Zakariya Barak'a, father of four
For the last three years I have worked at in various jobs, mostly in construction, for Arabs in Beit Safafa [in south Jerusalem]. I am not yet thirty, and I cannot get a permit to enter Israel despite the fact that I have submitted several requests in Etzion [DCO office]. All of my requests were rejected due to security reasons that were not explained to me.
On Tuesday, 15 February 2005, I left my house in the 'Ayda refugee camp around 6 AM as I do every day. I walked about twenty minutes to the Dir a-Tantur area through Rachel's Tomb to the Tantur Monastery. I jumped over the fence into the monastery's territory and walked to the gate that faces towards Beit Safafa. I walked to the village and when I arrived at the center I saw two Border Police officers standing in front of me, face to face. They instructed me to give them my ID card. I gave the ID to one of the officers and heard the other officer speaking over the radio in Hebrew. I understand a bit of Hebrew, and I understood that he said that he caught a Palestinian worker and he would catch more workers. I stood with the police officers on the road for about twenty minutes. While we were standing there they caught about thirty workers who were walking on the same road, on the way to work in Beit Safafa. The two police officers were stopping them and taking their IDs.
After about twenty minutes, a green Mitsubishi car with red license plates appeared. Two police officers in beige uniforms got out of the car. I recognize them as military police officers. I see them a lot in Beit Safafa and have learned to recognize them. They checked all of our IDs. The police officers stared at me and at another worker who had a beard. They asked me if I had a permit. I told them I did not, like the rest of the workers they had stopped. They instructed me to get into the car and sit in the back seat. I heard the two border patrol officers directing the other workers to walk to checkpoint #300 to get their IDs back from the soldiers at the checkpoint. I got into the back seat and the two officers with the beige uniforms sat in the front seat. We drove to checkpoint #300.
The police officers let me out on the same road as the checkpoint, and I saw about a hundred workers there that had also been stopped. I waited with the workers on the road for about a half hour until one of the police officers that brought me there instructed me to get back into the same car. I got in, and two police officers took me to the Russian Compound [a police station in West Jerusalem]. They took me to the courtyard of the Russian Compound and they went into the building. After about a half hour, an army officer, a soldier, and the two police officers entered the courtyard. I heard them saying that I have no problem with the Russian Compound and that my problem had nothing to do with them. The two police officers took me from the courtyard, told me to get back into the same car, and took me to the police station in Talpiot [also in West Jerusalem].
They led me into the station and took me to a room where there was a police investigator. He asked me if I had a permit and I told him that I did not. He told me to tell him what happened, and I told him what had happened to me since I left my house that same morning. He wrote down what I said and when I finished, he told me to sign the testimony. I signed without any problems, and then he told me to sign a document promising that I will not enter Israel again and another document that said that if I get caught again in Israel I would pay a 5,000 NIS fine. I refused to sign these two documents, and he told me that if I don't sign they would detain me for three months. I refused to sign because a year ago I signed a document like this, and when I came to the Etzion DCO office to request a work permit they told me that I had promised not enter Israel and therefore I am not even allowed to come to Etzion. They told me that if I came again, they would detain me and not let me return home. They also told me that I have no chance of obtaining a work permit until I am thirty years old. Because of this I refused to sign the forms the investigator gave me in Talpiot.
I argued with the investigator and the argument became heated. He started to curse at me and I cursed him back. He got mad and left the room in anger. After he left, two uniformed police officers entered the room. They were tall, with light colored skin and were bald in the front part of their head. They looked like they were in their mid-thirties and both were fat. They took me out of the room and transferred me to an empty room, without any furniture. They didn't ask me anything but immediately started kicking me and beating me in the neck and back. I was on the floor the entire time, and I tried to protect my face with my hands. They hit me for ten or fifteen minutes and it felt like my entire body had been broken. When they stopped, they tied my hands with plastic hand cuffs, dragged me across the floor, and brought me back to the investigation room. The investigator was there and said to me: 'What do you think? This time you'll sign the forms without trying to philosophize with me.' I refused to sign, and the investigator called another police officer, not one of the two who hit me.
This police officer took me to the empty room and left me in the room. I waited for the two police officers to arrive and hit me like they did before. But after I stood there alone for half an hour, a police officer arrived and took me back to the investigation room. I was tired and my neck and back hurt. The same investigator was in the room and this time he didn't talk to me. I sat on the chair and the investigator worked on his computer without looking or speaking to me. After about twenty minutes, two new police officers escorted me out of the station and placed me in a military vehicle. They drove me to the Etzion detention station.
When I got to Etzion I heard the afternoon call to prayer. The two police officers let me out of the car and took me into a long corridor. They told me to wait at the end of the corridor, and they entered one of the rooms. I stayed there for about an hour and a half, standing and waiting. No one came over to me or spoke to me. Afterwards, a police officer arrived and took me to a room. He took my testimony and he wrote it down. I told him what had happened to me, and I signed the testimony. After I signed, the police officer told me to sign the document saying that I would not enter Israel and threatened that if I refused I would be detained for three months. He told me the signature was a standard procedure. I refused to sign and the officer began to curse at me. He left the room and another officer entered the room and took me to a different room. My hands were still tied with the plastic handcuffs.
The officer left the room and then three police officers entered. They were big. One of them said, 'He doesn't want to sign. He'll see what he gets,' and immediately the three of them attacked me and began hitting me and kicking me all over my body, especially in the back and legs. They had on heavy military shoes and their kicks hurt. I felt the bones in my back breaking. They punched me a few times in the face and I bled from my nose and mouth. It felt as if blood was coming out of my ears because of the pain. They beat me continuously for about half an hour and then left the room. A different officer entered the room, helped me get up from the floor, and took me to a room with a sink. I washed my face, but I continued to bleed from my nose and mouth. Afterwards, the officer took me to a corridor and I sat on one of the chairs. My entire body ached. I sat for about two hours, not able to move from exhaustion and pain.
After two hours, a police officer took me into a room. The same investigator as before was sitting inside. He said to me: 'You don't want to sign the obligation and be done with the beating and pain?' I refused to sign and the investigator left me and began to work on his computer. I sat there for fifteen minutes, and I was sure that I was about to get another beating. The thought alone made me shudder and increased the pain. Those minutes were especially long. Afterwards, the investigator called one of the officers, gave him my ID, and told him to take me outside. The officer escorted me out of the investigation room, removed the hand cuffs, took me to the outer gate, gave me back my ID, and told me to go home. I was shocked because I didn't think they would let me go until I signed the document. When the officer told me to leave, I began to run. I wanted to escape Etzion because I was scared they would change their minds, bring me back there, and beat me.
After about 500 meters I stopped running and stated to walk. I don't know how I managed to walk with the pain in my legs and back. I walked until I got to the Beit Fajjar intersection, which is around a kilometer and half from the Etzion station. At the intersection, a car with Palestinian license plates passed me. The car stopped and the driver got out. He saw my condition and he brought me a bottle of water from the car, helped me wash my face, and drove me to al-Khadr. I walked by foot, past the dirt roadblocks between al-Khadr and Bethlehem and took a taxi to the 'Ayda refugee camp. I immediately collapsed when I got home and lost consciousness. I woke up in the Government Hospital in Beit Jala.
Zakariya Yusef Muslem Barak'a, 28 years old, married and father of four children. He works in construction and is a resident of the 'Ayda refuse camp in the Bethlehem district. His testimony was taken by Suha Zeid, in his house, on 2/27/05.