Interview with Fadi Quran - March 2, 2012

The following is an interview I conducted with Palestinian-American activist Fadi Quran on March 2, 2012, following his release from military custody. Quran was arrested on Feb. 24 during a protest in Hebron, West Bank. He was released on Feb. 28 after growing international media and pressure.

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  1. Check out this Al Jazeera Storify link for a summary of what happened to Quran.
  2. Kristian Bailey: What is the current state of your legal affairs? Are you still on bail? What have you been charged with? Does the Israeli court have to decide to try you by a certain date?

  3.  

    Fadi Quran: I still don’t know whether they’re going to try me again or not. What I do know is that they have 180 days to re-try me. That’s number one. Number two is that when I was being interrogated the interrogator was very clear with me--he told me, in essence what he said is that we know what you and the people you work with have been working on in terms of community--organizing a non-violent resistance--and that we’re keeping an eye on you and in essence we are going to try to do what we can do to shut you down. Now, it was obvious there was a video showing that nothing happened. And he said now--he took out 10 pieces of paper--and he said that 10 of the soldiers around you have stated that you have attacked them. Luckily the video proved that that’s not the case, and I guess with the international pressure and the fact that the video is on YouTube, they realized it would be very embarrassing if they kept me in prison based on those lies, so they decided to release me.

  4. Palestinian youth activist Fadi Quran assaulted/arrested for speaking / Journalists assaulted
  5. KBHow many others were originally arrested with you in Hebron?

    FQ: On that day, there were six people arrested in total. But with me directly, the people who were arrested with me were two guys.


    KB: What is their legal status right now?

    FQ: They were also released on bail. They were both young--one was 16 and the other was, I think, like 20 years old or 19 years old. And they were released last night.


    KB: Were they charged with the same thing?

    FQ: No, they were charged with throwing stones. But what we realized--one of the reasons that they were released was that the same soldier who testified against us and was going to come and testify against them was known to be a liar. He testified against five other people before and they had proved that his testimony was a lie. And thank God, the video that was shot of me being arrested and the fact that that soldier and the others who came to testify that I attacked and the video showed proof otherwise is going to be very useful, because there are in total other 10 people who have been wrongfully accused--who are innocent but have been accused. And usually an IDF soldier’s word is worth, in front of the military court [segment unclear] is worth a million Palestinian witnesses' words. But the fact that the video was available showed that this soldier is a liar. And so it’s going to be useful hopefully in all the other court cases.

  6. KB: Did the judge acknowledge that the witness had lied before--who determined that he had lied in court?


    FQ: Our lawyer actually pointed it out.


    KB: How did the judge respond?


    FQ: The judge--with that same judge specifically, there were three cases where the same soldier had lied, so the judge couldn’t deny that that was true. So the judge, based on what I remember, acknowledged that the soldier has been caught a bunch of times lying. Unfortunately this happens all the time, where to put people behind bars--like a very good friend of mine, Samili, who is also a community organizer [segment unclear]--and Amnesty International just declared him a prisoner of conscience--they have testimony against him from soldiers that’s false, completely false. And yes, he’s been in prison and his trial has been going on far a year now. So they use this tactic to put very active people and successful community organizers in prison often, and sometimes, like in my case, things come together where there’s a video and international pressure and people are released, but in the vast majority of cases, unfortunately, that’s not the case.

  7. KB: Can you give me some context about last Friday’s demonstrations in Hebron?

    FQ: Some general context is that Hebron right now is in essence an apartheid city. What that means is that there are segregated roads, the [word unclear] sections are segregated, where the settlers get 10 times as much water as the indigenous Palestinian residents of the city, and different infrastructure is built for both sides. And it’s [word unclear] so that infrastructure of the settlers takes priority over infrastructure for the city itself. So there’s a lot of problems--it’s just apartheid. You can imagine two  where there is one group of people dominating and using their domination to oppress another group of people.


    What the protest was about was a specific road that was the main trade and market road in Hebron, called Shuhada Street. It had most of the markets, it was just the main road--you can think about it as like University Avenue in Palo Alto, something like that. And it was closed down to Palestinians, all the stores, all the Palestinian [word unclear] shut down and Palestinians are not allowed to use that street. And those Palestinians who live on that street are only allowed, a small patch on the side of the road to walk to their homes. So the march was an nonviolent march to try and simply walk on the this road--to open Shuhada Street for Palestinian youth.


