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From the field

Hebron: IDF soldiers beat and abuse Palestinians in barbershop, December 2002

Wa'il Abu Rumeileh, barber at al-Wafaa barbershop, age 19

Wa'il Abu Rumeileh

I work at the al-Wafaa barbershop, which is located on Jabel Johar street, about 500 meters away from the Tomb of the Patriarchs. This area has been under curfew since Friday, 15 November 2002.

On Tuesday, 3 December, two days before the holiday, I was at the barbershop with the owner, Bassem Maswadeh, 24, and three other young men who had arrived to get their hair cut: Mahmoud Jibril a-Rajbi, 22, Bilal Muhammad Daud a-Rajbi, 20, and Shaher Sharif al-'Ajaluni, 20. The door was partially open. At around 6:00 P.M., one of the young men said that the army was on the street. I immediately went outside with Bassem to see what was happening. I could see, despite the darkness, four soldiers walking in the street toward the barbershop. We immediately went back inside and closed the iron door.

A few minutes later, I heard loud banging on the door. We didn't open the door, and the banging continued for about twenty minutes. While this went on, I heard the voice of our neighbor, Bilal Abu Queidar, 30, who owns the grocery store nearby, asking us to open the door. He said that if we didn't, the soldiers would shoot at us. I also heard one of the soldiers threaten in Hebrew that he would shoot if we didn't open the door. Bassem opened the door and four soldiers came into the barbershop. One of them held his gun up and started singing and dancing. The three customers who had been hiding behind a closet, came out.

The soldiers ordered us to take off our jackets and hand him our identification cards. Afterwards, the soldiers searched us, during which they kicked us and punched us in the stomach. Then they demanded that we sit on the couch. One of them asked who was the owner of the barbershop and Bassem answered that he was. One of the soldiers told Bassem to sit on the chair where customers have their hair cut. Two other soldiers told Shaher al-'Ajaluni to leave. They hit him on the thighs and demanded that he spread his legs. The barbershop's doors were open, and so I could see what was happening outside. Bassem sat on the chair, and the soldier took a number five electric razor and moved toward Bassem's head with it. Bassem grabbed his hand and the soldier slapped him. The soldier started cutting Bassem's hair in a funny way. Bassem asked him to use the machine with a higher number [that would cut off less hair], but the soldier told him to shut up. When Bassem saw himself in the mirror he asked the soldier to leave his hair alone, and said he would cut it himself, but the soldier ignored the request.

While the soldier was cutting Bassem's hair, the other soldiers told Bilal to go outside and stand next to Shaher. Outside, people were throwing stones. When the soldier finished cutting Bassem's hair, he told him to go outside and stand next to the barbershop door. Then, the soldier demanded that I sit on the chair. He began cutting my hair. The machine touched my scalp and it hurt. I asked the soldier to be gentle because it was hurting me, and he slapped me. When the soldier finished cutting my hair, he took a pair of scissors and went outside. He approached Bilal, cut a lock of hair, held it near his [Bilal's] mouth and told him to open his mouth. Bilal refused and the soldier placed the hair on his lips.

Later, the soldiers demanded that I leave the barbershop. As soon as I went outside, the commander told me to go back in. The soldier who had cut my hair also came into the barbershop, patted his chest and said in Arabic that now he would tell us who he was. He spoke very quickly, so I didn't manage to catch his name. Then, he opened one of the closets. He took a bottle of shampoo out of it, and after smelling it, sat me down on a chair and demanded that I open my mouth. He repeated the demand a few times, and tried to open my mouth by force, but I refused. The soldier asked the commander to come over, took a metal bucket, and hit me on the nose. I fell onto the floor and my nose was bleeding. I started screaming loudly. I was in a lot of pain. When I fell on the floor, the soldier kicked me in the stomach and demanded that I be quiet. He threatened to shoot me in the head. At the same time, the commander came inside. He pulled me toward the door, and checked for a pulse on my neck. I heard him speak in Arabic to the soldier who hit me. He said to him: "I told you not to hit him that way." The commander told Muhammad, who was in the barbershop, to bring some water and splash it on my face. Muhammad did as he was told. The commander covered me with our jackets. I lifted the jackets and saw the soldiers standing at the door of the barbershop, with their rifles resting on Bassem's, Shaher's, and Bilal's shoulders, and shooting.

A woman who was passing by came up to the door and saw what was happening. She started screaming and the soldier went out and closed the iron door. Before the soldier closed the door, I saw a TIPH [Temporary International Presence in Hebron] car driving up to the area. The driver got out of the car. One of the soldiers told him to get back in the car because Palestinians were throwing stones at the barbershop. The driver went back to the car, and the car stood on the road facing the barbershop. I could see the woman talking to the people in the car.

The soldiers were in the barbershop for about an hour. When they left, the neighbors gathered near the barbershop and took me to one of their homes in order to try to treat me. Later, we went to the Muhammad 'Ali al-Muhtasseb hospital, which is about 500 meters from the barbershop. The doctors examined me and gave me the necessary treatment and a prescription.

The soldier who cut our hair was short, plump, and light-skinned. The commander was tall, thin, tanned, and had a short mustache. The third soldier was short, stocky, and had glasses and light skin. The fourth soldier was short, had a thin face and tanned skin. They all seemed to be in their early twenties.

Wa'il Mahmoud Muhammad Abu Rumeileh is 19 years old. He is single and works as a barber. The testimony was taken by Musa Abu Hashhash at al-Wafaa barbershop, on 23 December 2002.