Women's Voices: Itaf M. - Child arrest

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Name: Itaf M.
Age: 53 Location: Haris, West Bank Date: 15 March 2013 Subject: Child arrest

A mother describes the day her 15-year-old son is arrested at 5:00 a.m. by Israeli soldiers from the family home in Haris village, near the settlement of Ari’el in the West Bank. Her son was taken to Al Jalame interrogation centre in Israel and held in solitary confinement for three days.

“At around 4:30 a.m. on 15 March 2013, my husband went to pray at the mosque but soon returned to say that there were lots of Israeli soldiers around the house,” recalls Itaf. “He told us not to worry and went off to the mosque. He returned home at around 5:00 a.m. and soon afterwards there was loud banging at the door. My husband went onto the balcony and saw masked soldiers around the house. When he asked what they wanted a soldier told him to be quiet. My husband went downstairs to open the door before they broke the lock as the soldiers usually do when they enter the village.”

Many soldiers entered the house and ordered Itaf’s family outside where their identity cards were checked. “My 15-year-old son Usama does not yet have his own I.D. card as he is under 16. His details are included in an annex to my husband’s I.D. card. When a soldier checked my husband’s card he looked at some names that were written on his hand. He then told us that he was going to take Usama. I started to cry and couldn’t believe what I just heard,” recalls Itaf. “The soldier told Usama to go and put on his shoes and some clothes and to come back. I shouted at the soldier and told him to leave Usama alone because he hadn’t done anything wrong but the soldier did not listen to me. The soldiers didn’t tell us why they wanted to take Usama or where they were taking him to.”

“For two days we knew nothing about Usama,” recalls Itaf. “Other children his age were arrested from the village following an incident on the main road which caused serious injury to a settler child. We contacted a lawyer who later told us Usama was in Al-Jalame interrogation centre near Haifa, inside Israel. My heart sank when I heard the news because Al-Jalame is a dreadful place, everybody knows Al-Jalame. I was very worried about Usama and wondered about his wellbeing. For a whole week I cried uncontrollably, I just couldn’t hold my tears back, especially at night. It was Usama’s first time away from home and everything around me reminded me of him. I cried when I saw his empty bed and I cried when I didn’t find his clothes in the laundry. I found it hard to eat or sleep, it was terrible.”

“Usama was held at Al-Jalame for seven days where he was badly treated as I expected. He was held in solitary confinement for three days where he was kept in a small cell with lights on 24 hours a day. The food they gave him was not enough; he told me how he kept a slice of bread and hid it under the mattress to eat late at night when he felt hungry. He told me how he found hair in the food and found it unappetising. He also told me how soldiers laughed at him as he was forced to strip naked for a security check and how they repeatedly ordered him to crouch and stand up to ridicule him. When the lawyer informed us Usama would be released without charge, I was ecstatic. We all went to the checkpoint to greet him and to bring him home. I was so happy to see him and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw him,” recalls Itaf.

“Usama has changed since this terrible experience. When he first got home I could see his hands trembling, he looked anxious all the time. He is vigilant, especially at night; each sound around the house gets his attention. Usama loves to play football but he hasn’t been to the playground much since he was released. He stays home most of the time as to stay out of harm’s way. He lost trust in his friends and doesn’t know who is a real friend anymore. I hope he will get over this experience and go back to being the charming boy he always has been. He studies a lot these days which is great, although he missed most of his exams when he was in detention.”