    And when we started marching--I don’t know how much context you want...


    KB: Whatever you think is relevant.

    FQ: We marched from different locations down the street. In the march I was in there were about between 500 to 1000 people, and while we were marching, they began to shoot rubber bullets and tear gas and skunk water at us, which is basically sewage water. And a lot of the people just ran back, ran away. But we, a few of us activists, ran forward. We ran towards the soldiers to nonviolently protest. And to basically just stand in front of them and to continue moving forward in the march. When we got near the soldiers, they, at one of my friends-they attacked him and they sprayed pepper spray in his face. And I was cleaning up the pepper spray off his face and so forth and they came back to us they started pushing us, telling us to leave and telling us that they were going to arrest us.


    At that moment, I saw that my friend was essentially in pain, so I started yelling saying, ‘Listen, we have every right to be here and we’re not a afraid of you. We’re willing to suffer any type of violence you use against us to achieve freedom and justice.’ And in essence, this is Palestine.’ [Pause] So when we said that, when I said that, and I said ‘This is Palestine--we’re not afraid of you. What do you want from us? This is Palestine.’ When I said that, they grabbed me, put pepper spray in my head and then arrested me. And while they arrested me, they hit my head against a bumper of the military vehicle and I fainted, because when they shot the pepper spray, a lot of it came in my nose and in my chest, so I couldn’t breathe. And after that, when they put me in the car, they moved the press away--I was calling for an ambulance--but they moved all the press way and they started kicking me and beating me up and knocking my head to the ground and so forth, and they threw me into the military vehicle. That’s basically what I remember of the protest itself.


    KB: Do you have any estimate of how long you were lying in the street after they first tried to arrest you?

    FQ: They started beating me up and lifting me. On the street itself? I honestly don’t remember. I can’t give you as specific time. But it was more than 10 minutes. They were stepping on my stomach and kicking me in my head and so forth...



  8. KB: I spoke to a spokesperson from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who got information form the IDF saying: 1) that the protests on Friday were unauthorized and therefore illegal. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

    FQ: So basically, under Israeli military law, there’s Military Order Number 101. What Military Order Number 101 says is that any type of gathering of more than 10 Palestinians to discuss political or cultural issues is illegal under their military law, and could be punished by years in prison and fines, and so forth. And of course this is a military rule--this is military law. And so to get authorization for any type of meeting, you need to ask the military ruler of the West Bank or the civil administration--[break to talk to someone in room]--So, where was I? Yes, so you need to ask authorization. But of course, it’s like saying that the protesters in South Africa shouldn’t have protested or marched without getting authorization from the apartheid regime. It’s similar to saying that the African-Americans in the South shouldn’t have protested in Birmingham before getting authorization from the U.S. Army. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s a racist policy--it’s a dictatorial occupation--it’s an apartheid regime. And of course no type of protest or march towards freedom or justice is going to be accepted by them.


    KB: The second part of the statement that we received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was that, “Approximately 1,000 Palestinians gathered at a number of flash-points, hurled two Molotov cocktails, set fire to a tire and bombarded security forces with rocks,” referring to last Friday’s events. Were there any violent actions on the part of any of the Palestinian protesters?

