The State of Israel is often presented as the only democracy of the Middel-East. Nevertheless, the implemented practices in prisons towards the Palestinians regularly arrested and interned by the Israeli police violate for what we would expect from a democratic State. Interview with A., a young Palestinian, handsome youg men, a student about twenty years old, which told us its ordeal. To guarantee his safety and that of his family, we obviously protected his anonymity.
The Maghreb and Orient Courier – First: who are you? I don’t ask for your name but tell me some details of your life; you are a student in Ramallah…
A. – Ok, first of all I am Palestinian and I used to live in two places, in Hebron and Jerusalem. I am a student here in Ramallah. I used to go to demonstrations with my friends – peaceful demonstrations – and we wouldn’t do anything. A long time ago, the Israelis arrested me and they tortured me because they wanted me to say that I have done things that I didn’t do.
MOC – What things?
A. – For example, throwing stones on the police. The first time they arrested me, they told me I did so, but I didn’t. So they tortured me and after a while they…
MOC – Do you need me to tell you how they tortured me ?
A. – Ok. They did too many things to me. For example they brought dogs to the room I was tortured in and they made the dogs attack me. They forced me to stay awake for more than four days. Whenever I would fall asleep they would come in and would pour cold water on me. One of the soldiers told me that I have to admit too many things, that I did not do so he pulled my hair and smashed my face onto the table. My nose was broken.
They also brought – I don’t know if that’s how you say it – “prostitutes”. They brought one to my cell and she came and started touching parts of my body and she told me: “Please, help us! So I would be able to help you and I promised I will please you and I will make you happy.” And so on… I insulted her because of the way she treated me. I told her I don’t need a bitch to make me happy, something like that.
After that she slapped me on the face and I couldn’t bear that, because they used to beat me over and over again and …
MOC – So you were attached to a chair?
A. – Yes, I was attached to a chair and my hands were cuffed behind my back. So, they used to beat me like that and I could do nothing.
But when they brought that prostitute to me I wasn’t attached to the chair. My leg was cuffed to the chair itself – the chair is not moving, it is fixed to the ground; you know?
So after that, when she tried to drag me into speaking she slapped me and then I punched her. I couldn’t bear that she did that in front of the persons who was interrogating me.
After a while one of the soldiers came in and started shouting at me and beating me and told me: “You are going to say that you have done this, this and this and we are going to record your voice.” When I refused, he took a knife and just hit my hand with it. Do you see the scar here? This is because of the knife… By the way, it took me six months to recover: the bones were broken…
And after that, they kept looking for me and I keep running from them. Now I have been running for more than one month.
They are watching my facebook account, they are watching my phones and they are watching too many things that are private. So they keep finding out where I am, but I keep running and change places.
MOC – Could you describe exactly what means they “beat” you?
A. – Ok… For example, one day while I was in prison, one of them stripped me naked and another caught me from my balls and just squeezed them. It was really painful!
I couldn’t breath. They used to catch me when I was cuffed with my hands behind my back and, for example, two soldiers would hold me and another one in front of me would hit me or slap me, punch me in my stomach or my face.
They used to pull my ears and things like that…
MOC – Did they ever use electricity when they tortured you?
A. – No, no they didn’t.
Actually, one time, when I was trying to sleep in the four days, they poured cold water and I couldn’t open my eyes for four days. They forced me to stay up and would hit me with sticks, they forced me to stand up. Every time I would sit or lie down, they would come in and hit me with sticks.
After that I tried to go to the corner to try and to sleep. They came in and poured cold water over me and I cried: “Help! No more cold water…” So the next time they brought boiling water and poured it over me.
MOC – Did they give you something to eat?
A. – No, they didn’t give me food either, just drinks.
MOC – How many times were you arrested in total? And how much time do you spent in prison?
A. – Many times, but sometimes they used to bring me to the prison, interrogate me and then release me again. I mean: the same day or the day after that.
But then they started torturing me and also keeping me longer, for four days, seven days…
One time, I was arrested for twelve or eleven days – something like that. It’s a long time being tortured…
Sometimes they would just take me to interrogate me and would set me free after two days.
One of the soldiers, after I stayed there for eleven or twelve days – I cannot remember exactly the period – he told me: “You promise you will not say anything and we promise we will set you free.” So, I promised that I will not say anything and when I got out I tried to sue him and that is when they started to come after me.
Another time, they brought me a bunch of money and told me that they would like to work with me. I just needed to bring them the license plate of cars in my neighbourhood. I refused that. Because in the beginning they only ask for the licence plates. Then about the people in those cars, then about the people who resist against them and the people in demonstrations… Of course I would never think of doing that for people who torture me and treat me as animals, even worse, because animals have more rights than me.
So, I started running away from them and he told me that if I had done anything wrong, they would just go to my family and do something really bad.
One of my friends – a very close friend – has a very similar situation to mine. He told me about his experience and that when he refused to obey them, refused to work for them and when he decided to sue them, unknown people – I guess we all know who they are, he said they were speaking Hebrew and they were organised, so I guess they were part of the Israeli military.
