Attending the No Way to Treat a Child Briefing

June 24, 2015

Picture by The Palestine Solidarity Project, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Picture by The Palestine Solidarity Project, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Written by Samar Shahin, MPAC Intern

           On June 2, I attended a Congressional briefing organized and held by the organization No Way to Treat a Child. The briefing addressed the immoral detainment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. Hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli forces and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system. Children released from military courts report cruel punishment, an inability to access their right to due process, and substandard living conditions. These detailed reports have created concerns within the United Nations and other human rights groups; yet, little action has been taken.

The briefing was especially noteworthy because of the presentation given by Tariq Abu Khdeir. Abu Khdeir was merely 15 years old when he was attacked, beaten, and dragged to military court by Israeli soldiers. He was held there for three days, without ever being made aware of the formal charges, for allegedly taking part in a protest.  The protest was in response to the death of his 16-year-old cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was burned alive. These events took place in the height of tensions between Israel and Palestine that started in June 2014. Tariq Abu Khdeir was born in the United States, yet he was held in military court for multiple days and was brutally beaten in detention. His Mother, Suha Abu Khdeir expressed how security forces would not let her see her son while he was detained. Even when an embassy representative came to speak with Tariq, he was not allowed to go in with Tariq’s parents.  

            As a Palestinian, Tariq Abu Khdeir’s traumatic experiences really hit home. Israel’s usage of child detainment has been unethical, as it has emotionally scarred young children, created an atmosphere of fear and repression, and dissuaded Palestinians from engaging in civic participation. After being released, some children are so traumatized by the experience that they drop out of school, as they are unable to focus on pursuing their education, while others drown themselves in work to forget the suffering they endured. Tariq Abu Khdeir is one of hundreds that has undergone this oppression, but hearing him speak at the briefing gave me hope. Towards the end of the briefing, the moderator asked congressional staffers to raise their hands. Seeing the plethora of hands shoot up was astonishing to me. The room was overflowing with people interested in hearing Tariq Abu Khdeir and others much like him. They wanted to know what they could do to stop the mistreatment of these children in Israeli military courts. When asked how his life has changed after his experience, Tariq Abu Khdeir answered that he now feels like he is a symbol for the Palestinian cause and children. No child should ever go through the traumatic event of being forced away from her family for up to four days, while being subject to physical and mental abuse.  





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