RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank — The family of Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old Palestinian activist who was imprisoned in December for slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier, released footage of the teenager’s interrogation during a press conference in Ramallah today.
The released footage dates back to December 26, seven days after the teen was arrested by armed Israeli forces in the middle of the night from her home in Nabi Saleh.
Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father, told journalists that the family was able to obtain only two hours of the interrogation footage, adding that during the first 10 days of her detainment, Ahed was continuously interrogated, sometimes for 12 hours at a time.
“In the first 10 days of her interrogation, Ahed was subject to various tactics and strategies that violate international and humanitarian laws,” Bassem said.
According to Bassem, Ahed, like the majority of Palestinian minors detained by Israel, was interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or guardian.
“The rounds of interrogation came after various physical and physiological tactics placed on Ahed,” he said, “including isolation, continuous transfer in the prisoner bus, and the intimidation by soldiers.”
“She was deprived of sleep for long periods of time,” Bassem said, noting that in the final round of interrogation, Ahed was running on more than 34 hours of sleep deprivation when she was interrogated.
“All of these tactics were used to try to break the symbol, the embodiment that Ahed has created through resisting the occupation,” Bassem said.
‘I hold the right to remain silent’
A full transcript of this video is available here.
Despite a number of tactics used by the Israeli interrogators to coerce Ahed into confessing to a number of charges, including stone-throwing, the teenager remained remarkably silent throughout the interrogation, which her family and legal team say was key to getting the majority of the initial 12 charges brought against her dropped.
“Ahed, who understands what it means to confront this occupation, refused through silence to even mention her name to the interrogators,” Bassem told journalists.
Throughout the two hours of interrogation footage obtained by Mondoweiss, Ahed, who is still wearing the pajamas and jacket that she was detained in, can be seen engaging with the two interrogators — a police interrogator sitting across from her behind a desk, and a military intelligence officer sitting next to her left side, his body turned directly towards her — on only a few occasions.
The intelligence officer begins by asking her how old she is, to which she simply shrugs her shoulders and pulls her face.
When asked where she lives, Ahed defiantly responds to the interrogator, saying “you know where I live.”
From then on, the extent of her minimal verbal interactions with the interrogators were limited to the teenager saying “I hold the right to remain silent.”
Throughout her interrogation, Ahed rarely acknowledges the interrogators, even non verbally.
At one point in the video, both interrogators can be seen yelling at the teenager (at the 7:21 mark in the video), threatening to arrest her friends and family, which they list out by name, if she did not speak.
Despite their threats, Ahed refuses to respond. For a few seconds, the teenager shifts in her chair and stretches her neck, seemingly indicating a sense of unease, or likely discomfort from the hours spent being berated by the interrogators, after spending two days alone in a cold cell.
Last week, Ahed’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, filed a complaint with the Israeli police alleging the teenager was exposed to “inappropriate conduct” which amounted to sexual harassment during her detention.
In an article published on April 1, the Daily Beast details the sexually charged questions and comments made by the military intelligence officer, who comments on Ahed’s appearance and attractiveness, reportedly telling her “you have eyes like an angel.”
In the footage seen by Mondoweiss, the same officer attempts to establish a rapport with Ahed, while his police colleague maintains the “bad cop” attitude, repeatedly raising his voice at Ahed and interrupting the seemingly casual intelligence officer.
As the police officer sitting behind the desk attempts to shame Ahed for her actions, the intelligence officer maintains a feigned friendly demeanor, and silences his colleague.
“Ahed, when i think of my little sister, I see her here [in front of me],” he says, gesturing to Ahed.
“My sister is blonde and her eyes are like yours not like me. Her kind…white! Like you,” the officer says, to no reaction from Ahed.
Breaking out into a laugh, the officer says “really, when she goes to the beach, she’s like a hamburger,” asking Ahed if the same happens to her.
With no reaction from Ahed, the officer, still chuckling, asks “how are you in the sun?” and if she too, like his sister, turns “red, red, red.”
While his exact body stance cannot be determined due to the angle of the camera, the military officer repeatedly scoots his chair closer to Ahed, his legs seemingly spread open in front of her.
“I’m like your brother, you are like my sister, that is why I am sitting like this, not like that behind a desk,” he says, pointing to his colleague.
At several points in the video, the intelligence officer moves his hand in direction of Ahed’s legs, though because of the position of the camera, it remains unclear if he was physically touching her.
“Sexual harassment in [Israeli] interrogation and in prison is a very common tactic, the irony being this specific case of it is relatively mild,” Dawoud Yousef, Advocacy and Lobbying Coordinator at Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, told Mondoweiss.
“The most common forms we see are comments on a woman’s honor, comments on a woman’s sexual relations, comments on sort of promiscuity, and unwanted advances,” Yousef said, adding that unnecessary strip searches are also used to “purely to humiliate someone and reduce their ability to resist any sort of questioning.”
“The sexual harassment we saw in Ahed’s interrogation was used as a way to make her feel completely unsafe and to get her to bend to the will of the interrogator. While Ahed was strong enough to not be bent, most children do not have this kind of resilience in these situations,” he said.
Exposing the routine violations of minors rights
Yousef, along with Ahed’s family, legal team, and other activists say that while Ahed’s case is important, it is also a reminder of the countless rights violations that Palestinian minors are subjected to in the Israeli military system.
“What we saw in Ahed Tamimi’s interrogation video was essentially textbook interrogation tactics that we see used against children,” Yousef said, adding that while Ahed was not physically abused by the interrogators, “petty beatings” are rife in Israeli interrogations of minors.
“What we saw was the attempt to strip the child of any notion of themselves, any notion of safety, any notion of integrity, and to be completely at the will of the interrogator.”
According to Yousef, close to 99% of Palestinian children that are arrested by Israeli forces, will sign confessions during coercive interrogations, without the presence of lawyers or guardians.
“We have not seen a case, at least in the military court, where that signed confession has been excluded as evidence.”
Speaking to journalists, Bassem Tamimi expressed his pride in Ahed’s resilience, and said that her ability to remain silent during the interrogation was just another form of the teenager’s resistance against the occupation.
“Ahed’s message and the message of her generation, is that we [Palestinians] are not victims, we are fighters for our cause and for freedom,” he said.