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From the field

Border Police officers beat and rob Ashraf a-Shawahin, a peddlar, July 2002

Ashraf a-Shawahin, 21 years old

I live in the Raq'a area in Yatta, with my parents and twelve siblings. Our house is small and has two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. I have been working as a peddler in Jerusalem for the past three or four years. I sell lighters, screwdrivers, pencils, small toys, small paintbrushes etc. Due to the events of the intifada and the closure, I have had to rent an apartment in 'Anata along with seven other peddlers from the Hebron area.

On Wednesday, July 3, 02, around 1:30 AM, I was in al-Musrara, near road number 1 in Jerusalem, when a Border Police jeep arrived at the place. I was standing with two other young peddlers from Sa'ir, aged twelve and thirteen. My cousin, Hassan, aged 20, was with us too. When the Border Police officers spotted us, they came close. We tried to run away, but the officers got out of the jeep. One of them chased my cousin, who managed to escape. The officer who had been driving and a female officer pointed their weapons at me and at one of the boys from Sa'ir. The 12-year-old boy started crying and they let him be. They grabbed me and pushed me into the jeep.

One of the officers was medium height. He had red hair, a thin beard and was wearing a kippah (scullcap). The one who was driving was also red headed and was wearing a police beret. The third was a woman. They all looked under the age of twenty-five. After the officers pushed me into the jeep, it drove toward Ramot. It stopped in the woods. I heard one of the officers saying that there were people around and that they should look for another spot. The jeep carried on. During the ride, the officers told me to keep my head down. The jeep came to a place not far from the fields around Ramot and stopped on a street. There was a wall on one side of it and houses on the other. The officer who sat near the driver, turned to the back door and, along with the female officer who was sitting in the back seat, gagged my mouth with a piece of cloth. I heard the officer telling the female officer that they were going to choke me.

One of the officers started choking me with his hands. He pressed on my neck. The other officer, the driver, turned around and started punching me in the chest. The female officer got out of the jeep and kept an eye on the area. They beat me for twenty minutes. I tried my best to break free and asked them to stop. I told them I was ill and have medical documentation to prove it. I spoke clear Hebrew to them, but they ignored my plea and kept beating and choking me until my mouth started bleeding and I felt my face begin to swell.

When the officers were beating me, a religious man and a blue Israeli car, driven by a woman passed by. When I saw them, I started crying out: "Please, help me. I haven't done anything. Please call the Police. They want to kill me for no reason." The religious man tried to approach the jeep. I think he wanted to help me, but the Border Police officers wouldn't let him near. I saw the woman in the blue car dialing a number on her cell phone.

After this, the Border Police officers got into the jeep and we headed east. The female officer sat by the driver. I tried to open the jeep door several times during the ride. I tried to jump out, because I thought they were going to kill me. Every time I tried to open the door, the officer with the beret beat me on the hands. Ten minutes into the ride, after a few desperate attempts, I kicked the back door and it opened. My legs were hanging off the jeep, and I started yelling: "Help me. Call the Police. They want to kill me and I haven't done anything." I tried to escape, but the two police officers sitting in the front grabbed me. The female officer pulled me inside and bit my right arm. I tried escaping and they tried holding on to me for about ten minutes. Then, a blue Police vehicle passed by. I started calling for help loudly in Hebrew.

When they heard me, they pulled up and two Police officers got out. When they saw my condition, they asked if I was from the Occupied Territories. I said I was and told them that I hadn't done anything, that I am a peddler and that my merchandise was in the jeep. They looked inside the jeep and saw the merchandise. They told the Border Police officers to take me away and release me. I said I would not go with the Border Police officers without Police escort. One of the Police officers tried to ease my mind. He told me not to be afraid because they would let me go. Despite this, I had no faith and refused to go along with it. Then, one of the Border Police officers and one of the Police officers picked me up. The two Police officers cuffed my hands with a white plastic band and a Border Police officer threw me into the jeep.

The jeep drove toward the Bethlehem road. Another Border Police jeep followed. The jeep drove for ten minutes, during which the Border Police officers beat me over the head with a club, punched me in the face and kicked me all over my body and my head. The jeep went into a public garden called Jorat al-'Einab, near the Jaffa gate. They threw me on the ground and one of the officers, who was holding a club, told me to stay down. My mouth was bleeding and I couldn't move. The officer tried to hit me and the female officer told him that there were people around. I went to the Border Police officers in the other jeep and asked for help. I heard one of them asking the officer who had tried to hit me to stop. Then, the jeeps left the place.

When the jeeps left, I stopped a bus headed toward Behtlehem and got on it. When the driver and the passengers saw me, they told me to go to the hospital. The driver let me off. A red car passed by and took me to al-Musrara. Some of the workers there took me to al-Maqassed hospital in Jerusalem. I received treatment, got x-rayed and was released that night.

The next day, my brother and I went home to Yatta. I am still in bed. I can't leave the house because of the injuries and bruises I have all over my body and my legs. I can't walk.

I had 300 shekel in notes in my ID card case. I had 200 shekel in coins in my pocket. After my ID card was returned, all my money was gone. I don't know whether left the coins in the jeep or the officers took them. In addition, my merchandise, worth about 270 shekel, was left behind in the jeep.

Ashraf Nasser Muhammad a-Shawahin, was born in 1981, he is a Peddler and he lives in Yatta, Hebron District.. The testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash at the witness' home in Yatta, July 7, 2002