Abed – one of them

Posted: December 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Since the beginning of the occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, about 700 000[1] Palestinians have been detained by Israel. That is 1/5 of the population. This has given Palestinians a common identity as prisoners or ex-prisoners. Abed (now twenty years old) is one of them.

From 2000 to 2009 about 6700 of the detainees were children. In most of the world minors under 18 enjoy special rights. In both Israel and the Occupied Territory Israeli citizens under 18 are regarded as children. Palestinians are not. Boys and girls between 16 and 18 are seen as adults and treated accordingly[2]. When they are arrested, usually for throwing stones, they face no fair trial. For them it is the Israeli military legislation that applies. It means that they neither have their case tried in a criminal court nor do they have the right to a defence. Even if they are minors, they are denied contact with their family. They can be sentenced for up to 20 years In cases with sentences up to 10 years  Palestinians can be tried and convicted in a one-man jury. According to Defence for Children International Israeli has held thousands of Palestinians in so-called administrative detention. In November 2009 306 children were detained. Abed was one of them.

Abed is one of 700.000 Palestinians detained by Israelis during the occupation and one of 6.700 children arrested from 2000 to 2009.

According to Defence for Children International the arrested child is typically “handcuffed, blindfolded and placed in a military jeep, sometimes face down on the floor, ready for transfer to an interrogation centre (..) The child is often beaten, kicked, threatened and verbally abused by the soldiers in the jeep”. Exactly this happened to Abed. He was one of them.

In November 2011, two days after his seventeenth birthday, Israeli soldiers arrested Abed in his home in a refugee camp in Bethlehem, accusing him of throwing stones. Like most of the minors arrested in the Palestinian Territories he was arrested in the middle of the night. Together with his family he was waken up by banging on the door. Stumbling out of his sleep, he saw a dozen of soldiers outside his door and 9 jeeps with Israeli soldiers on his street at 1.30 a.m. He was handcuffed, hands behind his back, blindfolded and held in a jeep for 9 hours and beaten. ‘Did you do it?’ He was taken to Al Mascobiyya interrogation centre in West Jerusalem and thrown into a tiny cell of one times two metres.

Abeds hands were handcuffed behind his back when he was arrested in the middle of the night. He was blindfolded and beaten, like so many of the detained Palestinians.

–       There was no window and no bathroom. I was allowed to go to relieve myself once a day. I still remember how I knocked the door and asked to use the bathroom. ‘No, they said . You deserve this for what you have done’. If I said that I didn’t do anything, they beat me. If I asked if I could go home to my land, they said that it is not my land. ‘The land belongs to the Jews’, they said. – I spoke to nobody during the solitary confinement of 90 days. I was left alone with my thoughts of what the Israelis did to me. I slept. I was afraid. I was very lonely. I feared I would get crazy.

According to Defense for Children International Palestinian child prisoners are exposed to different types of torture, abuse and degrading treatment at the hands of Israeli authorities. These tactics aim to break the children psychologically and extract quick confessions. The right to a fair trial are not respected. Abed became one of these child prisoners.

Abed was put in solitary confinement for three months. In his 1x2 meter cell there were no windows. Ha was alone. And afraid.

He was kept in his small cell and beaten regularly during the period of interrogations. He later learned that his friend, who was arrested for the same stone-throwing incident, had been threatened to confess that Abeds stone had hit a military jeep. His friend was afraid and told that he would tell them anything they wanted. – I was afraid, too, but did not tell anything about my friend.

Abed was interrogated by a woman judge 9 times. ‘I know you did something. Your friend told us. In the court case the judge will listen to your friend and give you two and a half years’, she said. – The judge only told me what I had done. She did not want to listen to what I had to say. I wanted to speak to her about the truth, but he said ‘no’. ‘We know what you did’. During this period, Abed did not meet his parents. They were present during the court case, but he was not allowed to talk to them.

Abed stayed in the prison for two years and a half years. It was a boring routine of sleeping, cooking and talking to other inmates. – There were no cards or games. We sometimes had quizzes. We asked each other questions. After one month or so, we asked the same question again. We had plenty of time to kill in the cell. We did not quarrel much, and helped each other to avoid negative attention form the Israeli guards. If one prisoner misbehaves, all the inmates are punished. In the prison we supported each other. We were all there because we love Palestine.

After his release, Abed recieved this plaque from president Abbas for his sacrifice for Palestine. - But what next?.

Abed had a chance to read about Palestine history, and he learned some Hebrew and English.   – The room was bigger, perhaps three times seven meters, with 10 beds. Most of the time was spent in this room. Five times a week I got one hour to exercise and shower.

Exercise means to walk and to lift weights. Many Palestinian young men have bulging arm muscles. So has Abed.

During the two and a half years in prison he missed his family much. His mother visited twice, but he did not see his father or brothers. He lost his final years of high school and a chance to study. – I was released in April this year, after that I have stayed at home. I have worked sometimes I the coffee shop of my brother. I wish I could study, and plan to finish high school and enter University. – But I don’t know why I should pay 7000 dollars to get a degree just to become unemployed. Abed is not the only Palestinian who asked me this question during my stay on the West Bank. -Why don’t we have any freedom? Why can’t our government ensure or daily life and our future? Why don’t we have a real life?

After his release, Abed cannot see why he has sacrificed so much for his country. - Why is there no future for me here?

Abed is one of the Palestinians who want to get away from what is perceived as a hopeless life due to the occupation and the own government.  He, and many people I talked to, want to get away from the occupied Palestine. They feel that they have nothing there. They can never get what they dream about. But like his peers Abed wants to return and help his people.

Abed is an ex-detainee. Along with many young people I have talked to, he feels he has no future. It is destroyed both by the occupation and his own government. Even with a university degrees young people remain enemployed. Abed wants to get away, but not stay away. He wants to help his people.

[1] Defence for Children Interntional http://www.dci-palestine.org/content/child-detainees

[2] Israeli citizens under 18 years of age, both in Israel and on the West Bank, are regarded as children. Palestinians did not enjoy this right until October this year when an amandment was made to raise the cutoff age for being considered a minor from 16 to 18. The amandmend is allegely not widely respected.

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