Ahmad Manasra was arrested when he was 13 years old back in 2015, and was subject to solitary confinement several times and barred from family visits for a while.
You’ve probably come across ‘#FreeAhmadManasra‘, a hashtag trending on social media as people worldwide and in Qatar call for the 20-year-old Palestinian detainee’s immediate release from Israeli prisons.
If you have not seen the hashtag on your feed yet, now is the time to learn about Ahmad Manasra’s story.
Many are still haunted by the 2015 footage of the Israeli interrogation of then 13-year old Manasra. His screams “I can’t remember” echoed in the consciousnesses of many. Since then, he has been subjected to physical and psychological torture in Israeli prisons for seven years.
On #PalestinianChildDay, meet Palestinian prisoner, Ahmad Manasra, who was arrested when he was 13-years-old, spent 7 birthdays in Israeli jails despite a global campaign demanding his immediate release. #FreeThemAll pic.twitter.com/OAyIFdRUwN
— DAYS OF PALESTINEᅠ (@DaysOfPal) April 5, 2022
During the questioning, the Palestinian child had intracranial hematoma, a serious and possibly life-threatening complication, which he had not received the necessary medical treatment for.
Manasra was arrested in 2015 when he was just 13 years old. Today, he is 20 years old.
Time is of the essence for him and his family, as his next court date is on April 13, and activists are fighting for his release on a local and global level.
The #FreeAhmadManasra Campaign is currently lead by the Palestine Global Mental Health Network, who have joined forces with Palestinian and international activists, mental health experts, along with legal experts, to call for the immediate release of Ahmad Manasra.
“Ahmad Manasra was imprisoned in conditions unbefitting of a child and alongside him, truth, justice, and humanity, were foreclosed as well. We want to attest to the fact that Ahmad has been subject to continuous punishment and abuse, multiple physical, psychological, and social torture,” said the Palestine Global Mental Health Network in a statement.
In 2016, Ahmad was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder for allegedly helping his 15-year-old cousin in the October 2015 attack on two Israelis at the illegal Pisgat Ze’ev settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. Both Israelis survived their wounds.
He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and fined $47,200.
Hasan Manasra, Ahmad’s cousin, was shot and killed by Israeli police almost immediately, whilst the then 13-year old was critically injured after he was driven into by a patrol car.
A viral video of the cruel incident starts with settlers screaming insults and brutal death wishes at the bleeding child as he gasped for air and extended his hand for assistance with a panicked expression on his face. The video sparked worldwide outrage.
The footage then shows how as an ambulance drove by, Manasra’s body squirmed on the ground, as he attempted to lift his head and move his legs. The camera then cuts out to show people strolling on the street, business as usual, with the Palestinian child’s body lying still on the pavement.
As Manasra sat up, an Israeli officer is seen raising his shirt, and appears to check him. He then nudges the child with his foot and puts him back to a lying-down position.
The cruelty did not end there.
A video showing an Israeli interrogation of the 13-year old was leaked to Palestinian media a month after his arrest. Ahmad is seen pleading the interrogator in the video, screaming “I do not remember, I do not remember, did I go crazy? Get a doctor and let him open my skull to show how I do not remember.”
This was as the interrogator yelled at him to “shut up,” insulted him, and tortured him for hours using an electric bracelet pressing on his hands, a torture device Israel often deploys against Palestinian children in prison.
In his initial testimony, Manasra claimed that his cousin was the one who stabbed the two Israelis and that he despises the sight of blood.
When Manasra was detained at 13 years old, and Israeli law at the time barred the detention of children under the age of 14 in East Jerusalem. However, to maximise his punishment, Israeli authorities are said to have waited until he was 14 years of age to prosecute him.
“Israelis treat arbitrarily imprisoned children in the most inhumane ways. They neglect and abuse them emotionally, physically and sexually. Neither Ahmad’s parents nor anybody else forgot how they broke his skull before arresting him. Children in Israeli prisons get traumatised every single day,” said Tahreer Al-Zaeem, a Palestinian Masters student in clinical psychology in Qatar.
New law approved
Manasra’s case moved Israel’s justice minister at the time to propose a legislation that would allow children as young as 12 to be imprisoned in so-called “terrorist” cases.
The law was passed by the Knesset in August, 2016.
At the time, Israeli military courts were already able to imprison Palestinian children 12 years and older in the West Bank, so long as they do not carry Israeli-issued Jerusalem residency permits.
What online campaigns are taking place?
Human rights activists and social media users are using an array of platforms to shed light on Ahmad Manasra’s situation.
The following list are steps Palestinian activists have been using and calling people to use to raise awareness:
- Encouraging people to sign this petition calling for Manasra’s release, it currently has more than 30,000 signatures.
- Asking people to take to social media to tell Ahmad’s story, and highlight the anticipated court hearing that is to be held on April 13, 2022.
- Recommending sympathisers to engage with the following campaign hashtags:
“People in Qatar can help by advocating for Ahmad’s freedom and shedding light on the cruelty of the Zionists towards Palestinian children on social media platforms through sharing videos, and engaging with hashtags,” said Al-Zaeem.
Palestinian children under the occupation
Manasra is one example of many that represents what Palestinian children go through as a result of Israeli occupation.
According to Addameer, the Israeli army has imprisoned over 12,000 Palestinian minors since 2000. The majority of them were accused of throwing stones, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison under military law.
The Israeli occupation is the only government in the world that uses military courts to prosecute minors, frequently depriving them of their basic rights.
According to Defence for Children International Palestine, Palestinian children are commonly subjected to torture and abuse during questioning, solitary detention during interrogation, beating and kicking by occupying military personnel, threats of sexual assault, and other forms of abuse.
They are also commonly subjected to rigorous interrogation without the presence of a parent or a lawyer.
The year 2021 was the deadliest for Palestinian children since 2014 as a total of 78 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces.
The killed join a list of more than 3000 Palestinian children who have been killed by Israeli forces in the past 20 years, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information.
“Although many of the imprisoned Palestinian children show clear signs of deteriorating mental health and ask for professional help, they never get any, which has serious negative short and long term consequences,” Al-Zaeem said.