Palestine: The Consequences Of Child Detention

“As a person, I have changed. My anger has increased and I can’t tolerate anything. I no longer like sitting at home and want to be out of the house all the time”

Ahmed, 17, Former Child Detainee

For over 50 years, the Israeli army has occupied the Palestinian territories of Gaza, the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem

A number of human rights violations have occurred during this period, including the detention of children. Fifty percent of the Palestinian population is currently under the age of 18, and an estimated 500 to 700 Palestinian children are detained and imprisoned by the Israeli army each year.

Doctors of the World has worked in Palestine for over 20 years, implementing projects to improve mental health, emergency response during times of conflict, and improving living conditions for children and families. Our teams are currently treating children who have previously been detained and imprisoned.

“The number of those being detained has definitely risen since 2014, especially in the West Bank. There are checkpoints, there are soldiers all the time, there is a security tower – the situation here is tough.”

Hamzeh, DotW Social Worker

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Almost 80% of detained children are subjected to physical violence or assault during their arrest, transfer to prison, or interrogation. Human rights violations such as these, as well as harsh conditions experienced during detention, have significant psychological effects on the children’s mental health, and that of their families.

When children are released from detention, they often suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the violence, intimidation and humiliation they have experienced. They experience constant feelings of insecurity, and many drop out of school or have difficulty at home with family relationships.

“Sadly, when a child is put into prison their childhood ends because they are forced into adulthood.”

Amina, DotW Project Coordinator

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Our work in Palestine focuses on reintegrating child detainees into mainstream society while simultaneously providing psychological support to them and their families. Our teams provide safe spaces for children to talk about their experiences, and we offer activities (such as sports, photography, theater) to alleviate stress and to help the children cope with being an ex-detainee at such a young age.

While the military tends to target boys and men, Palestinian women and girls are also affected by the detentions. Many are daughters, sisters and mothers of ex-detainees, and they are significantly impacted by the consequences of the detention experience on their family.

 

“At first I didn’t accept that Palestinian children could be traumatized. But after looking in depth at the symptoms that the children express I changed my mind.”

Hunaida, DotW Psychologist

To address the effects of detention on family members, our teams also provide mental health counseling to mothers of children who have been detained to help them cope with the trauma of their child’s imprisonment. Many have had their houses raided multiple times and, when their children are removed, these women often experience feelings of insecurity and helplessness because they believe they have not been able to protect their families.

Learn more about our work with child detainees and other vulnerable groups in Palestine.