WASHINGTON – A Palestinian-American teenager who was beaten by Israeli officers last month told his story to members of Congress Friday,pushing for an end to Israel’s occupation in the Gaza Strip.
Tariq Abu Khdeir,15,was visiting family in Israel last month,when two Israeli guards in East Jerusalem beat and arrested him after he ran away from a protest that he said he was watching. The teen was briefly held in jail before being released and sent to receive medical attention.
Video footage of Tariq’s beating circulated in the media,showing the teenager being beaten near his uncle’s home in Shuafat,a small neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Photos later surfaced of Tariq’s face,which was bruised and swollen.
At the news conference,Tariq recounted the story of the day he was beaten,which happened hours after his cousin,Mohammed,16,was kidnapped and burned to death.
The incoming high school sophomore from Tampa,Fla.,said he was with Mohammed,but stopped at a bakery,and when he returned,he discovered that Mohammed had been kidnapped.
After being beaten by Israeli guards later that day,Tariq said he woke up in a jail cell,blindfolded and in pain. He spent six hours there before receiving medical attention.
“I actually forgot I had freedom when I was over there,” he said,adding that he felt Palestinians don’t have the same rights that Israelis have. “All people should be treated equally,and we should all have rights because we’re humans.”
Tariq’s mother,Suha Abu Khdeir,didn’t see her son until he was in the hospital. Overcome with emotion,she said it was “like looking at someone I didn’t know for the first time.”
“I thought he was dead when I saw him in that state,” she said. “I still can’t bear to watch the video of his beating.”
Though one of the two Israeli guards has since been suspended for his role in the beating,the Abu Khdeir family said they want to see proper punishments for both guards.
Tariq’s father,Salah Abu Khdeir,was also at the briefing,but remained in the audience.
He said he was relieved to see his son was safe,but wanted the situation to have a bigger result: “to save the children in the Middle East no matter what race or color.”
Rep. Keith Ellison,D-Minn.,attended the briefing and said he sympathized with Tariq’s family.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I saw my son’s face like that,” he said.
Hassan Shibley,executive director at the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations,Sunjeev Bery,advocacy director for Middle East and North African issues at Amnesty International,Brad Parker,an attorney at Defense for Children International,and Laila El-Haddad,an author and former journalist.
Reach reporter Xander Zellner at [email protected] or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.