They went into his home; they broke everything; they raped his sister in front of his mother and they went out again.
A few days ago he received a call: “We told you to obey, but you didn’t. This all happen because of you”.
So this is why I think I will not face them.
I will keep running. They keep going to our house and keep looking for me but they don’t find me because I keep moving, every two or three days.
MOC – Do you now continue to do that? To change your place each week?
A. – For example, last week I was in a friend’s house. The week before I was in a small room in our land… Our land is in the wilderness, far away from buildings. But they found me. I don’t know how, but they found me..
They came, but when they walked up I heard them, heard their voices. They were almost fifteen coming up the land and I saw one of them putting his gun into his shirt and then one of the soldiers asked him whether they were allowed to kill me and the man answered: “No, we want to have some fun”.
This was when I ran away. Two of my relatives were with me and I told them that, if they ask about me, just tell them that you don’t know where I am and that you have trouble with your families and that is why you are here, because you don’t want to stay with your families.
And then I just ran away.
MOC – And, what happened the first time you were arrested? Where were you arrested for the first time? In a demonstration or…?
A. – The first time they arrested me I was in our neighbourhood – at the entrance.
They told me that someone told them that I was working with Hamas, that I was a member of Hamas, and so on…
By the way, a few days ago, when the three Israelis attacked the West Bank, they accused me of being one of the gang or the group of people who kidnapped those three Israeli boys. [The interview had been organized near Ramallah, in July 2014, some times after the assassination of three young Israelis]
Of course I wasn’t ! So I denied everything they accused me of, but they insisted that I was what they said I was.
MOC – So, the last time you were arrested or in contact with them is not so long ago?
A. – No. And I’m really afraid to be arrested again. I’m afraid because of the torture…
They told my father and my family, they keep on coming to my house, over and over again…
By the way, one of them called me on my phone. He told me he was a journalist from Haretz and that he wants to help me, to protect me from the Israeli government and that he wants to meet me.
Of course I shouldn’t trust someone I don’t know, even if he says to be a journalist. I answered him: “I’m sorry but I don’t know you. Who told you all this about me? Where did you get my phone number?” He told me that he got it from one of my friends who really didn’t want to reveal his name. I told him that this phone number is only for me and my family – none of my friends have it.
Then he started insulting me: “Ok! You motherfucker! We are going to catch you and I promise you, you won’t be happy!”
He told me a lot of these things…
Once, they went to my house and they dropped a lot of gas bombs and entered our house.
One of them hit my sister in the face and it harmed her a lot – she is only six years old… They beat her.
After that, they came again – I was there – and I knew they would catch me. So I took a big travel bag and emptied all the clothes from it and got in. I asked my sister to close the bag and drag it underneath the bed. She did so. When they came they started searching everything and they asked her what was in the bag and my mother told them only clothes.
Luckily – I was really lucky that time – they didn’t open the bag and they left.
MOC – Now, what is the future for you in Palestine? How do you see it?
A. – The future? For me? I’m not sure about it…
But I think the only thing that matters for me now, is not to get arrested again.
I told you… Because if they do, they are going to torture me again and maybe even worse than the past times.
So I think I just need to find out a few things and then… I called my lawyer who told me that he may be able to end this situation, that he could find something for me. So I guess if I am not able to fix this problem I will stay in the West Bank, I will not go back to my house…
I don’t know about the future, it all depends on the coming days and actions that are going to take place.
MOC – Ah, ok! Your village is not in Cisjordan, but in Israel…
A. – Yes, in the neighbourhood.
But, even as a citizen, I do not have rights – none of them.
They just keep coming, torturing me, beating me, doing whatever they like. They just don’t care about my rights.
They told me that if I try to be an ass, they would turn my family’s life into hell and that I shouldn’t try to be a hero.
MOC – And here in the West Bank, do you feel free?
A. – Not free, because I was in Hebron when the soldiers talked about killing me and then saying that better not, otherwise they won’t have fun.
So when they came I was in the West Bank. In A place.
Do you know what “A place” is?
It is a territory under the Palestinian Authority control and Jews are not allowed to go there. Nonetheless they entered there and tried to catch me… They do what they want. There is no A place!
But I managed to escape.
MOC – What is the future for you as a worker in the West Bank? Will you find a job easily to make your life here?
A. – I think yes, I can find a job. But these times I am thinking of getting rid of this problem. It turns my life to hell. I don’t know what to do.
I used to be free, I used to go wherever I want. I used to love life and do whatever I want with my friends. Now I can do nothing of this.
I need to get back to my normal life.
So the best option for me is to wait and see what is going to happen next and then maybe my lawyer will help me. I am looking forward to seek help from other parties and members of the government and I am really doing that with more than one chance.
Most of my friends hope with me that it will work, also my lawyer -he is a friend of mine who is a lawyer.
So if everything would be fixed I would go back to my house, if not I will just find somewhere to stay and to live in. I don’t know, really, I don’t know what to do right now.
Interviewed by Pierre Piccinin da Prata, in the West Bank