The lasting legacy of child detention in the West Bank

This article was published on WeSpeakNews – an alternative grass-roots led news service.

It is becoming a regular event but I am far from being able to normalise it. Having sound grenades go off meters from you whilst being caught in a shower of stones is not, and should not, be understood as normal. Increasingly however for the village of Jayyus it is. In the last 7 days there have been 4 Israeli Defence Force (IDF) incursions into Jayyus and its neighbouring village of Azzun.

Last night we saw three vehicles tear through the village. What follows is typical of villages across the West Bank. Children who are already on the streets start nervously at first, but soon with collective confidence, throwing stones at the IDF vehicles. We were caught out of position (between the IDF and some stone throwing kids) and so take cover in a shop. The IDF then lets off a couple of sound grenades before tearing out the village, leaving a cloud of dust behind them.

In the aftermath of this relatively small incident I talked to some of the young men on the street. One, who proudly boasts that the IDF ‘questioned him’ comments, “they asked me if I threw stones and I said no”. A stone slips out of his hand. Mostly the boys and young men are excited and exhilarated by the whole episode.

This however is in stark contrast to the Mayor of the village who I visited a few days previously. His son had been arrested during the raid on the village the night before. There is no excitement in his eyes, no exhilaration, just tired resignation. The sight of his children being taken away blindfolded and bound is all too familiar. His house had been broken into and turned upside down in search of weapons that were never found.

One ex-IDF soldier told me recently that in hundreds of house raids he conducted, he only ever found one gun. In his words, “This is about power and intimidation, not arms”.

These arrests have both immediate and long term consequences. Firstly, the children are detained, normally in the early hours, by being blindfolded and bound by armed soldiers. This is a terrifying experience by itself. The NGO Defence for Children International however describe in detail the procedure which arrested children can experience, including, no access to legal help, reports of torture and forced confessions. This treatment leaves a lasting legacy on the attitudes of these children.

The detention of minors, in this manner, clearly violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 3) and the UN Convention against Torture. What is most concerning however, is the lack of accountability throughout this system. It is often a battle to ascertain the location of any prisoner, let alone their welfare. There are entire organisations established just to help people track the whereabouts of those detained.

Those who are left in villages like Jayyus are left to hope and pray to their God to protect the children they could not. Not knowing where their children are and when (or if) they will be released, is something no parent should have to go through. As NGOs such as Yesh Din work to protect the basic rights of these children, all that is left to do for those in the village is to start sweeping up the broken glass and to keep praying to their God.


Filed under Human rights, Middle East, Politics, War

3 responses to “The lasting legacy of child detention in the West Bank

  1. Blanca

    Hi Steve, first of all: thanks again for sharing this with us. Then one question: having read about the two NGOs you’ve mentioned on your post, I wonder if there are any charities/public services for young children who are still not in the streets throwing stones, etc. Are they given any sort of alternative?
    Keep the good work and stay safe.


    • Blanca, I am not sure I understand your question? Are you asking if there are positive interesting things for the kids to be doing? If so, yes, but it is clearly not as exciting as throwing stones at soldiers.

      If you are asking if non-violence and such forth is taught, then the answer is to a limited extent (see the film Budrus as an example). Indeed, Jayyus was one of the first places to resist non-violently.

      glad you enjoyed.



  2. Mark Thomas sent a link to this post via Twitter. Stunning piece of writing. Well done! Keep up the good work and keep safe.


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