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Imprisoned after Facebook statement

"The news about 20 damaged settlers is good," Majd Atwan (22) wrote on his Facebook profile. Then she ended up in jail.



The clock has just passed two one night in April 2016. Suddenly, the Atwan family is awakened by a knock on the front door. They look out the window – and discover that the whole area is covered by armed soldiers.

"We were terrified. My husband went to open the door and was told that they had come to pick up our daughter Majd. It was shocking. Majd has never been politically active. She works with make-up, is educated at a beauty school, and is more interested in nails than politics, "says her mother Nidal when Ny Tid meets her in the family home in the village of al-Khader just outside Bethlehem. The day before, the trial against Majid was decided in the military court Ofer. For the first time since the arrest, Nidal got to talk to her daughter. She remembers well the night two months ago.

"I woke Majd and told her that soldiers had come to fetch her. We went down together. The soldiers showed us an arrest warrant in Hebrew. Majd became hysterical and tried to resist the arrest – I tried to calm her down. The soldiers told them to take her for only three days, and then come back with her, ”Nidal says.

Screen Shot at 2016 06-09-11.55.28A few days later, the family received a call from the police asking them to get a lawyer. Majd was charged with encouraging violence through Facebook and threatening the Israeli state. The background was an update on Facebook that Majd wrote in the wake of a bus being blown up in West Jerusalem, killing around 20 people. In the Facebook update, Majd stated that injured settlers were good news.

"She made a careless comment. Everyone writes and comments on Facebook – everyone in Majd's generation is active on social media. I think the purpose of imprisoning them is to deter people from expressing dissatisfaction with the situation here in Palestine. And it seems to work – I know several parents who refuse their kids to be on Facebook because they are scared, ”Nidal says.

Several arrested. Since Majd was imprisoned in April, the case has been up in court six times. The final sentence was 45 days unconditional imprisonment and a fine of 6000 Norwegian kroner. In addition, Majd risks a three-month prison sentence if she writes something similar on Facebook again in the next three years. When the verdict was handed down, the young girl had already spent 21 days in prison. Majd's case joins the ranks of several similar cases where Palestinian youths have been arrested for posting things on Facebook. In April, the three young women Noor al-Islam Darwish, Hala Beitar and Salam Abu Sharar, all students at the Al-Quds University campus in Abu Dis, were arrested in Ramallah on the basis of Facebook remarks. The same month, the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour from Nazareth was also imprisoned for publishing poems on Facebook.

According to the organization Prisoners Club, which is an interest organization for Palestinians in prison, more than 157 people have been imprisoned since October last year for things they have posted on Facebook. This is a dramatic increase since 2014, when there were 14 registered cases of the same. Some of the arrested are in so-called administrative detention without charge and sentence.

"Israel calls itself a democracy, but the authorities are arresting people who are critical of the occupation of Palestine. This places Israel in the category of countries they do not like to compare themselves with – countries that are actively working against human rights, "said the leader of the organization Abdallah al-Zeyhari.

Increasing violence. Since October last year, there has been an escalation in episodes of violence between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, many of them after attacking Israeli soldiers. The number of Israelis killed is 28, many of them civilians.

"Increasing imprisonment on the basis of Facebook status is a new practice, and it may seem that this is something Israel is doing because they are unable to deal with the uprising they are now witnessing. Still, I do not think this will stop people from rebelling. In 20 years, more than 300 people have been imprisoned for their resistance, but people have not stopped protesting, "al-Zeyhari said.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed to Al Jazeera that the authorities are now monitoring Palestinian websites in search of incitement or statements of support for violence against Israelis.

"We are working closely to uncover patterns of incitement to violence within Palestinian society," a spokesman for the ministry told Al Jazeera.


Carima Tirillsdottir Heinesen
Carima Tirillsdottir Heinesen
Former journalist for MODERN TIMES.

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