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Azzun: Stories from an occupied village

On Thursday, 6 August 2009 two MPTers along with members of the International Solidarity Movement visited Azzun, a village of 12,000 people in the Qalqiliya governorate southwest of Nablus. While in Azzun MPTers were told several different stories that exemplify the struggles the villagers face under occupation.

MPT first met with a man whose brother was arrested two days prior when the Israeli Army invaded the village and arrested him in the middle of the night. The man has not been charged with any crimes but remains in jail. From Azzun alone 82 individuals have been arrested, with an increased number of arrested in the past 9 years. Twenty of those arrested were under 19 years old at the time of their arrest and of the total number arrested 17 individuals have not yet seen a judge or been sentenced.

Next MPTers met with a woman who was released from jail 10 days prior after 3 years in prison. The woman was arrested two weeks after the Israeli Army killed her brother. Her activism in a local woman's group as well as her brothers' resistance were given as reasons for her arrest during her interrogation. Following her arrest in Nablus the woman was taken to a nearby jail where she was bound with her hands behind her back and had her head covered so she could not see. She was left in this condition outside from 5am to 3pm kneeling in the hot September sun while soldiers/police officers kicked her in the back and head.

Palestinian woman who served 3 years in prison for resisting the occupation

Initially she was taken to a prison for Israeli criminals, rather than a woman's political prison, where she was harassed and mistreated by other prisoners and felt that her life was in danger. She was interrogated for 14 days straight, without food, access to a bathroom or sleep. After the first week of refusing to talk she was beaten by male officers. After one month in the prison she went on an 8-day hunger strike, demanding to be transferred to a female political prison. While in the political prisons she subsequently went on many hunger strikes as she was denied a mattress to sleep on and other hygiene items. She objected to her treatment citing International Humanitarian Law and was eventually given some of the items she demanded. While in prison the only person allowed to visit her was her young daughter who was a year and a half old at the time of her arrest.

The women she was in prison with ranged in age from 14 to 45 years old. The young women were not schooled by the prison so the prisoners organized themselves into different academic subjects in order to provide the education for the younger girls. Whenever the women demanded better conditions based on International Law they were met by the authorities with beatings, teargas in their cells, and solitary confinement. One woman was arrested while pregnant and gave birth to her son in jail. Over a year later she and her young son are both still living in the prison.

She embroidered this artwork while in prison

The last visit MPT made in Azzun was with the family of Nasser, a 16-year-old boy who the family explained was killed by Israeli settlers. Nasser and two of his friends were out on 13 January 2009 when he was shot twice in the head. The shots did not kill him, and while his two friends were caring him away they were attacked by settlers throwing stones at him, one of which hit Nasser in the head, killing him. The Army detained the other two boys, both of which are still in prison without charges. When Nasser's family was told about the incident the Army claimed Nasser had thrown a stone at a settler vehicle, which ricocheted off the car and fatally hit him in the head.

Nasser's body was held for 4 days in Israel, where an autopsy was performed to determine the cause of death. Although Israeli doctors confirmed the Army's story human right's doctors were denied entry to examine the body and confirm the cause of death. The settler involved in the incident was the son of settlement's mayor. The mayor's son was arrested but not charged with any crimes.

If Nasser were still alive today, he would be starting his final year of high school this fall.

A picture of Nasser hanging in his family's living room

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