The following statement dated July 22, 2002 was provided via email by attorney John Wheat Gibson, so that readers may make up their own minds “whether the immigration judge Carey Copeland was right or wrong to deny asylum to the family that is in prison now in Taylor, Texas.” At last report, Salaheddin was still being incarcerated in Haskell, Texas, some 300 miles away from the rest of his family.–gm
STATEMENT OF SALAHEDDIN IBRAHIM
When he was a young man, my father went to Haifa to work in the construction business. He was self-employed. His name was Mahmoud Ibrahim, and he was Arab. In 1947 Zionists invaded Haifa, and began indiscriminately killing the Arabic people they found there. He was working on the day of the invasion, and when he heard the gunfire he went out to see what was happening. My father saw them kill many people, including old men and women, in the street, and he ran for his life. They shot at him, too, but did not hit him.
Running, my father fell down and bloodied his leg, but he continued walking and running for many hours, until he arrived at his home in Al Fandaqumiyah, in the Jenin district of what is now the Occupied Territory of Palestine. A neighbor bandaged his leg and he stayed inside listening to the news on the radio.
In 1950, my father married Zahara Rahija Ibrahim in Al Fandaqumiyah. He continued working as a construction contractor in the West Bank. My sister Shaqia was born in 1951, I think. In 1955 my father went to Kuwait to work. My mother was pregnant with their second child when he left, and my brother Shauqi was born that year. My father would return from time to time to visit my mother. In 1963 my brother Zahradin was born. In 1965 my mother took the family from Al Fandaqumiyah to live with my father in Kuwait. My brother Ahmad, who now is a United States citizen living in Dubai, was born in Kuwait. In 1967, my sister Faten was born in Kuwait, and I was born there on January 16, 1970.
Because my family were in Kuwait, we avoided the brutality of the Israeli soldiers when they invaded the West Bank of the Jordan River in 1967. My father owned the house next to my grandfather’s house on the land my family owned in Al Fandaqumiyah. My grandfather died before I was born, and my grandmother was living in our house. In 1972, my father tried to return to Al Fandaqumiyah, but was prevented by the occupying forces. He asked his mother to take his passport and identification papers to the Israelis to request permission for him to return home. She did so, but the Israelis refused.
I finished high school in 1988, and went to work as a cargo handler for an airline. I was given classes in aviation cargo in connection with the job.
My grandmother continued to request permission for my father to return home, and in May 1989 I went with my parents to Al Fandaqumiyah to live. The Israeli occupation forces at last had granted one of my grandmother’s requests to allow my father to return home. For 17 years, he had been in involuntary exile. I was the only one of my parents’ children whom the Israelis allowed to accompany them, because I had been younger than 16 years when my grandmother made the request that was granted. However, for the same reason, I also was the only one of my siblings who forfeited his Jordanian citizenship and therefore I cannot reside in Jordan permanently.
In June, Israeli soldiers attacked our village several times. The people tried to drive them back by throwing stones. I did not throw stones because I was afraid the Israelis would kill me. It was during that month, I think, when Israeli soldiers attacked my home for the first time. My mother and grandmother were there. The Israelis shouted through the door demanding to know if I was there. My grandmother, who was about 90 years old, said I was, and they kicked the door until she opened it.
The Israelis barged in and asked for me. My grandmother said they could not have me, and a soldier knocked her to the floor. There were seven or eight of them. They cursed my father loudly and pushed him but did not beat him. I came into the room and asked them why they were beating my grandmother. A soldier knocked me down with the butt of his rifle, and some of the other soldiers hit me and kicked me after I was on the floor. My grandmother and mother were weeping desperately. The soldiers cuffed my hands behind my back and put a blindfold on me.
The took me out to their car and drove to their investigations department. They did not remove the blindfold or the handcuffs but asked me about the people in my village. They asked me who were the people who threw stones and who were the people speaking against the Israeli occupation. I told them I did not know. They said I was lying and they kicked and beat me on the legs with truncheons and on the head with their hands. I could tell by the blows and later by the shape of the bruises that they had hit me with sticks.
They beat me until I could not stand up, and I fell down. Then two soldiers picked me up and threw me into the jail. There they took off the blindfold and untied my hands. In the cell were three or four other youths, who had been beaten up. After about three hours a soldier called me out and blindfolded me and led me by the hand to the door. He took off the blindfold and told me to go home. I took a bus back to my village. When I got home my relatives brought a doctor to me. My legs were blue all over with bruises. The doctor said there was nothing he could do. He gave me a prescription for the pain and a salve to put on the contusions. His name was Dr. Ashraf.
