Detained: Testimonies from Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel

|Published April 19, 2013

Detained: Testimonies from Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel

‘Detained: Testimonies from Palestinian Children Imprisoned by Israel’ uncovers one of the most painful experiences that Palestinian children endure in the ongoing Israeli occupation. Through interviews with ex-detainees and mothers of minors presently in detention, the project documents their stories and aims to lend a voice to those who are silenced from fear of negative repercussions.

Text and photos by: Samar Hazboun

Over the past 11 years, according to Defence for Children International, some 7,500 children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention facilities. Muhammad Daoud Dirbas, at the age of six, was the youngest child to have been detained by Israeli soldiers. Such practices are considered illegal under international law, as are other policies that children are subjected to, such as solitary confinement.

I started working on “Detained” about one year ago, because of the lack of visual documentation on the subject. I contacted some human rights organizations, which put me in contact with a few children. Unfortunately, those children refused to be interviewed; having been contacted several times by journalists, they were afraid of repercussions. I then decided to contact people I knew from Palestinian cities like Nablus and Hebron where child detention is most prevalent. Through these friends, I was able to find and contact additional children. Sadly, it was quite easy to find them since it is such a common phenomenon.

In most cases, I found children who suffer from various traumas. Some were not able to talk about what had happened in prison; others burst into tears, and it was sometimes hard for me to hold my own tears back as I was conducting the interviews. Many children agreed to talk to me “off the record”; I thus know their stories but was not able to officially interview them or take their pictures. In some cases, I was able to talk to the parents once the child left the room, and thus obtained more detailed information about how the children were dealing with what had happened to them.

In many cases, the children suffer from insomnia, involuntary urination, nightmares, depression, and fear of going out and facing people. “It is a very humiliating experience for my son. I pray everyday that he forgets about what had happened to him. We avoid talking about it at home because I want him to forget and this is why we prefer not to have journalists in the house,” one mother told me.

All the children I interviewed decided not to take further legal action, out of fear of the repercussions of doing so, and the lack of belief that they will be guaranteed protection.

The following photographs and texts present the stories of the children as they and their families told them to me. It was not possible to independently corroborate all of the facts told by the children and their families. These are their stories, in their words.

Dates, names and places have been changed in order to protect the children’s identities.

Detainee 1: Z.S., 17 years old

(Based on an interview with Z.S) 

The house of Z.S. was attacked on a Thursday night at around 2 a.m. with stun grenades and tear gas. Six soldiers broke into his family house and arrested him. The soldiers dragged him to a neighboring settlement 1 kilometer away. During the walk, he was beaten and sworn at by the soldiers. He was left outside in the cold, blindfolded, for two hours.

During the interrogation, he was asked whether he wished to be treated like an animal or a human being. He responded, “like a human being.” He was handcuffed and blindfolded, as the interrogator electrically shocked him several times. He then grabbed his head and banged it against the wall until a second interrogator came in. The interrogator asked him to lie on the ground, and started to kick him until he lost consciousness.

Z.S. was released that same day. He has not filed any complaints for fear of the repercussions of doing so.

Detainee 2: O.T., 10 years old

(Based on an interview with O.T. and his family)

O.T. was walking home one evening after playing football. He was followed by an IDF jeep and arrested. He was accused of throwing stones at the jeep. During the interrogation, O.T. was shown a video footage of children throwing stones at soldiers and he was forced to admit that he was amongst them.

He had to sign a document stating that he would pay a fine of NIS 3,000 ($800) if he were “seen” throwing stones again.

Detainee 3: L.R., 8 years old