By Tamar Fleishman
“Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honor…or any form of indecent assault” — (Article 27 of the Geneva Convention)
Nadia didn’t have a permit and she wasn’t about to request one.
Nadia, a Palestinian resident, knew that being married to Imad, who as his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather was born in Jerusalem, isn’t reason enough for her to be able to live under the same roof with her husband in his home. She knew she doesn’t fit the “criterions” of the ‘temporary’ Citizenship Law.
Nadia and Imad also knew that according to the laws of the occupation, Nadia can’t cross Hizme Checkpoint (which is exclusively a checkpoint for owners of blue IDs). And in spite the prohibition and their fear, they decided to try driving together to Imad’s parents’ home in East Jerusalem. Perhaps they hoped the soldiers wouldn’t be sticklers, which sometimes happens at Hizme Checkpoint.
But the soldiers were sticklers and the “offenders” were caught and separated. Naida was placed inside a BP vehicle, Imad was told to move over to the seat beside the driver, a BP officer drove his car and the two vehicles headed to a military base not far from the checkpoint.
The gate to the base was closed. The officer driving Imad’s car wanted to stop but made a mistake and instead of pressing on the breaks he pressed the gas pedal. The car accelerated, it hit the gate so forcefully that the front of the car crashed and Imad sustained most of the blow. An ambulance that was sent for took Imad to the hospital, since he sustained injuries to his lungs and back.
In the meanwhile the BP officers got their stories straight in attempt to have Imad take the blame for the accident: “He (the officer driving the car) pressed the gas pedal instead of the breaks because the Palestinian (Imad) made a suspicious movement, and the driver thought he was trying to attack him”, one of them summed up the plan to incriminate Imad.
Nadia wasn’t allowed to join her husband. “An interrogation is needed” they said. I waited with her. After a while a female soldier came and took Nadia to a room (they sent me away but before leaving we exchanged our telephone numbers and promised to talk). Nadia went through a physical inspection. When it was beyond any doubt that she wasn’t carrying any explosives, the soldier got out of the room and the interrogator entered- a man dressed as a civilian that closed the door behind him. He was alone with Nadia.
When she exited the room after three hours, Nadia was a different person to the one she was when she entered it. During the three hours she spent in the room Nadia became a victim to severe verbal sexual assault. Nadia’s soul was raped.
– Years ago a woman who suffered physical and mental abuse told me while she was staying in a shelter for battered women that: “The injuries heal. The words stick with you”.
When I inquired at the military’s and the police’s various telephone centers, the two branched in charge of maintaining the rule of law, whether there were no requirements to protect a person’s right to human dignity while in the interrogation room, and particularly women’s rights against any kind of sexual assault, I stumbled upon half answers: “It’s unadvisable to interrogate someone without a third party present… yes you are right but…”. A “but” was always attached to these answers. They had also informed me that they had insufficient manpower.
I spoke to the assistant of one of the MPs who promised that the MP would place a parliamentary question before the minister of defense regarding the right to human dignity inside interrogation rooms. I haven’t heard from him since.
Nadia, who didn’t receive a permit to visit her husband in the hospital, talked with me many times during the following days. Being lonely and vulnerable she consulted with me. I explained that she could place a complaint by herself or with the assistance of various organizations, we discussed the possibility of the army’s criminal investigation division taking the word of a Palestinian woman who to them was a felon, over the word of an Israeli interrogator who was one of their own.
This was never put to the test since the complaint was never filed.
With time we lost contact. Imad was discharged from the hospital and returned to his wife. Nadia tried to rehabilitate her life.
Perhaps there are those who will say that Nadia and Imad brought it all on themselves, that they knew what was permitted and what was forbidden, that they tempted fate.
But I have so much respect for people who even after so many years of occupation and oppression, continue to search for any cracks and rupture through which they might be able to pass and overcome the laws of darkness. I see them as people who are trying to survive and guard their dignity with any means possible.
One More Thing:
Since I am forced to take a break from my activities at the checkpoint, I try to recollect past events which I think represent the malicious nature of the occupation.
I find Nadia’s case to be particularly difficult and severe.
I took many photos on that afternoon but I decided not to expose the faces of the victims. The photo attached is of the entrance to the damned room where the events that left Nadia with a scare that can never be healed, occurred.
(Translated from Hebrew by Ruth Fleishman.)
– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. The majority of the Spotlights (an opinion page) that are published on the site had been written by her. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.