Nabi Saleh, occupied West Bank – Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi, whose eight-month sentence for slapping and hitting Israeli soldiers sparked international condemnation, has been released from Israeli prison .
Tamimi broke down in tears as an emotional crowd welcomed her in the village of Nabi Saleh on Sunday.
She was released with her mother, Nariman, who was also sentenced to eight months but, like her daughter, served three weeks short of that in line with remission policy.
Addressing the crowd, Tamimi thanked activists and the media for their support during her prison stay. She said she was “extremely happy” to be “in the arms and embrace of my family” but added that her “happiness is not full” when others are still behind Israeli bars.
“My happiness is not complete without my sisters [Palestinian female prisoners], who are not with me. I hope that they will also be free,” she said.
The 17-year-old also relayed messages delivered to her by Palestinian female political prisoners, saying that they “call for national unity inside Palestine; for the people of Palestine to remain strong and united in their resistance; and for everyone to stand with the rights of political prisoners and work for their release”.
Tamimi said she was planning to pursue a career in law in order to “hold the occupation accountable”.
“In the end I want to say that the power is with the people, and the people will and can decide their destiny and decide the future. Women are a key part of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and the women’s role will continue to expand, not only in the struggle but by producing new generations that can continue the struggle. We say: ‘Leave, leave occupation.'”
For her part, Nariman Tamimi said: “As a parent, I want to say that we shouldn’t be afraid of our children and we should support them in whatever they choose to do. They are being killed whether in our homes or resisting in the streets, so support them in resistance.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera prior to the release of his daughter and wife, Bassem Tamimi described their release as “a very happy moment”.
He added: “We have missed them a lot. But I am also worried because the [Israeli] occupation is continuing and still in our lives.”
Bassem’s happiness, however, was overshadowed by a heavy heart, as his 21-year-old son, Waed, remains in Israeli detention since being arrested in an overnight raid on his home in May.
Tamimi and her mother were arrested by Israeli forces in December 2017 after a video went viral showing the young woman, then 16, hitting and slapping two armed Israeli soldiers outside her home in Nabi Saleh.
At the time, the teen was reacting to news that her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed had been shot in the face by Israeli forces with a rubber-coated steel bullet earlier in the day, leaving him in critical condition.
Tamimi was indicted on 12 charges in Israel’s Ofer military court in Ramallah two weeks after her arrest. In March, Tamimi and her mother accepted plea deals that would see them serve eight months in prison, including time served, in exchange for pleading guilty to some of the charges.
Israeli forces initiated a crackdown on Nabi Saleh after the video went viral, arresting residents and shooting dead Ahed’s 21-year-old relative Izz al-Din Tamimi during a raid on the village last month.
Tamimi’s cousin Mohammed, who is still healing from his injuries, has also been detained by Israeli forces twice since Israeli forces shot the teen in the face.
According to Tamimi’s aunt, Manal, who is also a prominent activist in the village, 15 Nabi Saleh residents are still in Israeli custody, four of whom are minors.
Meanwhile, Bassem said he was worried about the safety of his daughter after her release, noting that she had been threatened by right-wing Israeli politicians and settlers.
Earlier this year, Nabi Saleh residents woke up to Hebrew graffiti splashed around the village, some of which read “Death to Ahed Tamimi” and “There’s no place in this world for Ahed Tamimi.” Residents believe it was the act of Israeli settlers from the adjacent Halamish settlement, which was built on top of Nabi Saleh’s lands.
In another incident, settlers from Halamish demonstrated on a road that divides the village and the settlement, carrying makeshift coffins and chanting “Death to Ahed Tamimi.”
Manal, whose two sons Mohammad, 19, and Osama, 23, have continued to be held in Israeli detention since their arrests in January, said she is also worried about how Tamimi will cope with her experience in Israeli prison.
“We are worried about the experiences that she’s been through,” Manal said. “In the end, Ahed is a child and what she went through is very difficult. I think she will need some time to be a child again.”
Manal said Ahed’s imprisonment has “made it so the name Nabi Saleh and the name Tamimi have become global”.
However, she hopes that Tamimi’s release can shift the international conversation from Nabi Saleh to the experiences of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
“Now the whole world knows about what’s happening here [in Nabi Saleh],” she told Al Jazeera. “But what’s important now is for Ahed to inform the whole world about the experiences and treatment of [Palestinian] women and minors in Israeli prison.”
According to Dawoud Yusef, advocacy coordinator for Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, Palestinian women experience severe mistreatment in Israeli prisons, noting that Israeli guards are “commonly involved in the sexual abuse of female prisoners, whether verbally or physically.”
Palestinian women also face extreme forms of neglect in the prisons, such as Israeli prison authorities refusing to provide “necessary sanitary products” to Palestinian female prisoners, Yusef said.
In the case of female minors being held in Israeli prisons, “the things that stand out are the mental effects of such abuses, combined with a sense of shame over the whole ordeal,” Yusef added.
According to Addameer, of the 5,900 Palestinians who were being held in Israeli prisons as of June 1, 60 were women and 291 were minors – 49 of whom were under the age of 16.