Monday, November 30, 2020

Women of Nabi Saleh suffer as sons languish in prison

By Annelies Verbeek - April 23, 2018
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [prisoners] [Nabi Saleh] [Military court]


While 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi’s arrest has made the small village of Nabi Saleh world famous in the last months, 18 other inhabitants of the village have been arrested in the Israeli crackdown following it. Seven of the detained are under the age of 18. In the context of Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, Palestine Monitor went to speak with some of the village’s mothers who are waiting for their imprisoned sons to return home.

Selma Tamimi holds pictures of her two imprisoned sons, Sohaib Sameeh Tamimi, 14 (left) and Assem Sameeh Tamimi, 20 (right).

“You know I gave birth to Sohaib all alone in the house”, Selma Tamimi said as she caresses pictures of her two imprisoned sons. It was the Second Intifada, the village of Nabi Saleh was besieged. “The soldiers occupied some of our homes for 35 days. I gave birth while my husband was outside pleading with the soldiers to let us through.”
Fourteen years have passed since then. “Every day, I have held him close. I have cared for him and worried if he is safe. Now I do not know what he is eating, what clothes he is wearing. I don’t know anything.”
Selma told Palestine Monitor the Israeli soldiers came at 2:30am, February 26. “They only knocked the door once. They did not wait for us to wake up before breaking the glass and bursting in.” The Israeli army had come to arrest Selma’s 14-year-old son Sohaib Sameeh Tamimi. “They called him a vandal”, Selma said; “I told them this was not true. He only wants to live in peace.”
Sohaib was the second of Selma’s sons to be detained. Her other son, Assem Sameeh Tamimi has been imprisoned for one year. “He just celebrated his twentieth birthday in prison,” Selma said.
Palestinian prisoners are held in prisons inside Israel, for which Palestinians need permits to enter. Assem is held in a prison in the Negev. “I hope he is OK. I could only visit him once. The other time, they gave me a permit to visit for one day. But when I arrived at the checkpoint, they told me I could not cross.” Selma said. “Sohaib was with me that day. They did not allow him to see his brother.”
Selma told Palestine Monitor that her sons were smiling as they were arrested. 'It makes me feel better. They are brave. When they proposed Sohaib’s release in February for a 20,000 shekel (nearly USD$6,000) bail, he shouted: “Mama, do not pay them half a shekel. I am fine”.
Selma explained that arrest is part of growing up for boys in the village. “They are older than their ages. They were forced to grow up fast under occupation.”
Her 14-year-old son Sohaib has still not received a sentence. He and Selma can only communicate using hand gestures during the court cases. Soldiers block verbal communication between the accused and their families. “He tells me he is fine, but I am still worried. He is the youngest prisoner in Israeli jails right now.”
Ahmad Tamimi (left), 18, is the prisoner Wi’am’s older brother.
Selma’s neighbour Neda Radwan Tamimi’s son, Wi’am Tamimi, 17, was taken the same night as Sohaib.
This is Wi’am’s first long period of detention. “He has been arrested before, but they always released him the same day. Now I am worried because they took him in his last year of high school. This will impact his graduation,” Neda told Palestine Monitor.
Wi’am’s older brother Wissam, 21, went to prison many times. They took him the first time when he was 15 and on his way to school. “That was a horrible experience, because it was the first time one of my children got arrested”, Neda said. “Now, we broke the wall of fear. I somehow got used to it.”
Neda’s other son, Ahmad Tamimi, 18, suffers from Down Syndrome. Neda said even though Ahmad is one year older than Wi’am, he is the one that takes care of him. “Ahmad is very attached to his brother.”
Ahmad has gone down to the soldiers twice to ask them to arrest him too. “He thought that if he would get arrested, he could be with his brother. He even beat the soldiers trying to convince them to take him,” Neda said.
She told Palestine Monitor the soldiers have beaten Ahmad on several occasions, but never arrested him. “They know this is sensitive because of his disability.”
Neda also told Palestine Monitor about one instance in which Ahmad kept asking to go with her to court, wanting to see his brother. “I caved,” she said. “He misses his brother.” But when Wi’am was led in, Ahmad started shouting “I want my brother!” Ten soldiers grabbed him and led him out the courtroom. “He does not understand what is happening, that there are rules in court,” Neda explained.
“Court feels like a second prison to our family,” Neda added. “We have to wait all day. They take all our belongings as we go in, so we do not even know what time it is or how long we’ve been waiting. It makes me angry and tired,” Neda said.
According to Neda, one of the most difficult parts is not being able to talk to her imprisoned son Wi’am. “I have gone to court 11 times in the last two months. Wi’am even told me through sign language not not come anymore. He knows it is hard on me.”
But Neda can still find reasons to be grateful. “In court, I see women who haven’t seen their sons in years. I feel like my situation is nothing compared to theirs. Like I should not complain.”
She slammed the military court system. “The problem is that all of them are from the military. The judge, the prosecution and the translators. How can there be justice in such system?”
The charge against both Wi’am and Sohaib is throwing stones at a military jeep. “But even if they did not have any charges, they would make them up,” Neda said. “The real charge against our children is being Palestinians who hold on to their land.”
Lead image: “Prisoners’ mothers” by Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh. 

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