PRISON STORIES: Raya Shamali

 College student Raya Shamali (Photo by Mati Milstein)

College student Raya Shamali (Photo by Mati Milstein)

Raya Shamali, university student, from Haifa

CASE: Arrested for organizing a political rally

"My mom called me at work, in a panic, and she's like 'Where are you? You need to come home! The police came. They searched the house and took your dad because they didn't find you.' We didn't know what happened or why they took Dad or why they wanted me. My dad called two hours later and said 'You need to come to the police station. You can come yourself or they will come and take you.' When I got to the police station, I walked in and saw my dad was in handcuffs. But he had a smile on his face. 

"The police interrogated me about everything, stuff that I didn't think anyone would know about me. They asked about my friends at school, my major. The cop said, 'Your major is physics, chemistry, and computer science. Why would you do something like go to a protest? You are supposed to be smart. Why do something so stupid?'

"They interrogated us till 2 AM. We slept for a couple hours then they took us to the court. They took me alone because I was still a minor. When the police were dragging me to the court, he said to the guards there: 'Hey guys, I brought you a gift.' They asked what he brought and he said: 'A minor.' I kinda freaked out. I had to sign a paper saying I agreed to be in a cell with people who were older than me. After that, me and the other girls lost track of time. We couldn't sleep, we couldn't eat. 

"I know about my rights, so I was prepared. I wasn't scared. But when they took my dad I felt like 'Oh no! Not my dad! Don’t get him involved in this!' I was more worried about him than me. When I got to the court, my mom started crying which made everything worse. 

"I don't think I would have got out of jail so quickly if it wasn't for Adalah. There were so many lawyers from Adalah, I was shocked. It made me feel safe. I was worried the whole time that when I get to the court, I'm going to have a lawyer from their side – appointed by the state. And then I'd be screwed. So when I saw Adalah there, I felt a great relief. I knew I was in good hands. I was released that afternoon."

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Adalah represented Raya and many other young Palestinian citizens of Israel who were illegally arrested by police for legitimate protest activities over the past years. Repressive police acts include arbitrary arrests of minors; 'preventive arrests' of activists; arrests of activists' family members; and severe physical violence against protestors.

For the last two years, Adalah and Baladna – Arab Youth Organization have cooperated on a joint EU-funded project to protect the freedom of expression rights of Palestinian youth in Israel, both for on-the-street demonstrations and for protest online. In October 2017, the organizations convened a training for young Arab lawyers on freedom of expression rights and held a hands-on workshop for youth on "Digital Activism."