Two 15-year-old Palestinian boys, Shadi Farrah and Ahmad Al-Zaatari, were released on Thursday after almost three years of imprisonment by Israeli authorities in different juvenile detention centers.
The two Jerusalemite minors were arrested at a bus stop in the city of Jerusalem in December 2015 and were later accused of “possessing sharp tools and endangering public security”, a claim that the families deny to this day.
Farrah and Al-Zaatari were picked up today noon from two juvenile detention centers in the north by their families and were later taken to the West Bank city of Ramallah where a celebration and a press conference took place, passing through the Qalandiya military checkpoint where activists, friends and relatives were waiting holding posters of the two boys.
“Nobody can truly know the feeling of freedom unless they try prison”, said Farrah at the beginning of the press conference which was organized next to the Arafat’s tomb in the heart of Ramallah city. He added: “the first year was the most difficult one. I was very little and unaware of what is happening around me”.
When Farrah was asked by journalists about some bad moments they had faced, he answered: “we experienced foul language and beating during the investigation stage. For example, they beat Ahmad and he was about to suffocate. I used to stay naked while washing my clothes until they get dry”.
The Fatah Central Committee member, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, connected the case of Farrah and Al-Zaatari to the “wider context of violations against Jerusalemites”. He highlighted that there are many similar cases of prisoners from the city such as the PA’s Jerusalem governor, Adnan Gheith, who has been detained since the 25th of November 2018.
In a press statement given to the conference attendees, the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs indicated that 85,000 Palestinian children were arrested since 2000, and 900 children were detained from January 2018 until the end of October 2018; the equivalent of two to three children a day.
“Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trail guarantees”, the statement mentioned. It also highlighted that nearly 60% of Palestinian child detainees are transferred from the occupied territory to inside Israel, an act the statement described as “a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
The two boys were arrested at the beginning of the 2015/2016 wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis perpetrated mainly by individuals.
In a report published in October 2018, the Israeli Ministry of Public Affairs stated that the Israeli society has experienced “Thirty-eight months of terror – 13 September 2015 to the present”. It indicated that “many of them [attackers] very young, inspired by vicious incitement in Palestinian social and traditional media“.
“Since September 2015, there have been: 198 stabbing attacks and 145 attempted stabbings; and 68 vehicular (ramming) attacks”, the report stated. It also highlighted that many attacks have been carried out by “young lone terrorists” most of them from east Jerusalem, who were “motivated for the most part by the lie spread by the Palestinian media”.
On the other hand, Palestinians believed that the 2015/2016 wave of individual attacks happened only due to the frustration caused by the ongoing colonial reality.
Despite the fact that Farrah and Al-Zaatari were arrested amidst that very boiling situation, the families still argue that the claims of possessing sharp tools and the intention of carrying out an attacked are “charges of slander and lies”.
Now that they are released, the two boys said they have a strong passion to continue their studies hoping to join universities in few years, and the parents showed determination to engage them in the society again.