    FQ: What usually happens during these protests is that the protests are completely nonviolent. They basically--just give me one second sorry [Pause]--sorry about that--So what usually happens at these protests in the West Bank is that you have Palestinians marching nonviolently towards a few specific goals--either to liberate their land or to challenge segregation, and so forth. And these protests are usually [mic fades out briefly] violently by the Israeli Army. So they launch rubber bullets, tear gas, they launch sewage water at the protesters, and so forth. And so when that happens the crowd that’s marching is usually dispersed. And of course they arrest people, they usually drive into the crowd with their military vehicles and begin running over people and arresting people. After that happens you have people who begin launching rocks and Molotov cocktails--after the march itself is dispersed and after it ends, you have people who begin throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. The two things you need to keep in mind are: first of all the presence of these military occupation forces is in and of itself an act of violence. And regardless of what Palestinian youth threw Molotov cocktails and rocks after the protest ended or during the protest, the central injustice, the central injustice--the central problem is their presence in this occupied land. And in Egypt, during the Egyptian revolution, the youth were completely nonviolent, as footage shows. When they were attacked, when they were being bombarded with tear gas and so forth, they did begin throwing rocks, some of them threw Molotov cocktails and the same thing happened in Tunisia and other countries. Fortunately, that stuff is not usually frowned upon and is seen as a natural and normal reaction to being shot at and so forth by basically angry youths who are being oppressed. But unfortunately in the Palestinian case, people forget that the military is there illegally, people forget that the marches started completely nonviolently and that no one was trying to act violent until the Israeli military began using violence. And people forget the vast majority of nonviolent activists are arrested prior, like myself--I was arrested prior--to the news of any type of threat. [Primary voice recorder failed, backup recorder continues interview] And I was clearly being nonviolent in my activism, when I approached them and so forth. People forget all those things and, to me, its one of the propaganda tactics, which is to focus on these types of things as though their presence there is in and of itself lawful and the Palestinians are doing illegal acts. Israel by its presence here, by its apartheid policies, is violating the Fourth Geneva Convention. And that is the central act of violence--they murder people, they steal people’s resources, they imprison people without fair trial, and so forth. And that’s the central problem in this case. Not that a few youth throw stones, after nonviolent protests--that’s not the issue that should be at the center of any discussion.



  9. KB: Moving back to your experience, would you be able to give us an account of what happened between the moment of your arrest and the moment of your first trial--so, the legal proceedings?

    FQ: It’s a very long story. I can tell you that first of all, when I was arrested, the two others who were arrested with me--they put us all in the same vehicle. One was a 16 year old whom they literally just picked off of the street and they beat him up, and then he started crying--he’s a young kid, in the ninth grade, I think--and when we were in the vehicle, of course, I still couldn’t see or breathe and I was asking for a doctor because I was losing my breath and I was going in and out of consciousness essentially, but they refused and they were making fun of me, and so forth. a\nd they were beating up the little kid every time he would cry or sob or start asking for help, they would bang his head against the wall of the military vehicle [segment unclear] And that lasted--that type of abuse, of course whenever the soldiers opened the door to add more people and to check on us, they would punch or kick or try to slam the door on one of our limbs and so forth. It was just a very violent experience. Eventually they took me to the interrogation center. And in the interrogation--specifically with the juvenile, the 16 year old, they used different forms of psychological abuse, they threatened one of the young men who was with me with murder. They told him that ”We are willing to kill you if you lie to us. We can tell when you lie, and you shouldn’t lie.’


    It was deep types of stress. And they kept refusing to give me the proper medical treatment for my wounds and they just kept saying ‘We’re not going to bring you a doctor, we’re not going to bring you a doctor,’ and so I couldn’t see for the first 24 hours of my arrest--I couldn’t see due to the pepper spray in my eyes. And that was a problem, of course. And eventually they were going to drive us to the military prison that they take most Palestinian political prisoners to, which is called Ofer. But instead, they heard me [segment unclear] they drove the two kids that were arrested with me there at midnight, and I...told the kid with me, ‘Look, I know a lot of activists who were going to meet at the military prison and they’re going to be able to help you give you warm clothes, because both of the kids were not wearing jackets, and so forth. The driver, I guess noticed that I wasn’t afraid of going to this prison and I guess they wanted to make me pay the price for my activism, so they dropped the kids off at the military prison where they put Palestinian activists at and instead they took me back to Hebron and put me in solitary confinement. They put me in a room alone that had basically throw up and feces on the ground, and so forth. And I got there at 3 a.m.--they strip searched me, and I then, as I was about to fall asleep--I still couldn’t see of course from the pepper spray--I could barely open my eyes. At 5:30 a.m., after basically sitting in the room with bright lights on for an hour, an hour and a half, one of the soldiers walks in and says, basically begins to... me and asks me to clean up, to clean up the room. I tell him ‘Listen, I can barely see because of the pepper spray and I don’t have anything to clean this room up with. What do you want me to do? You’re violating my rights--I want to know where I am, what time it is, if you could get me a doctor.’ Of course he refused and he began screaming at me--and I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying because he was speaking in Hebrew, although I asked him if he could speak in English. Eventually he was saying, ‘If you don’t clean the room, we’re going to clean the room with you.’ And I said--therefore, to avoid more trouble, I cleaned the room and the nearby bathroom with my blanket that was in the room and I had to sleep essentially cold. They kept me in that room alone without anyone with me for 24 hours in solitary confinement. And I didn’t know what time it was and the room didn’t have any windows and the bright lights stayed on--they never closed them. So I stayed in that room for 24 hours, until the next day--they moved me to another prison, in Jerusalem this time. Because they didn’t want to take me to any of the prisons where Palestinian political prisoners were at, because the interrogator and the people that arrested me knew that I had contacts at those locations, so they wanted to put me in other places. They took me to a prison in Jerusalem, and I spent about two days there. And then the last day, they took me to Ofer Prison for my court, and they took me to Ramallah prison, which is another different prison. So overall, I was moved around to four different prison locations. And throughout the process--I am going to write about all the abuse I faced and all the abuse, most importantly that the youth with me, especially the 16 year old, faced--but it was just a lot of physical and psychological abuse.


