Translated by Saed Bannoura

Five days after his release from the ‘Beit Eil’ detention camp, 15-year old Tareq Abbad, from Al Bireh, near Ramallah, north of the West Bank, celebrated his fifteenth birthday, despite the physical and psychological trauma sustained in detention.

Abbad spent eighty days in detention, along with 15 other children, all aged between 15 and 16 years, which he has left behind bars, besieged with barbed wires and high cement walls.

Tareq lost his parents in a car crash in the United States, when he was only three years old.

Tareq, with his broad forehead, open wide eyes, long eyelashes and dark hair, is fond of aviculture (raising and taking care of birds), swimming and soccer, said that while he was heading back home from school (Al Bireh new school) with his friends last April, he was apprehended by soldiers who accused him of hurling a stone on jeep.

Tareq was detained in the military detention camp, established in the middle of ‘Beit El’ settlement and military base near Al-Biereh.

Together with 15 other children Tareq was held in a 16 squared meter cell with four mattresses only. The first two weeks, Tareq and his mates had to take cold showers and were not allowed family visits or even letters.

‘The worst thing the children and I suffered from was the toilets, soldiers always locked them after midnight, and they also locked all the cells and prevented any prisoner from leaving the room to use toilets.

“We were forced to use plastic bags or bottles we gathered for this purpose” Abbad said.

At night, we used to cry, as we recall memories of our families and lost childhood, inside our cells, we spent most of the day sleeping, waking up only when it’s time for the break, we had to hide food for the night, because we get hungry, and spent nights chatting and making bracelets out of towel threads,’ Abbad added.

Tareq’s beard grew making his young face look like an old man, as he wasn’t able to shave it in detention for more than 80 days, due to the lack of razors and shaving foam.

Children in detention receive their supplies from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), but soldiers controlled the access of these supplies, and sometimes they [the soldiers] used them for themselves instead of the detainees.

Now, Tareq is free, remembers the days and night he spent in detention and the hardships he experienced there.

Tareq is happy for his release, and for returning to his grandmother’s home, and his aunt who raised him after the death of his parents as if he was her own child, yet he is still sad, whenever he remembers his young friends who are still there, in detention facing the daily hardships he experienced, he remembers those who are still there…behind bars.

“Am sure, and really hope they will be freed, we all here at home, watch the news and follow any leads about a possible release of detainees, I believe that if any deal is reaches, the first to be freed should be the under-aged detainees”, Tareq said with enthusiasm.

Yet, Tareq Abbad’s story remains one of more than 300 stories of Palestinian children, who are still imprisoned, and facing daily sufferings and hardships.

The cry of Palestinian children remains, and their call for a normal stable life remains, they want to live and grow up, they are still there calling upon the hearts and minds of every free nation is this world,

“Give us our childhood, let us live as all children in this universe do, our lives are precious to us and to our parents and society, let us be, let us live and enjoy our childhood”.