The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD,) an independent, non-governmental organization, recently kicked off a powerful digital campaign aimed at tackling the rising rate of child imprisonment in the occupied state.
The campaign is part of a larger series titled “I am Palestinian," which aims to present the stories of life under occupation.
In a video posted on their official Facebook page earlier last week, PIPD raised awareness on the issue by featuring the heartbreaking story of Hasan, a 17-year-old who was arrested and detained by Israeli forces for eight months when he was just 16.
"There were a lot of young children in prison with me. They cry. They want their families, their mothers"
In his testimony, the teenager recounts the moment of his arrest, along with several other minors, and shares horrific details about the reality of child detention.
"They took us to Ofer prison. During interrogation, they (Israeli interrogators) wanted us to confess to things we didn't do. They threatened to demolish our homes and harm our families," he said.
Hasan refused to collaborate with Israeli soldiers throughout his detention. In PIPD's video, he also spoke of what he witnessed during the period of his imprisonment.
"There were a lot of young children in prison with me. They cry. They want their families, their mothers. They have nothing to wear, no money to buy anything. My story is not worth telling compared to other stories. There are 13, 14 and even 15-year olds with more tragic stories than mine," he added.
Child imprisonment is a major issue Palestinian minors continue to face
In a statement to StepFeed, PIPD officials said that around 700 children are arrested by Israel every year, and in 2017 alone, Israeli forces arrested 1,150 Palestinian children.
Some of these children are as young as nine and 10 and undergo severe and traumatic experiences that scar them for life. Arrests often take place in the early hours of the night, while the children are still sleeping in their beds.
They are then taken to centers for interrogation, where they experience physical and psychological torture.
When that is done, they appear in court and are either sentenced or kept in prison under administrative detention – an arbitrary form of prolonged detention.
During interrogation, children are placed under very stressful conditions. They are kept in solitary confinement, they face threats of sexual violence, rape, or physical violence, and are denied visitation from their families and a lawyer.
"76% of arrested children suffer physical abuse. 71% suffer verbal abuse, humiliation, and intimidation. 45% suffer threats and coercion," PIPD's statement added.
What's PIPD's mission?
With their first campaign being focused on such a crucial issue faced by thousands of Palestinian children, PIPD aims to break the international silence on the issue.
This comes in line with the organization's grand vision: To develop Palestinian public diplomacy capabilities by sharing the occupied country's story with the world.
Speaking to StepFeed, the NGO's executive director, Salem Barahmeh, said:
"We believe it is important for the world to see the human side of Palestine and its people as they struggle for freedom and basic rights. Our work is to make sure these personal stories are told and to help Palestinians themselves share their stories with the world.
"We also aim to move beyond the headlines to show the daily reality of a resilient people and introduce a more credible discourse on Palestine and Palestinians. It's an initiative based in Palestine and led by a board of prominent Palestinians from the private sector, academia, and civil society," he added.
The organization's board members include powerful Palestinian figures, like Ghassan Khatib, the NGO's chairman, Zahi Khouri, its vice chairman, and prominent politician Hanan Ashrawi, among many others.