Ahed Tamimi: “I can’t live my age”

By EA Jamie

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.

Hospital record from Istishari Arab Hospital.  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.

“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.”

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.” Under the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (1989), a minor in detention should have access to legal representation, and be treated with humanity and “in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age.”

According to a 2016 report by Defense for Children International – Palestine, “Palestinian children [in Israeli military detention] continue to experience widespread ill-treatment and torture and the systematic denial of due process rights.” According to Amnesty, 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.

“The bad thing is that I’m 17 and I can’t live my age.”

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”. “The bad thing is that I’m 17 and I can’t live my age.”

The road outside Ahed’s home, which is lined with photos of her and her mother, Nariman, who was also in prison. Photo credit: EAPPI/ EA Jamie

“we decided to start a real movement of nonviolent struggle”.

Ahed’s father, Bassem, describes the situation in their village of Nabi Saleh. 90 per cent of the village is in Area C, which is  directly administered by Israel. 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.”

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.

Take Action

Read BTselem’s report Minors in Jeopardy and write to your elected representatives today to express your concern about the violence against and torture of Palestinian children in the military court system and ask them to hold the Israeli government to account as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child.