Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi, who was jailed by Israel for eight months after she slapped an Israeli army soldier, penned a special letter for Vogue magazine in which she addressed the hardships of growing up in the West Bank under Israeli occupation.
In the letter, which was printed in the October 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia, the 17-year-old teen recounted the story of her controversial arrest that has propelled her to the status of Palestinian icon worldwide.
"I am the child of the Israeli occupation. It has always been there. My first real memory is of my father's arrest in 2004 and visiting him in prison," Tamimi wrote.
"At the time, I was three years old," she divulged. "Last year, when I was 16, I was arrested too, during a nighttime raid, for slapping a soldier who was standing in our yard. I was sentenced to eight months in an Israeli prison," Tamimi wrote, describing the incident that was caught on camera and went viral.
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Tamimi added that while her entire young life has passed under the shadow of the occupation and her family's political attempts to resist it, she still wants to be "a regular 17-year-old."
"I like clothes, I like makeup. I get up in the morning, check my Instagram, have breakfast and walk in the hills around the [Nabi Saleh] village," she said of her day-to-day life.
But despite her efforts to lead a regular life, "I am not a normal teenager," Tamimi acknowledged in her letter. "Both my parents have been in jail, as have I, and now my eldest brother, Waed, is impriosned too."
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Tamimi admitted that if she lived in a different country and didn't feel she had to dedicate her life to the struggle against the Israeli occupation, she would want to play sports. "I wanted to become a football player but I don't play because there is no time. Instead, I have been involved in demonstrations and confrontations with the Israeli army since I was a child."
Tamimi, who has often been described as a poster child of the resistance against the occupation due to her participation since early childhood in protests, wrote that while she understood criticism against Palestinian activism, "why not criticize the army who places itself in front of children? People should not accuse us; it is the occupation that is wrong."
Of her imprisonment, Tamimi wrote: "Life behind bars was very hard... Along with the other girls, I tried to make study groups, but the prison administration did not encourage this and broke up the class. Instead, we read books, and I managed to pass my final exams in prison. Only my immediate family was allowed to visit me, and that was limited to 45 minutes through a glass barrier every two months."
Tamimi used the platform to remind readers that while she was a well-known entity who had been imprisoned, there were other children in Israeli jails "whose stories no one knows."
Tamimi admitted that she "became a symbol of the occupation" and "a spokesperson for the Palestinian cause," and said that the weight of the responsibility was not an easy one to carry.
"I am on a suspended sentence for the next five years; if I say something they don't like, I can be imprisoned for another eight months. I must tread carefully," Tamimi added.
"People often ask where I find my strength and courage to stand up to the occupation, but I am experiencing a situation which forces me to be strong," Tamimi wrote of what inspired her to continue to protest against Israel. She also gave credit to her parents who she wrote "remain my biggest inspiration."
The Palestinian teen lamented the stagnation she perceived in the struggle against the occupation. "I do not see any signs of improvement. On the contrary – the settlements will continue to expand and there will be even more checkpoints; that is what I see three years from now in the West Bank. Yet, we still aspire that one day we will live in a free Palestine. Two states will never come to pass."
But despite this, Tamimi also related some dreams and hopes for her personal future. "Now that I’ve completed high school, I want to study law, although I do not know where. I have a dream to work internationally, five years from now, doing high-level advocacy for Palestine and speaking at the International Criminal Court in the Hague."
Tamimi also reflected on what her life would look like "if there was no occupation."
The teen wrote that if she could have that alternative life, she would move to Acre,"live by the sea and go swimming. I have only been once – even if the water is only 30km from my house."
Tamimi has been abroad with her family in recent weeks. In a visit to Spain, she was honored by the Real Madrid soccer club and gifted a personalized jersey. She also visited Tunisia, where she held a meeting with the Tunisian president.