    KB: When did you gain access to a lawyer?

    FQ: To a lawyer--first of all, the day of my interrogation, on Friday, one of the lawyers, a friend of mine was capable of getting access to us, but they didn’t want to give him time, to give him enough time to speak with us all. But we had access to him for a little bit. And he didn’t know what the case was, of course, because on my case, they told him they have secret files. And so he didn’t know what I was going to be accused of, he didn’t know what the information they had was. All he could tell me was to just remain silent during the interrogation.


    KB: And so the next time you had contact with him was on Monday at your trial?

    FQ: Yes--the next time was just at the trial.


  10. KB: How would you [characterize] your two experiences at court?

    FQ: Essentially, I would categorize my two experiences in court as, first of all--the most important thing to note about these courts is that they’re military courts used to subjugate an occupied people. The courts in and of themselves are illegitimate. That’s number one. The second thing--


    KB: How are they illegitimate?

    FQ: The courts are illegitimate because it’s an occupying force. In essence, all courts should be just courts who--I’ll put it this way: in essence, the goal of justice, the goal of law is that you have an elected legislative body, who puts and sets---elected by the people democratically--and who sets the rules for that population, for the benefit and protection of that specific population. What Israeli military courts that are such, and the laws that they enforce are set by a military and colonial force, which is the Israeli military, essentially. And the laws that they enforce are not for the protection of the Palestinian people, but rather to ensure the domination of one group of people, which are Jewish-Israelis, over another group of people, which are Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. So they are apartheid courts. And that’s why they’re illegitimate--they violate the core principles and values that should be at the essence of any legal and justice system. And so, that’s--you would think if a court was a just democratic court, it would not be possible for your interrogator or the military to come and submit a secret file that no one has access to, except for the judge and the military officials. So how can you verify that the information in the secret file is true, for example. Number one.


    Secondly, the military courts can impose administrative prison terms, so they could have kept me in prison for 15 years without any charges, without telling me what they were suspecting me of doing. Without accusing me of anything, they could have just kept me in prison.


    And that’s what, at the first court, that’s what it seemed was the most likely thing to happen. Because the judge said, ‘We have a secret file... and I’m just going to give the Israeli military the time they need to do whatever they see fit.’ That’s what the first court case seemed to indicate. And I expected to stay in prison for a long time because it was clear that the judge and the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence were on the same page. And based on what the interrogator told me, it was clear that they wanted to begin to put us nonviolent activists away. And I wasn’t the first case--they have put a lot of my fellow activists in prison. So I assumed that my time had come and they wanted to... [five second trouble with mic] Fortunately, I had a good lawyer. And more fortunately, the video that was taped and the international publicity ensured that the video got around had affected the lawyer in order to get me another court hearing.


    And in the second court hearing, it was clear that the judge felt under pressure and that more videos had surfaced, that provided, without any reason of a doubt, that I didn’t attack anyone. And that I was being nonviolent.

  11. KB: Do you think that you were treated any differently legally because of your American citizenship?

    FQ: Because of my American citizenship? No. Two things: first of all, the American government can’t actually influence the legal process against Palestinians. I’m not the first case of a Palestinian-American, of a Palestinian with American citizenship being arrested. And Americans who are of Palestinian descent are consistently abused in Palestine. I was just the first case that got this type of public attention. And secondly, I think from a moral standpoint, I didn’t want to have the American government influence my case, if they were not willing to interfere in the cases of the two juveniles who were arrested with me. And in the cases of 300 other administrative detainees and thousands of other political prisoners, who are just as unjustly imprisoned, as I was. And the final thing to note, is that a lot of the proof that Israeli troops and Israeli border guards use to abuse, whether it was the pepper spray, whether it was shackles that they put on my feet, and whether it was the different types of tools that they used to abuse us, were all made in the United States. And I think that before the United States can do anything, it needs to stop giving Israel this type of military aid that it uses to enforce its apartheid regime.  

