The 17-year-old icon of Palestinian resistance, Ahed Tamimi, penned an emotional letter about her life in and after prison which was published in the October 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia.
The young activist from the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank was jailed for eight months for slapping two Israeli occupation soldiers who were harassing her family in the yard of their home. Her act in December last year was recorded and went viral on social media, attracting support from supporters of Palestinian resistance globally, while also infuriating Israelis some of whom asked for her to be shot and killed.
Writing about her life, Ahed said, “I am a child of the Israeli occupation. It has always been there. My first real memory is of my father’s arrest in 2004 and visiting him in prison. At the time, I was three years old; he has since been arrested on two further occasions. Last year, when I was 16, I was arrested too, during a nighttime raid, for slapping a soldier who was standing in our yard. I was sentenced to eight months in an Israeli prison.”
Her life behind bars was hard. Prisoners had to be up by 5:30 am and would not be given breakfast until 10:30 a.m. They were not allowed to walk outside. When she tried to create a study group with other girls, prison administration did not allow it. Despite the obstacles, she and her fellow inmates managed to study and pass their exams.
She became “the symbol of occupation” because of her arrest but there are 300 other children in the Israeli prisons whose stories are unknown to the world. Ahed wrote about two teenage prisoners, namely Nurhan Awwad and Hadia Arainat, both of whom were arrested on completely false charges and have been sentenced to 13 and three years in prison respectively.
Elaborating on the responsibility entrusted to her by making her the spokesperson for the Palestinian cause, Ahed wrote, “With this role comes a great deal of responsibility and pressure. In parallel, I am on a suspended sentence for the next five years; if I say something they don’t like, I can be imprisoned for another eight months. I must tread carefully. People often ask where I find my strength and courage to stand up to the occupation, but I am experiencing a situation which forces me to be strong. Of course, it is also due to the influence of my parents. They remain my biggest inspiration. Yet I believe that everyone in my village is like me; I am not special. Do I sometimes wish that I could just let go and not be strong?”
But she is also aware that this role comes with the absence of a normal private life where she feels like she is losing herself. Ahed wants to be a normal 17-year-old teenager who dresses up, meets up with friends, has ice cream, goes swimming; but she is well aware that her life is very different than a “normal” teenager. “Instead, I have been involved in demonstrations and confrontations with the Israeli army since I was a child.”
“Everything we Palestinians do is a reaction against the occupation. I do not see any signs of improvement. On the contrary, the settlements will continue to expand and there will be even more checkpoints; that is what I see three years from now in the West Bank. Yet, we still aspire that one day we will live in a free Palestine. Two states will never come to pass. We believed that the Oslo Accords (signed in 1993 and 1995) would serve as a step to eventually achieve this – but look at the situation today.”
The teenager dreams of working internationally in the future after studying law, and doing high-level advocacy for Palestine and speaking at the International Criminal Court in Hague.