Friday, July 03, 2020

Muslim Odeh: arrested 14 times by Israel

By Henrique Dores - February 23, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Behind Bars]
Tags: [child arrests] [Silwan] [Muslim Odeh] [Israeli army]

Photo by Amer Aruri (B’Tselem)

Muslim Odeh was born and raised in Silwan, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood lying on the edge of East Jerusalem, just outside the old city. Currently, Silwan is estimated to have a population of around 56,000 inhabitants.

Muslim Odeh’s story, although familiar to other Palestinian children living in Silwan who have been arrested by the Israeli army before, is also unique in that at just 13 years old, he has already been arrested by Israel a total of 14 times.

Illegally annexed by Israel in 1967, the conditions of living in the neighborhood of Silwan are far from being considered healthy for children to be brought up in. The debris of house demolitions, evictions, destruction of Palestinian property by Israel, illegal archeological excavations, and child arrests are nothing but part of the daily routine for Palestinians in Silwan.

Israel's introduction of juvenile military court only a "cosmetic change"

Under such ambience of physical and psychological violence, it is not surprising that the vast majority of the cases of child arrests are connected with stone throwing. According to prisoner support organization Addameer’s reports, between 2000 and 2012 more than 8000 Palestinian children have been detained, mostly for stone throwing, which according to the Israeli Military Law is a crime punishable by a sentence of up to 20 years of prison.

Until 2009, and contradicting the UN’s Convention on the rights of children, Palestinian children under the age of 16 could be arrested, tried and treated in the same manner as adults by the Israeli judiciary system. Due to the hard work of many civil society and rights-based organizations, Israel created a juvenile military court system for Palestinian minors from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in a cover up attempt to be consistent with International Law.

However, the addition of a juvenile military court system still violates and denies Palestinian children their rights. According to Khaled Quzmar, legal adviser of the Palestine Section of Defense for Children International, the idea of this legislation being just a cosmetic change is quite obvious: “In fact, nothing changed. The same campaigns of arrests continued,” he says.

Indeed, the campaign of arrests of Palestinian children is still an ongoing occurrence, and solid proof of that is the case of Muslim Odeh, who was arrested for the 14th time during the production of this article. He was released for house arrest on February 13 after a bail of 1000 NIS.

The Palestine Monitor went to the Silwan Information Center and tried to get in contact with Muslim’s Odeh family, but unfortunately both father and son were under arrest and therefore could not be interviewed.

However, the reports of Muslim’s previous detentions are appalling. In an interview with the Silwan Information Center, Muslim describes some of his experiences. His depictions include being chained up and left alone in a room, deprivation of food, and brutal beatings from Israeli soldiers that resulted in Muslim suffering a broken skull.

Ahmad Kareem 42, a friend of the Odeh family agreed to speak to the Palestine Monitor.

”Muslim was arrested for the 14th time this week in the last 4 years. He is just a child and even if he did throw stones, this is not the way of solving the problem,” he says. “We don’t even know where they took Muslim this time,” he added.

The campaign of arrests of Palestinian children is still an ongoing occurrence, and solid proof of that is the case of Muslim Odeh, who was arrested for the 14th time 

According to Kareem, Muslim’s father, Sheikh Mousa Odeh was also arrested. “All of his family have been constantly harassed by the police,” Kareem says.

After several attempts, the Palestine Monitor finally heard from Sheiikk Mousa Odeh.

“I attended to the court session of my son, and I was told by the guards not to speak to him,” Odeh said. “I refused and as a result I was detained. After 8 hours I was released on bail,” he said.

In fact, Sheikh Mousa Odeh had already been in prison for stone throwing and attacking the police since he turned himself in on November 18 2012 until December 27 of the same year, after his sentence was reduced for good behavior.

“It is not easy for them,” explains Kareem. “Their family home has been under threat of demolition since the last year.”

PSTD in children as a consequence of arrests

The arrest of minors in Silwan has become an almost daily event. According to Addamer’s latest report, on the 1st of January of 2013 there were 193 Palestinian children in prison, 26 of them under the age of 16.

“The wave of arrests has been unbearable for the last 5 years. It is worse than ever. Last week for instance, when coming back home from school, my son Wadee (14 years old) was arrested and then released after interrogation,” says Kareem.

The consequences of these arrests are utterly devastating, especially for children. In its "Report on the Impact of Child Detention: On Occupied Palestinian Territory," the organization Save the Children contends that most ex-detainee children are at risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The detention experience is described as traumatic regardless of its duration, and many children interviewed reported that the arrest itself was very traumatizing. According to the same report, most ex-detainee children suffer from nightmares, sleeping and eating disorders, bedwetting, acquiring unhealthy habits such as smoking and fear of getting re-arrested again.

The situation appears to be cyclical in every way. The feeling of being occupied overcomes any possibility of a peaceful understanding, and Israel’s strategies to strangle these territories only enhances this. Every family has an episode with the police or the military, every child has a friend that already was arrested, everyday a new story comes up.

However, among all these struggles, in a context of difficulties, people still manage to continue living their lives, as if their permanence in Silwan is the ultimate act of resistance against the occupying power.

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