I am a proud Palestinian woman and a humanitarian. I am also the mother of the youngest Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail.

Israel/Palestine

My name is Farihan Daraghmeh Farah. I am a proud Palestinian woman and a humanitarian. I am also the mother of the youngest Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail. As I write this piece, on International Women’s Day, these are the things that define me. But as any parent—or any person—can imagine, no detail defines me more so than that final one.

My son, Shadi, is a smart little boy who was always full of life. He is loved by everyone who knows him—family, neighbors, friends and classmates. He is a great Dabke dancer, and a good swimmer and horseback rider. He likes to sing and is excellent at math. My husband and I have always done our best to provide for Shadi and the rest of our children, encouraging them in their education and hobbies, and teaching them to be kind, honest and open in their dealings with others. We raised them to accept people for who they are, regardless of their nationality, religion or race.

Shadi was arrested on December 30, 2015. He was just 12 years old. The news took my breath away; the whole family was in a state of shock. For a long time, none of us could eat or sleep properly. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was my little boy, scared and alone, in a freezing cold prison cell. I later learned that they had forced him to stand in there naked, at one point.

Farihan Daraghmeh Farah with her son Shadi Farah. (Photo: Farihan Daraghmeh Farah)

He had been waiting at the bus station in our home city of Jerusalem when Israeli police arrested him and took him to the main police station (al-Muskubiya, or the Russian Compound in Jerusalem). We were only informed of his arrest at 10 p.m. after we had become worried and reported his absence. Shadi had been accused of planning to commit a crime with a knife, despite no knife being found in his possession. During the interrogation they then asked him whether he would have stabbed an Israeli, if he had had a knife. He told them simply that he would never have been able to stab any human being.

Farihan Daraghmeh Farah with her son Shadi Farah. (Photo: Farihan Daraghmeh Farah)

My 12-year old son was held for four days before being moved to a “reformatory”—a detention center supposedly for those over the age of 15. After 20 court sessions during a period of one year, the final verdict was issued last December: my now 13-year old boy will spend an additional two years in prison, convicted by the draconian military legal system of a foreign power. For Israeli children, the laws are different. Now all we can do is visit Shadi as often as we can. Technically, we are allowed to see him once a week, but even with saving every penny we have, we can only afford to travel to the prison once every two weeks or sometimes once a month.

It is no exaggeration to say that our lives have been turned upside down. It feels like a living hell. My youngest, Rayan, is 3 years old and so attached to his older brother. When I look at Rayan’s face, seeing Shadi across a courtroom with his hands and feet in shackles, or when we have to leave at the end of a visit, it breaks my heart in two. As a child, you believe your parents will always be able to keep you safe. My 3-year old son, along with Shadi, has already lost that sense of safety. In this way, he has also become a prisoner of Israel and Israeli policy.

Farihan Daraghmeh Farah with son Shadi Farah. (Photo: Farihan Daraghmeh Farah)

Most days I feel powerless. But, as a woman and a mother, it is my duty to stay strong for my little boy. When I was younger, I had big dreams and wanted to study law. Higher education wasn’t possible for me, but I passed that ambition on to my youngest daughter, who graduated from law school with excellent grades and now works for the Mandela Institution, focusing on issues relating to Palestinian prisoners. Her father and I could not be more proud. In the meantime, I have focused on volunteering in the community and attending special workshops on international humanitarian law, as well as studying English, French and Hebrew.

The only thing we can do now is to make Shadi’s story heard. He represents a whole generation of Palestinian children who are growing up under military occupation, and who, before even reaching their teenage years, have been subjected a level of racism and oppression that most people will hopefully never have to experience. Every one of their stories deserves to be heard. And so I have talked to media outlets locally and internationally and I have been touched by the many friends from around the world who have stood by my side in solidarity. In the United States I had many meetings, including a particularly memorable one at Kent University in Ohio, where the warm welcome of the students overwhelmed me.

My dear sisters around the world, together we must find a way to stand up in the face of oppression and discrimination, wherever these things may occur. For the sake of Shadi, for all the Palestinian children, and for humanity as a whole, please join me in speaking out, so that we can put an end to such cruel unlawful policies. It is on this day that we remember how much we’ve achieved. And together, we can achieve much more. I wish you all a happy International Women’s Day.

