know your rights: empowering Palestinian children

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In December 2013 Defence for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine) launched a “Know Your Rights” campaign for Palestinian children with UK partner, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR). It will focus on empowering and educating Palestinian children to secure their basic rights while detained in the Israeli military detention system. More than 5,000 “Know Your Rights” information cards are being distributed to children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old living in West Bank communities where children appear to be targeted by Israeli forces for arrest.

DCI-Palestine will also conduct training sessions for Palestinian children in schools, to raise awareness of what to expect during arrest and detention and inform them of their rights under international law.

Click here for more details:

Climbing your way to school in Palestine

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In Khirbet Qlks, south of Hebron in the West Bank, children face a daily struggle to get to school: the Israeli occupation has closed the entrance to the school with roadblocks so that the children have to travel long distances and climb over high mounds of earth to get into school. This represents a real threat to their safety and academic achievement.

It is yet another example of the crimes of occupation against young people in Palestine.

Gaza Writes Back

 

Gaza writes back

Victoria Brittain, Rawan Yaghi, Jehan Alfarra (photo: Maha Rahwanji)

On 15 January the P21 gallery in London saw the launch of both a book and a whole new writing project, which stems largely from the experiences of young Palestinians during the apocalyptic attacks on Gaza five years ago. But the 23 contributions – written in English – are not straightforward factual narratives; they are more subtle, fictionalised expressions of the writers’ lives, hopes and aspirations, composed under the harshest of conditions. (The introduction to the book explains just how harsh.) Unsurprisingly, recurring themes are death and the struggle for physical and psychological survival, but there are also shafts of humour and poetic exaltation.

A packed audience met two young  contributors, Rawan Yaghi and Jehan Alfarra, now studying in Oxford, who talked about the importance of  writing – mostly in the form of blogs – in enabling so many of the younger generation, under siege for as long as they can remember,  to communicate with the outside world.

The brains behind the project, Refaat Alareer, and another contributor, Mohammed Suliman, joined in the conversation by Skype from Malaysia. Refaat is excited by the interest shown in the book worldwide, and there are plans to translate Gaza writes back into several languages. Since he had a huge response in Gaza to his initial call for contributions, he is already planning a second book. Watch this space!!

Gaza writes back is published by Just World Books

Click here for details: http://justworldbooks.com/gaza-writes-back/

Hilary Wise

Exposing the abuse of Palestinian children, in nine British cities by Mohammad Aburesh

In contrast with the British government position, that alternates between unconditional support of Israel on the one hand and disapproval of settlement activity and various violations in the occupied Palestinian territories on the other, in Britain there are many voices which condemn these violations. Among them, British writer Victoria Brittain and PSC activist Hilary Wise were very concerned that the people of Palestine should know that in Britain there are many who support their just cause; the latter hoped that “official Palestinian circles would be more involved in the international solidarity movement, for example by inviting groups to visit the Palestinian territories and see the violations for themselves”.

Over the past few days Wise and other activists in groups working with the campaign Action for Palestinian Children helped to organise a tour for the Defence of the Child International – Palestine. It visited nine British cities and included meetings with British officials and public meetings attended by hundreds of ordinary people; they were told of the forms of abuse suffered by Palestinian children, especially the arrests, which affect hundreds of children, in utter disregard of international humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Most of the members of the campaign have visited the occupied Palestinian territories and seen the daily violations at close quarters; these include restrictions on the movement of citizens and child arrests; one of the campaigners told AlQuds that the campaign should not stop at affirming the human rights of the Palestinian people, but should also stress the importance of solidarity with with Palestine as a state.

The tour included meetings with MPs and members of the House of Lords, and with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office official Cathy Ward, deputy head of the ME department and Clare Preece the FCO desk officer responsible for the occupied territories. There were also meetings with retired judge, Sir Stephen Sedley, Baroness Scotland, trade unions and with the Palestinian Ambassador in
the UK, Manuel Hassassian, who participated in the London meeting. Haya El Farra of the embassy also accompanied the delegation on most of their visits.

The focus of the tour was on stressing the need to implement the recommendations of the report presented in June last year by a mission [to Israel] consisting of ten lawyers. The recommendations, which have received the support of the Foreign Office, revealed the extent of the abuse and discrimination in terms of the conditions of detention and interrogation, and the discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children. The recommendations emphasized “the need to treat Palestinian children on an equal footing with their Israeli counterparts,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Programme Director of Defence of the Child International.

He stressed the importance of the tour of British cities in maintaining the interest shown internationally in the report on the Israeli court system, revealing as it does the existence of blatant violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law. He also noted that another visit of the lawyers group will be organised soon (next March), in order to assess any changes in the Israeli military court system, and to find out which of the 40 recommendations contained in the report have been acted upon. Essentially, most of the recommendations aim at bringing Israeli military law into line with humanitarian law, especially regarding the conditions of
detention and interrogation.

Abu Eqtaish, who took part in the tour, gave ​​a presentation in the various meetings, describing the flagrant discrimination in Israeli laws applicable to children: Palestinian children get military law, their Israeli counterparts, civil law!

Mohammad Aburesh

This article was first published by Al Quds and can be read in Arabic here: http://www.alquds.com/news/article/view/id/475151

knocking on the walls of silence

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Thank you to everyone who helped make the recent UK speaking tour such a success. Our two speakers, Muhammad Al Rish (ex-child prisoner & journalist at Al Quds newspaper) and Ayed Abu Eqtaish (Defence of the Child Interntational – Palestine) would like us to thank everyone who made them feel so welcome in the UK and enabled them to tell the story of what is happening to Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system.

There were 10 public meetings hosted by a broad range of groups including branches of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, university Palestine societies, trade union branches, Amnesty & twinning groups. Ayed & Muhammad also addressed the Palestine-UK Social Work Conference in London.

There were very productive briefings with senior lawyers from the delegation that produced the Children in Military Custody report (CIMC) on which our pledge demands are based.

You can read the report here: http://www.childreninmilitarycustody.org

They also briefed officials at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, MPs & Lords/Ladies at a Palestine All Party Political Group in the House of Commons, and trade union officers.

Muhammad has sent this message to everyone:

“Thank you for your hospitality and organizing the seminars and meetings. Your work shows the scope of interest in the Palestinian case. For me, the experience was more than wonderful; I’m convinced now of the idea that there are people from the other side of the world knocking on the walls of silence and seeking to spread the fact of crimes of racism and oppression.

What you’re doing for Palestine is a humanitarian service of great people appreciating the meaning of humanity and freedom, and we stand by your side to provide what is necessary for the success of the campaigns organized by you.”

One outcome is that we know the FCO have committed to sending the lawyers from the CIMC delegation back to Palestine in March to check on progress made. This means the government feels under pressure to act on this issue and this only happens because people like you are keeping the issue in the public eye.

Help us keep up the pressure on our political representatives by asking your MP to sign the pledge for human rights for Palestinian children.

You can check if they’ve signed here: http://action4palestinianchildren.org/has-your-mp-signed/

You can ask them to sign here: act.palestinecampaign.org/lobby/107

Thank you.