SILWAN, Feb 14 (JMCC) - Fifteen-year old Showaib Qutayba has been under house arrest for 47 days. He cannot go to school or work even though he and his brother support their family. His father has spent the last 13 years in jail.
“I feel lonely,” Showaib said of his confinement. “I hope it will be better and the occupation will move and we will be fine,” he says, without much conviction.
Showaib is one of 17 children under house arrest in the embattled neighborhood of Silwan
. Interviews with four of these boys paints a picture of police abuse and collusion between the neighborhood’s Jewish settlers and Israeli authorities.
In late December, Showaib was carrying food to the family restaurant when Israeli soldiers stopped him and asked for his identification card. When the teenager wasn’t able to produce it, a soldier got out, searched him and then beckoned him to a jeep.
For the next seven days, Showaib said he was beaten and interrogated at Jerusalem
’s Russian Compound. Two police officers accused him of throwing stones before putting him in a barren room.
The interrogation center in the heart of west Jerusalem is well-known to Silwan residents. “No toilet or windows, only pots for pee,” said wizened Silwan resident Abu Nasr Ziad Zaidani. “One concrete bed - not a good bed - and open windows. Very cold.”
Showaib denied to police that he’d thrown stones.
“I knew they were lying that I was guilty,” he said. “I stayed there for four days.” When he finally had his day in court, a judge ordered ten days of house arrest and more than $4,000 in fines.
When he was unable to pay, Showaib was returned to prison. His brother bailed him out but only under the stipulation that he remain under detention at home. Now he passes the days at home, reading the Quran and watching movies via satellite television.
‘WAITING FOR SOMETHING GOOD’
The Wadi Hilweh Information Center, a grassroots group in Silwan, reported 25 cases of children being arrested and detained or interrogated in January. Many of the reported children said they were beaten by Israeli police.
The group also stated it had clear evidence of “collusion” between Israeli police and settlers “who are known to photograph Palestinian youth during clashes in Silwan village or try to obtain photographic evidence of youth on bail breaking their conditions of house arrest.”
Eighteen-year-old Mohammed Razem admits he threw stones at Israelis. He was angered, he tells, when guards at his father’s November trial refused to allow him to bring his father a cup of water while he sat crying.
He then decided to take revenge, donning a black mask to throw stones at Israelis.
“Just two stones,” Mohammed said.
Two weeks later, his cell phone rang in the middle of the night. Israeli police had gotten his number from a neighbor, and they gave Mohammad 20 minutes to report to the Russian Compound.
Mohammad was first forced to stand for six hours before being interrogated. He was accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail and rocks. Another Silwan youth had fingered Mohammad, and police had photos of him, masked and unmasked. He confessed.
For seven months, Mohammed has lived under house arrest. He is only allowed to leave the house to go to work.
The regulations governing house arrest vary from child to child, with some being allowed to go to school or work and others simply being warned by police not to leave the house.
“Mohammad suffers a lot, [but] I am arrested with him,” said his father, Abdul. Mohammed wanted to be a reporter, but failed to pass his senior year matriculation exam.
“We are waiting for something good for him,” he said.
‘I FEEL AFRAID’
All of Ziad Rajab’s seven sons have been in and out of Israeli detention – and when police came in the early morning hours for his 15-year-old Sharif, he asked, “Which one do you want?”
Sharif said he was beaten in the jeep on the way to jail, and again in interrogation. “Someone said they saw me by a settler house; they accused me of throwing stones,” Sharif said. “I said ‘I don’t know anything,’ and then they took me to jail.”
Out on bail but under home detention, he must carry an official document when he goes to school.
“Most of the boys have these papers,” Ziad said. He no longer wants Sharif to go to school, clicking his tongue and shaking his head. “When they go to school he is arrested.”
Sharif has been arrested seven times.
“There are no human rights for him,” Ziad said. “He just wants to be like any Israeli kid.”
Another son, Shadi, returns home from class, hefting a large school bag up the family’s narrow steps. Last fall, he was arrested walking to school. He was released on bail but warned not to leave his home for two weeks.
“I am afraid of jail,” the 13-year old Shadi said. “Now I am afraid of going to school. When I go to school, I feel different - afraid.”