About 20 days later the Israeli occupying troops sent me a citation to come to their office, and I complied. When I got there they beat me again, but not so severely; instead, they kicked me and slapped me with open hands, and asked me about other people, and threatened me with trial and a long jail term for agitating against the occupation if I did not tell them who was throwing stones and speaking against the occupation. Again, I told them I did not know. I said I just wanted to go back to Kuwait and they told me to apply for permission to leave. Then I went home.
On July 25, 1989 I was married. About a month later, the Israeli soldiers again attacked our village. They went through the streets with megaphones ordering everybody to stay in our homes. They said that anybody who went outside would be punished. After about an hour, they ordered all men 16 and older to go to the boys school. They said anybody who did not comply would be put in jail. I went to the boys school and saw that almost all the men of the village were there. It was morning and the sun was very hot.
The Israeli soldiers made the young men kneel on the school playground, and forced the older ones to sit. A large group of soldiers with Uzis began to beat some of the young men and screamed curses at everybody. They chose me as one of the examples they would make to terrorize the rest of the men. They kicked me in the back of the neck, knocking me down, and then kicked me hard about the body and shoulders, so that I was badly bruised. Everybody was watching them beat me. They did not ask me any questions. They took my identity card, but gave it back later in the day. In the meantime, other soldiers were searching our homes.
A day or two afterward, when I had recovered somewhat from the beating, I went to an Israeli office in Selit Al-Daher and applied for permission to leave. About two weeks later, in September, I inquired about my application and was told it was approved. I went to the border with Israel by taxi but was not allowed to pass, so I went back home. The next day I went to the office in Selit Al-Daher again, and, after waiting five hours in the sun, was told they would put my name in the computer so that I could leave the next day. Th
e next day I was allowed to pass.
In Kuwait I stayed with Shauqi, and worked for his cargo business. I was a manager, and took orders from customers. In January 1990, I visited my brother Ahmad in the United States. My visa was issued by the U.S. Consulate in Kuwait. My passport was Jordanian. I was given a permit to visit the United States for three or four months, and before it expired I returned to Kuwait. After a couple of months in Kuwait, around April, I went to Al Fandaqumiyah because my wife was ill, crossing the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and the Occupied Territories, and then after only a week went back to Kuwait to the same job. I had to travel by Jordanian bus on the Jordanian side of the bridge, and by Israeli bus in the Occupied Territories. My documents were in order, and the Israelis admitted me into the Occupied West Bank after about an hour at the border.
Then in August Iraq invaded Kuwait. In September therefore I returned to Palestine through Jordan. Israeli occupying troops interrogated me at the border. They let me pass, but gave me a paper ordering me to go to their Jenin office for an interview after about two weeks.
I went to the Jenin office of the occupying forces as instructed. Before I entered the office of the interviewing officer, a soldier blindfolded me. The interviewing officer asked me where I had been and whether I was involved in any Palestinian organizations. I told the interrogating officer I had been working in Kuwait, and was not with any group. He wrote as I spoke, and after about 30 minutes another officer called me. He took me to his office and told me I was lying. He demanded to know whom I had been meeting and which Palestinian organization I belonged to. Standing in his office I told him I was telling the truth.
Then he called other soldiers into his office, and they came in. It seemed to me there were two or three of them, although I could not see them. They began to kick me and hit me about the head until I could not stand and I fell down. They dragged me to their jail and put me in and took off the blindfold. I was alone in a small room for a couple of hours. Then they let me go home.
At the time, I was living in my father’s house. Before 2000, the Israeli soldiers beat me every three or four months, at least 60 times during the 10 years before the Al Aqsa Intifada started, although they stopped me in the street several times every month. Sometimes they sent me a citation at home, and sometimes they stopped me and after checking my identification beat me in the street. Not all the beatings were severe. Five times before the Al Aqsa Intifada I reported as ordered by citation. The Israelis took their citations from me when I reported to their offices.
After I returned to Al Fandaqumiyah, I began a wholesale business selling clothing, in October. I had no shop at first. On February 22, 1991 my son Hamsa was born. I took my wife Hanan to Jordan for the delivery, because our doctor told us that sometimes the birth of the first child is difficult, and the hospitals were better there than the facilities in the occupied West Bank. Moreover, I wanted Hanan to be near the hospital when she started labor, because if we started to the hospital in occupied Palestine the Israelis might not let us through.
