Books, pencils, notebooks, and sometimes toys are what you’ll find in a child’s bag. But Israeli occupation soldiers have vilified these bags to harass, oppress, and accuse children—or even arrest them—without any reason.
Children in the H2 area of Hebron are at the mercy of the checkpoints. They must be careful about their behaviour, what they carry in their bag, and how soldiers might interpret the contents during a bag search. 15-year-old Mira* said: “When I leave home, I don’t want anyone to check my bag because this is the only thing I have that is private, and I don’t like to let anyone look at it.”
Article 28.2 from the Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for “appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.” Children have the right to go to school safely and not be humiliated by soldiers through physical checks and verbal harassment. Despite this, Israel is still checking, arresting, and killing children.
Mira continues to tell us more stories about the obstacles she faces on her way to school. “Sometimes soldiers stop us asking for IDs. When we tell them we don’t have an ID because we are children, they check our bags and throw their contents on the floor.” After they finish, they don’t bother themselves to return things to the bag. She added, “the reason for their actions is because they don’t want us here; they want us to leave.”
In light of this, I started thinking about what children might experience and feel on their way to school. So, I decided to go to the office via a different route, requiring me to cross multiple checkpoints. I brought with me a bag like students’ bags.
When I reached the first checkpoint, I took a breath, and I tried not to be stressed because it would make me suspicious. When the soldiers opened the gate and I entered, I felt fear. I wasn’t aware of myself or aware of anything around me; I was thinking about how to get out of there. These feelings were understandable; I don’t have any control over my life in that space, and I don’t know what will happen.
Since they saw me on the camera while I was entering, the soldiers stood up and waited for me to enter. Immediately the soldier asked me to give her my bag to check it. She started searching for something suspicious, and when she found nothing she asked me for my ID and then she let me go.
After crossing the checkpoint, I checked my bag to make sure she hadn’t put anything in my bag that soldiers at the second checkpoint would find as cause for arrest. Thank God I found nothing. This small experience made me think of the children who have to cross the checkpoint multiple times every day.
In a place where there is no peace or justice and where children and parents don’t know where to find support to demand their rights, education and schools are the only way to liberation. With every sunrise, soldiers put obstacles in front of these students.
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*Name changed for security reasons