Afshan Khan, BeyondHeadlines
At an age when children’s utmost happiness lies in having desserts and playing with toys, the Palestinian children are subjected to the tortures in detention centres. For them, imprisonment is worse than death.
‘Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak’ is the first person account of Palestinian children deprived of the joys of childhood. This book is the compilation of the 24 stories of child prisoners and 5 stories are from Hares boys. Norma Hashim has very carefully and responsibly brought out the victimisation and helplessness of these Palestinian children by documenting these testimonies. They were arrested for allegedly throwing stones on the cars of the so-called police, the Occupation soldiers.
Malak Al Khatib (14) in her story says that she was arrested while walking around roses and she was just wandering but suddenly the Occupation soldiers arrived from no where and arrested her on the charges which she was unaware of. This is the story of almost all the kids, they do not even know the reason behind their arrest. This is really disturbing that at an age when kids need love and care, they are handcuffed.
The story of a 13 years old boy haunts us as at a young age of 13, he had been arrested 14-15 times. Many of these children were under house imprisonment. Some of these children express their traumas and fears they had developed regarding their own houses which turned into a new prison for them.
They went to the extent of requesting in court that the torture they face in house imprisonment is worse than faced in the detention centre. They see their own family members passing by and the rest of their friends going to the school, while they were helpless and could not do anything regarding this. One of the children (interviewee) says that when he saw the cruel smiles on the faces of Occupation soldiers while dragging and torturing him, all his hopes of any kind of humanity left in these soldiers had evaporated.
The stories of these children reveal how abusive the attitude of Israeli police has been so far with these children. They are assaulted on the way home, arrested from schools and streets. They are beaten up in such a way that it leaves an everlasting impact on their mind and scars on their bodies and souls. They are made to sign on the blank papers and are forced to accept that they had assaulted the settlers.
“Imprisonment is not the most serious offence committed against the Palestinian children of Shuhada Street. Every minute under Occupation at the mercy of the settlers in this Martyrs’ Street we are subjected to thousands of violations including police dogs and settlers throwing stones and Molotovs cocktail at us.”, explains a boy of 14. (p.30)
The story of Ahmad Badwan makes the reader heavy hearted but at the same time, his thoughts inspire. His only dream was to live freely and he hated imprisonment. These innocent children are denied to enjoy the beauty of the nature, the sunshine, moonlight, shaking trees and singing birds. Ahmad shares the same pain.
Explaining the scary experience of the house arrest, Ahmad Salbah (15) says, “My home turned into another prison for me, killing me a thousand times each day.” (p.47)
These children under the arrest are deprived of their education, health and family life. Therefore, they find it almost impossible to get a job after they are released. These intimidating and interrogative arrests force them to become adults.
The impression we get from reading this book is that the childhood of these children is being robbed by the Occupation, where there is no concern about the Rights of children. It is disheartening as well as fearful that Israel keeps on violating the agreement with UN Convention on the Rights of the Children. It is to be noted that the children are entitled to the protection under Article 77 of the Additional Protocol I (1997) to the Geneva Convention (1949).
This stories of these children in their own words try to help reader understand the situation in Palestine and how their childhood is affected by the cruel, inhuman, unlawful and abusive Occupation. These children must have imagined and hoped that their stories would reach out to the people around the world and their situation might change. Hope these children do not loose hope and keep on growing with a high morale. This attempt by Norma Hashim is highly appreciable as it educates people about the abuse of child rights in Palestine with sensitivity.
Book : ‘Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak’
Editor : Norma Hashim
Translator : Yousef M. Aljamal
Publisher : Manshurat Publishers and Distributors