  12. KB: When did you learn about the support that the Stanford community and other international communities were giving to you? Do you have any direct responses to those communities?

    FQ: Honestly, while I was in prison, I had no access to any information. Apart from the five minutes they gave me with my lawyer on the day of my arrest, I had no access to the outside world. And so I didn’t know that there was any type of support.


    My mother came to my first hearing, and she came to try to speak with me and give me a hug, but [the soldiers] basically began pushing her away and yelling at her, and threatening to arrest her because she tired to speak to me and give me a hug. So I didn’t know about the support--the international support and the support that I got from Stanford--until I was out of prison. But this support truly [word unclear] and after I noticed the type of influence it was having, I was very happy. I’m very, very grateful to the Stanford community specifically, and to all the people that supported me while I was in prison.


    But I think that I’m not the only case and that the Stanford community should support all the Palestinian political prisoners who are just as unjustly imprisoned as I was. And specifically those who are under administrative detention and children. There’s a female prisoner right now--her name is Hanaa Shalabi--and she’s been on hunger strike for 15 days. And she’s beginning her 16th day on hunger strike. And she’s in prison--she hasn’t been accused of anything, it’s a secret file like they initially threatened me with. And so not even her lawyer knows what she’s accused of. And she was in prison for two years prior to her recent arrest. They released her based on the [word unclear] deal, and then they re-arrested her. And so she’s been in prison now for more than two years, without knowing what she’s accused of, without knowing what her case is about. [Skype terminated call; redialed. Transcription starts again after Quran resummarizes Hanna's situation] And there are just hundreds of similar cases of people that are unjustly imprisoned. And I hope that the Stanford community and the American community can begin to support these people, just like they supported me. I’m very grateful to the Stanford community and to the international community for supporting me the way they did--I would have likely been in prison for much longer had they not mobilized their support so quickly. And I pray that everyone has a similar community--that everyone will have a similar community that could protect them in times of need like the Stanford community did for me. But there are hundreds of similar cases, if not more, and they deserve just as much help as I did--and even more.


  13. KB: What is the current state of your activism? Are you aligned with any movement or group of people--either formally or informally organized?


    FQ: We’re informally organized into different groups who come together for specific event--different groups from different locations. And we work for freedom, justice and nonviolent activism, similar to the type of activism that was used by the African National Congress in South Africa and by the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and by Gandhi. Our movement is growing and clearly, like I noticed while I was in prison, the Israeli military and the Israeli government understand that we could be a powerful force for change--towards freedom, justice and liberty for all. I think that in the near future--I mean they’ve always been oppressing us and [word unclear] us down and repressing us and arresting us, it proves that the repression is just going to increase from today forward. But we will not be cowed by their threats and we will keep moving forward.


    KB: How has your experience in the past week shaped your personal strategies for the future? How might it shape your actions moving down the line?

    FQ: It seems to me that when people work in this type of struggle, when people participate in this type of struggle, we understand that unearned suffering--as Martin Luther King said--unearned suffering can be redemptive. And the only way we can achieve significant success in this type of work is through strategic and calculated, but very high risk actions. The goal of this type of abuse and violence that they use against us is to scare us, is to make us give up and back down. And what this has taught me, if anything, is that first of all, the human will is stronger and the human soul is stronger than any types of threats and violence that can be used against us. And that work we’re doing is beginning to have a significant effect--a positive effect on our community and effect in changing the status quo. And so we’re just going to keep moving forward and we’re going to make sure--I think one of the things I learned is that we need to do much more work to educate young Palestinian men and women on how to deal with and react to these types of violent arrests. Because the juvenile that was arrested with me and the young man that was arrested with me both were [word unclear], both were going through physical and psychological abuse, but they were prepared for, and I think that in the future one of the central aspects of our work should be to educate them about what their rights are and how to deal with these types of situations.

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