The Palestinian-Global Mental Health Network condemns the Israeli occupation authorities’ structural psychological war, ongoing systematic torture, and racism against Ahmad Manasra for more than six years, which has resulted in his deteriorating mental health. We evoke our ethical duty and call on clinicians globally and locally to stand with us in our demand that the Israeli state immediately release Ahmad Manasra to his family.
Israel has deployed countless tactics against Ahmad Manasra including strategies in which the racial state regularly engages. This includes, but is not limited to: the intimidation and terrorization of arrested Palestinian children, discriminatory and racialized application of law against them, exploitation and violation of their fragility, psychological and physical torture, the invocation of extended periods of psychological warfare prior to, during, and following their arrest and imprisonment, and the employment of ongoing machineries of surveillance and militarized persecution.
Ahmad Manasra was only a 13-years-old school-boy when he was accused of accompanying his relative and participating in what was called an “attempted stabbing”. On October 12th, 2015, we all watched Ahmad, a mere child, being cursed at, wounded and bleeding while thrown onto occupied Jerusalem’s railway tracks. Ahmad suffered severe injuries, including a fractured skull and internal bleeding in the head, and he was kept in intensive care unit with artificial respirators and induced coma while handcuffed. The leaked interrogation video was broadcast by local and international media and revealed Ahmad’s pleading voice saying, “I do not remember, by God Almighty, I do not remember. Get a doctor, let him open my head and see how I do not remember.”, while the interrogator screamed, insulted, and tortured him with the electronic bracelet pressing on his hands for hours on end.
Ahmad urged the world to listen and help in that interrogation room, but the world has yet to answer.
The details of Ahmad’s case shape the demands we are making for his immediate release.
Ahmad had not reached the legal age of conviction when he was illegally detained, Israeli authorities delayed their judicial procedures for almost a year during which he was detained in an institution away from his family and denied the bare necessities of care. Ahmad was placed in solitary confinement for 13 days before being convicted under the so-called “Counter-Terrorism Law,” which legally should not apply to minors. Ahmad was initially sentenced to twelve years in prison (later reduced to nine and a half years) in a legal precedent that evinces a legal system with double standards toward Palestinian children and their Israeli counterparts; a system governed by apartheid policies, as indicated in the most recent Amnesty report. Ahmad Manasra’s family was also fined hundreds of thousands of shekels for expenses incurred during his detention and captivity.
We want to be clear: in portraying Ahmad Manasra as a criminal and a terrorist other, Israeli authorities violated Ahmad’s rights as a child and as a human being.
Ahmad Manasra was imprisoned in conditions unbefitting of a child and alongside him, truth, justice, and humanity, were foreclosed as well. We want to attest to the fact that Ahmad has been subjected to continuous punishment and abuse, multiple physical, psychological, and social torture, including deprivation from family connectivity, visits and communication with his parents and brothers, and recent solitary confinement for up to four months.
According to International Law on Solitary Confinements, any confinement in excess of 15 days constitutes torture.
Israeli colonial policies not only violated Ahmad’s human rights as a child, but also robbed him of his freedom as they systematically and continuously abused and humiliated him, inflicted mental torture, and caused him to lose his psychological grounding and balance.
After legal attempts, and the tireless efforts of Palestinian mental health professionals, and with the help of Physicians for Human Rights, on October 2021, a psychiatrist was allowed to visit Ahmed only once, after which she issued a report stating:
“…Ahmad’s captivity at a very young age forced him as a child to deal with severe physical and psychological pressures without the care of parents or his home environment, and in the absence of the basic natural support systems for his psychological development … Staying in prison was an intolerable burden on Ahmad’s young psyche in the crucial years of adolescence, and caused a psychological crisis that developed into a disorder he is currently suffering from… It’s been a long period with extensive damage for more than ten months.”
Not surprisingly, and highlighting our dire concerns as mental health clinicians: the psychiatrist’s report was not considered by the Israeli judiciary.
Another year has passed since Ahmad Manasra’s mental health began to deteriorate, and despite serving two-thirds of his sentence, the judicial courts have rejected all pleas to shorten his sentence. They also have refused to allow him to be treated in a health institution outside of the prison in which he is incarcerated.
Ahmad’s case is an integral part of a vengeful and retaliatory colonial system that every year detains “approximately 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, who are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. The most common charge is stone-throwing.”
We, Palestinian mental health professionals, hold tight to the ethics of our profession and reach for our scientific and human compass, especially as we witness the complicit and abhorrent silence of the international community that watches Palestinian unchilding at the hands of the Israeli racial state which routinely assaults the soul, spirit, and psyche of our children, aiming at erasing any glimmer of hope for our future generations.
We join our voice with Ahmad’s father screaming: “My son is not a murderer, they took him as a child… He was tried as an adult. For a false accusation and an unfair sentence“, as well as his mother’s voice full of pain: “I will never forget that morning when he asked me to help him tie his shoes before he went out, and he never came back. Because they stole all his mornings…”
His younger brothers Abed, and Izzidin, who visited him on 28 February 2022, said: “… We are very sad for him… He wanted to see my father, but the prison authorities deprived him from seeing Dad… He told us that he was on a hunger strike… And his fate is either to burned [by the authorities], buried in prison, or killed…he was just staring at us…”
- We call on the immediate release of Ahmad, and insist that the Israeli government return Ahmad to his natural surroundings, and to his family and community where he will be able to get long-denied medical care, support, and aid.
- We refuse to allow the executioner (prison officials) to treat him, when the basic conditions of treatment such as trust, safety, and consideration for the victim’s best interests have never been met.
- We call on fellow mental health clinicians, and all honourable people in the homeland and around the world to break their neutrality and align with truth and justice, putting pressure on their governments, institutions, and various professional and academic networks to release Ahmad and all Palestinian child prisoners from Israeli occupation prisons.
- We urge you to work on initiating global campaigns to free Ahmad from psychological warfare, all forms of torture, abuse, unending racism, exploitation, and psychological intimidation in the homeland.
Today in Manchester, we joined others to bring out into the open what is happening to Ahmed a lots of other Palestinian children.
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