We arrived in Jordan about 10 days before Hamsa was born and stayed less than a month. While there, we stayed with Shauqi, who owned a house and lived in Amman. Shauqi also had to leave Kuwait because of the Iraqi attack. There was no more work there, and in the chaos thieves were stealing and killing. They had broken into my flat and stolen many things.
Later in 1991, I opened a wholesale store in Al Fandaqumiyah, selling clothing to shops in other towns on the West Bank. Toward the end of the year, during the cold weather, I received a citation from the occupying Israeli forces, ordering me to report to their office in Jenin. I had no choice but to go. If I did not do what the Israelis commanded, they would have come to my home and arrested me.
Every time I went to the Israelis’ office in Jenin, they blindfolded me before beginning their interrogation. I was made to stand up while sometimes one, sometimes two (maybe this time it was two; I am not sure) Israelis interrogated me in Arabic. They spoke excellent Arabic with little accent. They asked if I had seen a certain person Mohammed Faik in Al Fandaqumiyah with guns. I told them I had not seen the person and did not know whether he had guns or not.
They told me I was lying and then beat me severely. Then they asked me if I had seen anybody with a gun, and I said no. Then they beat me with truncheons all over my torso, front and back and kicked me so that I was covered with massive bruises. They told me if I saw anybody with guns I must tell them and threatened me with trial and jail if I did not inform them. After they had beaten me until I could stand up no longer, they carried me to the jail or maybe they dragged me, and took off the blindfold. After an hour or two, they sent me home again. After I got home, I went to Dr. Ashraf. Again he prescribed pain medicine and salve.
Rodaina was born on September 17, 1992. She was born in the hospital at Nablus. Since it was not Hanan’s first birth, we did not feel it would be a problem. Later during 1992 the Israelis arrested others in our village, but they did not arrest me. They beat and shot others, as well, but I think none of their victims in Al Fandaqumiyah were killed.
Later, in winter 1992, the Israelis cited me for the third time. It was during the cold weather. They asked me about Palestinian groups and asked me if I knew about anybody from Hamas, Democratia, Islamic Jihad and other groups. They wrote down what I told them. I did not know anything, but they did not beat me. They screamed at me and cursed me, and told me to go home.
In 1996 Israeli soldiers killed Mohammed Faik in the street with an Uzi. I saw his body in the street with my own eyes. It was at the entrance to Al Fandaqumiyah. He did not have any weapon that I could see.
During 1997, I built another house on the land my father gave me, and I brought my mother and father to live with me. They now are in the house. Our daughter Maryam was born in the hospital at Nablus on May 6, 1998. In that year the occupying forces cited me again.
I had to report to the Israelis’ occupation office in Arabi, because now the Oslo Agreement had put Jenin under the control of the Palestinian Authority. It was a short drive by automobile, shorter than to Jenin, which was about 20 minutes away. At the meeting I was not blindfolded. I was allowed to sit. The officer told me that he knew everything about me, and he was in charge of the safety of my village. He wanted me to tell him about some people, whose names I do not remember. He asked me which Palestinian group I belonged to.
I told him I belonged to no group. He asked me whether it was better under the Palestinian Authority than before. Civil authority was with the PA even in Al Fandaqumiyah, but security was under Israeli control. I told him life was 100 percent better, because the P.A. was at least somewhat responsive to civil needs.
He asked me whether I thought the Arab citizens of Israel were happy and I told him I thought they were not. I asked him how he would feel if France should come and take his country, and he told me it was not my business. He said he had written everything I said and told me to report to him anything I might see. He called in two men without uniforms and told me good bye, and that he would call me back. The two goons took me into another room and slapped me around for two or three minutes and told me I would not forget it and then threw me out. They did not ask any questions.
Between 1994 and 1998 the Israelis stopped my car at least 25 times and
searched and frisked me, and would scream curses, but did not beat me. During the stops I was subjected to various humiliations and discomforts. Sometimes, maybe six or seven occasions, I was forced to move heavy stones from one place to another; sometimes it took about 45 minutes to finish moving them, sometimes less. Then they would send me home. Other times I would be forced to hold my hands up in the air, on some occasions half an hour, others as long as 2 hours.
In December 1998 the occupation forces cited me again. This time there was no blindfold. The interrogating officer asked me for news. I told him I minded my own business. I told him I would not become an informer and that nothing happened in my village to report. He gave me his telephone number and told me to call him if I saw anything, and I went home. They did not beat me.
Between 1999 and 2000 I was stopped many times, going to work and back, but not beaten. On one occasion in 2000 the Israelis threw the clothing I was carrying in my car onto the ground, and soiled some of it so that I could not sell it.
