Three Young Female Palestinian Voices Behind Israeli Bars
By: Raneem Ghunaim/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Israel has illegally occupied the state of Palestine for over 72 years now. The cruelty and harsh reality that Palestinians had and still, to this day, have to live through are unbelievable. The media likes to show certain parts of the occupation, sometimes even from both sides, but almost always it’s biased. Palestinian female prisoners that are taken by Israeli soldiers for simply defending themselves are not covered enough in the media. If you look into it, you will almost find little to none accurate information. Often, the female prisoner’s identity is kept hidden to prevent publicity and people from talking about the situation. After all, you can’t really raise the effective awareness of someone without an identity. For now, let’s focus on female prisoners, the most important young female prisoners.
One might even wonder what could they have done to go to prison, surely no one goes to prison unless they did something bad, right? Not in Israel, that is almost never the case. A close family friend of mine who lives in Palestine was at a checkpoint one day. She was sitting in the car waiting for the Israeli soldier to finish the search, as he was looking through her car, he sexually harassed her. She moved away from his hand a few times, and every time he would just go back and do the same. After about the third time, she reacted, as she should, at that moment, the soldier pointed the gun at her and claimed that he felt “threatened.” She was pulled out of the car and sent to jail, where she spent a few months there before getting released. The whole situation is bizarre; she should not have gone to jail in the first place if anything it should have been him.
Palestinian women are thrown in jail for anything that could be for peacefully protesting, fighting for their own land, or refusing to be sexually assaulted/harassed. That is what it’s like being a Palestinian woman in Occupied Palestine. This is just a small fraction of what happens there every day.
Youngest Female Hostages
Many Palestinian prisoners’ identities, both male and female, are kept hidden, especially those who are more “high profile,” meaning those with IDF fears are a “danger” to them. However, occasionally some stories make it to the press. Here are a few of the many stories.
Starting with one that many might have heard of Ahed Al-Tamimi, her story made the news, and she was talked about by many. The 17-year-old was considered a symbol of resistance. Back in 2018, a video of her slapping two Israeli soldiers surfaced online. Many started sharing that video, including Israeli citizens, they claimed to be proud of how the soldier “handled” the situation and contained himself. However, as that video started to get more and more views, people had other things to say about it, more opinions and perspectives started to roll in.
Instead of seeing the solder as a so-called “hero,” he was seen as a coward. “How could you allow a 17-year-old old Palestinian teenager to hit you like this?” They were now ashamed of this video. Not only that but Ahed’s physical features did not help their case at all, with the color of her hair and her colored eyes, she looked European to them. Ahed had features they claim only they have. In Israeli media, Palestinians are always in the shadows, they are portrayed as the poor, oppressed, barbaric individuals, so when Ahed came in, she stood out. Ahed was not in the background, she had a voice, and she used it.
After that video surfaced online, she was arrested. An article released by Newsweek said, “Tamimi could be held in custody for months due to the court’s decision to deny bail. She was arrested last month along with her mother after a video surfaced of her hitting two Israeli soldiers. She has been charged with assault, a charge that could result in a sentence of up to 10 years. The judge said she could not be released from custody because of the severity of her crimes.” She was charged with assault for defending herself against two fully armed soldiers.
The judge said, “I found no alternative other than to order her detention in custody until the end of proceedings. The gravity of the offenses of which she is accused does not allow an alternative to custody.” Long story short, she was arrested and dragged around to court for slapping a soldier. She was a teen at that time, yet for whatever reason, they found her a threat. Stories like this are hard to wrap around the head; sometimes, she should not have gone to jail because that soldier should not have been in her home, to begin with.
Malak Muhammad Youssef al-Ghaliz, who was 14 at the time, was arrested in May 2017 on false charges. As she was going home from school, an Israeli soldier accused her of “trying to carry out an operation to stab Israeli soldiers at the “Qalandiya” military checkpoint, north of occupied Jerusalem.” After her arrest, the solder sprayed her down with has and placed a knife next to Malak to frame her. On December 29, 2017, she was released, making her one of the youngest female Palestinians to be imprisoned. She was held for eight months in Israeli prisons, most recently Hasharon prison. No child should ever experience prison or being sprayed with gas when all they did was walk home from school, yet here we are.
Finally, at the age of 17, Malik Salman was sentenced to ten years in prison. Malik was also arrested on false accusations. An Israeli soldier claimed that she was attempting to kill a soldier, with a knife that was supposedly in her possession. From the town of “Beit Safqa,” she was arrested in February 2016, in the Bab Al-Amoud area, in the city of Jerusalem. After her imprisonment for a little over a year, sources claim that she was severely tortured, and her trial postponed 24 times. Eventually, she was sentenced to ten years in prison. Currently, she serves her sentence in the “Sharon” prison. Keep in mind these are only three girls, and their crimes should not have even been considered crimes. There are thousands of other girls who have done much less yet suffered more.
Pregnant Women and Israeli Jails
In Israel, women are not given their rights, especially Palestinian women. Those who commit “crimes” are thrown in Israeli prisoner where any ounce of human decency vanishes. Pregnant Palestinian women are thrown in jail with zero medical attention, and often they are tied up and left alone while giving birth. That is done to provide the mother with the most discomfort they possibly could. Not only that, but in many cases, Israeli soldiers send in prostitutes to rape these women, to put both the mother and baby in distress. The inmate is not allowed any visitors, nor are any other inmates allowed to come to help her. These dehumanizing techniques are done to too many women, yet they barely get any coverage in the media.
Check out Arab America’s blog here!