PEN International Condemns Arrest of Palestinian Activist Ahed Tamimi; Demands Immediate Release Amid Concerns of Torture and Ill-Treatment
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New Delhi: PEN International, a worldwide association of writers, strongly condemned the recent arrest of writer and prominent Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi by Israeli forces on November 6, 2023. According to the report published in PEN International, Tamimi is currently being held in incommunicado detention, raising concerns about her safety and well-being amidst reports of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. This alarming development comes on the heels of the deaths of at least two Palestinian prisoners while in Israeli custody since October 7.
PEN International called upon the Israeli authorities to immediately disclose Ahed Tamimi's whereabouts, release her unconditionally, and put an end to the practice of arbitrary detention of Palestinians. Furthermore, the organisation demanded that until her release, Tamimi be granted regular access to her family and lawyers of her choosing.
The incident took place on November 6 when a dozen Israeli soldiers reportedly raided the residence of Tamimi in Nabi Saleh, occupied West Bank. They handcuffed her and took her to an undisclosed location, according to reports. During the raid, her family said, her mother, Nariman Tamimi, was taken by soldiers to another room but could hear Tamimi's screams through the walls, raising concerns of possible assault. A soldier allegedly threatened Tamimi's mother and her sons, saying they would be next in line. According to media reports, Tamimi was arrested on suspicion of “inciting violence and terrorist activities” on social media.
In the days leading up to her arrest, Tamimi had been the target of an online smear campaign by Israeli settlers who accused her of inciting terrorism and the killing of settlers on social media. She was allegedly arrested for a post on Instagram in which she mentioned that Palestinians would “slaughter” settlers and “drink [their] blood”. Her family has dismissed these allegations, stating that her social media account had been hacked, which was a recurring issue for Tamimi.
Nariman Tamimi, speaking to PEN International, remarked, "We were expecting that they [Israeli army] would come for Ahed following the settlers' online campaign against her... She was dressed up, and when they stormed the house, she rushed and hugged me, saying, 'Don't be afraid and don't worry. I am strong, and you too, be strong.'"
Ahed Tamimi is currently held in incommunicado detention without access to her family or lawyer. The Israeli army has reportedly denied her family's request to disclose her whereabouts, though it is believed she might be held at Damun Prison.
On October 29, Bassem Tamimi, Ahed Tamimi's father, was arrested while en route to Jordan and taken to an undisclosed location. On November 8, his family learned that an Israeli court had ordered his administrative detention for six months without charges or the ability to communicate with his family or lawyer.
Who Is Ahed Tamimi?
Ahed Tamimi is a prominent Palestinian activist and the co-author of They Called Me a Lioness: A Palestinian Girl's Fight for Freedom, in which she reflects on her personal experiences and the daily struggles of life under Israeli occupation. In December 2017, at the age of 17, she was arrested following a video of her altercation with Israeli soldiers and was later sentenced to eight months in prison on charges that included "aggravated assault."
Since October 7, several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have reported a surge in the use of administrative detention of Palestinians living in the West Bank, with at least 2,200 people arbitrarily arrested, many of whom have experienced torture and ill-treatment in detention. Earlier in November, the UN OCHA raised concerns about the rising levels of violence, threats, and the enforced displacement of Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
This recent crackdown occurs in the context of increasing violence against Palestinians amid alarming settlement expansion in recent years. United Nations (UN) experts, as well as Israeli and international human rights organisations, have warned against the apartheid system Palestinians have been subjected to for decades. According to UN experts, last year was the deadliest year in the occupied West Bank since the United Nations started systematically documenting fatalities in 2005, with at least 150 Palestinians killed, including 33 children. In 2023, Israeli forces killed at least 38 children in the occupied West Bank, marking the deadliest year ever for children.
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