At 16 years old, Ahed Tamimi has become an international icon. Born in the Palestinian village of Nabi Salih, the curly-haired activist has been protesting the illegal Israeli occupation since she was 9 . Now, she is one of more than 300 Palestinian children currently being held in Israeli prisons.
The occupation is brutal and harsh. Many unarmed Palestinians, including children, have been shot and maimed or killed by Israeli troops. Far more are tried in military courts with conviction rates that surpass 99 percent, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, or simply detained on undefined charges and incarcerated in Israeli prisons, often for long and arbitrary periods of time.
From bulldozing houses, to restricting travel, to collective punishments, to construction of apartheid walls and illegal settlements, to torture, to extreme and even deadly crackdowns on peaceful protests, to denying water, food, healthcare and electricity, the occupation takes many forms.
Against these injustices, Ahed – whose dreams of being a soccer player have been replaced with determination to become a lawyer, even as she is forced to miss important high school exams – has had the tremendous courage to speak out.
She has been tear-gassed and hit by rubber-tipped bullets and seen many family members arrested, beaten and shot. Demolition orders have been issued against her family home. At 12, she already had nightmares and flashbacks as a result of her experiences.
On more than one occasion, she has tussled with the soldiers who have attacked her family, biting a soldier who beat her brother and, more recently, slapping the soldier who shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face with a rubber bullet.
For this last action, Ahed has been charged with assaulting a soldier, interfering with his duties and stone-throwing. Threatened by Israeli authorities with rape and the punishment of other family members (Ahed’s mother and two of her cousins have since been arrested), the teenager has remained steadfast through these days of detention, even as she faces years in prison.
Ahed’s trial will begin next Wednesday. The day before, Tuesday, has been designated an international day of protest and solidarity to demand her freedom. Join me at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 30 in the Circle as we rally to free Ahed and every other political prisoner of the occupation.
Jaz Brisack is a junior general studies major from Oxford.