About Farihan Daraghmeh Farah

Farihan Daraghmeh Farah and her husband Anwar live with their family in Jerusalem. They have five children: three boys and two girls. She is the mother of the youngest Palestinian incarcerated in an Israeli prison.

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13 Responses

  1. chocopie
    March 8, 2017, 12:33 pm

    What a nightmare. I don’t know what to say but as a mother I don’t think I can imagine anything worse. This is heartbreaking.

  2. Kate
    March 8, 2017, 3:50 pm

    I am so sorry. This is pure evil. I know it’s not much help, but you have many people caring about your family and especially your little boy. I will do what little I can to spread the word.

  3. gamal
    March 8, 2017, 8:24 pm

    Madam he has your cheeks!

    you are our model.

    “And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

    cavaffy

  4. oldgeezer
    March 8, 2017, 10:44 pm

    The God’s treatment of Palestinian children is pure evil. The sentence is extreme and fosters hate and not order. That is likely the plan. Hatred and fear feeds the zionist agenda. Despicable.

    I worry for your son’s health.

  5. GodWPalestine
    March 9, 2017, 5:16 am

    Dear Mrs. Farah,
    I am extremely sorry to hear your story.
    As a mother it is worse for you than for your child. Get him books to keep him busy while he’s there!
    I understand that you aren’t able to visit him on weekly basis and that is because you can’t afford it! It breaks my heart and I would love to be part of helping you at least for an extra visit.
    How can I financially support a visit for you to see your son? Is there a way where I can send the funds? Maybe via post?
    Keep your faith strong, and in God’s willing these two years pass quicker than you think!

  6. Ossinev
    March 9, 2017, 9:48 am

    Here in the UK in recent years there have been lots of horrific revelations about paedophilia and child abuse which are the subject of major ongoing investigations.The investigations have highlighted the horrors which can unfold when individuals or institutions have unfettered access to and power over defenceless children

    Whichever way you look at this story it is deeply deeply worrying and it should be a serious wake up call for those Jewish Israelis and Jews abroad who are desperately trying to cling on to some hope of redemption for the “Jewish” State of Israel.

    What is being described is nothing more nothing less than government sponsored CHILD ABUSE. In the context of International Law these are straightforward crimes against humanity and the organisers and the perpetrators in due course should be held to account for their actions in an International Criminal Court.

    Those politicians in Israel who approve,who authorise or who simply ignore these acts are SCUM no more no less than the “moral” soldiers and police who actually perpetrate them.
    I think it is highly likely that within the SCUM who perpetrate them there is a significant number who at worst commit some form of sexual offences on these children or who at best derive some sort of vicarious deviant sexual satisfaction from being able to abuse them at will.

    It is truly shameful that this disgusting Fascist leaning country is still seen as and treated as a welcome member of the Western countries club.

    Here in the UK all those Friends of Israel in the various political parties who pontificate about the need to root out the evils of paedophilia and child abuse in our society should be asked directly what their views are on institutionalised Government sponsored child abuse in their beloved Israel.

    I am ashamed and disgusted that I share the same planet with the barbarians of ISIS and ISIS supporters. They don`t however make any claim to be “moral” or to being a “Light unto the Nations”.

    I am doubly ashamed and disgusted that I share the same planet with a country whose Government knowingly authorises serial child abuse while make precisely those claims.

  7. Talkback
    March 9, 2017, 9:53 am

    JSIL’s institutionalized child abuse of Nonjewish children.

  8. Boo
    March 9, 2017, 12:15 pm

    The One is merciful. But those who perpetrate such foul abuses have forfeited any right to an appeal for mercy. May they find none.

  9. Stephen Shenfield
    March 10, 2017, 12:48 pm

    International Women’s Peace Service Palestine has just informed me that Shadi has been released.

    • Eva Smagacz
      March 11, 2017, 12:45 pm

      They released him for 8th of March ( and it would be lovely to see the source of this news)
      Idea was, no doubt, so that the spearing news got cut short before the outrage people feel was to
      explode into conscience of women around the world.

      Give it a week and they will rearrest him again.

      • Stephen Shenfield
        March 12, 2017, 6:51 am

        Maybe, but it still shows that publicity and foreign pressure are not futile, they can have an effect.

  10. Refaat
    March 11, 2017, 6:59 am

    Absolutely heartbreaking! May Shadi and the 6k Political prisoners in Israeli jails be free soon.

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