nothing to eat or drink for hours – the minors are then interrogated. They are completely alone in there, cut off from the world, without any adult they know and trust by their side, and without having been given a chance to consult with a lawyer before the interrogation. The interrogation itself often involves threats, yelling, verbal abuse and sometimes physical violence. Its sole purpose is to get the minors to confess or provide information about other.’

When asked how she is now, Ahed says ‘I don’t know whether I am feeling good or bad, but I think I feel good because I send my message’. Since her arrest, some media outlets have presented Ahed as a symbol of Palestinian resistance, which she describes as ‘a big responsibility’. She adds ‘The bad thing is that I’m 17 and I can’t live my age.’

Ahed’s father, Bassem, describes the situation in their village of Nabi Saleh. 90 per cent of the village is in Area C, which under full Israeli military control. The nearby Israeli settlement of Hallamish directly controls much of Nabi Saleh’s land. This is ‘part of the general problem of Palestine’, says Bassem. He tells us that Palestinians are forcibly displaced from the land, which Israel then uses for its own purposes. Israel also prevents Palestinians from building any new structures, he says, including homes. B’Tselem states that ‘the odds of a Palestinian receiving a building permit in Area C are slim to none’ while ‘Israeli settlements… are allocated vast tracts of land.’

On the 17th October 2019, one student on his way to school was temporarily detained by soldiers but released after teachers intervened. Everyday, between eight and 12 soldiers armed with M16s arrive at 7:30am. Locals have observed that their role is not to protect students from settlers’ aggression but is instead to protect the settlers who drive on Route 60 from students walking to and from school.

Bassem explains that, following the Second Intifada, or uprising, ‘we decided to start a real movement of nonviolent struggle’. He tells us that Israeli soldiers have arrested or injured many of the villagers during the demonstrations against the Israeli settlement, including children.

What does international law say?

'No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.'

Article 37b, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

''No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.'

Article 37a, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

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by EA Jamie    –    November 1, 2019