Also, near the end of 1999 or the beginning of 2000, the Israelis confiscated two of the three large plots of land just outside Al Fandaqumiyah that belonged to my family. The title to the land is in the name of my grandfather. We grew olives on the land for olive oil. The Israelis built a military camp on the site.
In December 1999, at the entrance to Al Fandaqumiyah, Israeli soldiers stopped me and checked my identification documents. They took them and then returned and cursed me and ordered me out of the car. When I got out an officer screamed and cursed me, and then sent me home.
The following month, January 2000, the occupying soldiers stopped, humiliated and beat me. I was returning from Nablus, where I bought ready-made garments for my store, and I stopped at one of the occupation checkpoints. The occupying soldiers took my identity card, supposedly checked their computer, and returned and cursed me. One of them opened the door of my car, hit me with fists, and pulled me out of the car. He forced me to stand for two hours with my hands above my head. Eventually another soldier came and told me to go home.
About 20 days later, as I was going to Jenin to sell some clothing, at the checkpoint at the entrance to Al Fandaqumiyah, two Israeli soldiers took my identity card and took it to their jeep, supposedly to check it. Then they returned screaming and cursing and pointed their rifles at me. One of them hit me in the face with his fist and they both continued to hit me until I fell down, and then they kicked me in the stomach. Another soldier came after about 10 minutes, and told them to leave me and told me to go home. He said I would not be allowed to go to Jenin, so I went home.
I was in severe pain and stayed home three days.
Thirteen days after the beating, I was driving near Homish, a Jewish-only colony very near Al Fandaqumiyah, on the way to nearby Bizeria, and Israeli troops pulled me over and checked my identity card. They asked me where I was going and when I told them they said I could not go to Bizeria. Then the soldiers forced me to move stones from one place to another, as they screamed and cursed at me. Then they let me get back in my car and I went home feeling heartsick.
During summer 2000 the Israelis attacked Al Fandaqumiyah with tanks, airplanes and gunfire. I was away from the house when the attack started, and ran home. I went up on the roof. The Israelis fired gas bombs and one of them broke the window of my kitchen and fell inside the house. I came down from the roof and threw the bomb back outside. It was hot, but not too hot to scoop up and quickly throw out. The children were sick and Hanan and I ran with them out of the house. Maryam, who was two years old, was overcome by the gas and unconscious.
I ran with the children and my wife with shooting all around us, and the children were crying and my wife was crying. We stayed outside in the olive grove until the Israeli troops left the village. Then we went back in the house. Maryam had awakened but she was very sick. She had great difficulty breathing. I called my neighbor and asked him to come with me to the pharmacy to buy medicine for Maryam. I was afraid and wanted the neighbor Abdel Ba Set Raba to come just so I would feel safer. I intended to explain the problem to the pharmacist so that he could provide what Maryam needed.
I drove to the pharmacy. There were two others from my village in the pharmacy, but while we were in the pharmacy the Israeli soldiers came in and ordered us out. When we went out they confiscated our identity cards. The soldiers told me to go remove an object in the street, but I told them I had to take medicine to my daughter. They thought the object might be a mine or a booby trap. They cursed me and told me to do what they ordered me to do.
I refused and they shot near my head and demanded that I go. I went and recovered the object that was in the street. It was just a bag. Then they forced us to sweep the street clean. After about 45 minutes the soldiers left. I went into the pharmacy and got some pills that were supposed to enable Maryam to breathe. I gave her the medicine and she recovered.
The reason I had gone up on the roof of my house was to keep other people from going up there to throw stones at the occupying solders. I was afraid that, if they were up there, the Israelis would shoot at our house, although it turned out that they shot a gas bomb through our window anyway. I also was afraid they would arrest me if I did not prevent people from throwing stones from my roof. While I was on the roof, I saw about 20 meters behind our house a young man of about 25, named A’asem Jarar, among about 20 people, some of whom were throwing stones at the occupying soldiers, while others just screamed at them to let us alone. A’asem was not throwing stones, but I saw the Israelis shoot him through the stomach, anyway.
About a month after the gas attack, around August 2000, I was going to Jenin and was stopped behind Jeba’a village at a checkpoint. The soldier took my identity card and refused to give it back. He pointed his rifle at me and screamed at me to go home, so I went home because I was afraid he would murder me.
I was afraid to go out for 10 days, because if the occupying troops catch us without the identity card they require us to carry, they will put us in jail. I finally decided to go to the Israeli occupation office in Salem to request a replacement identity card. I was terrified of being stopped. At Salem I explained what had happened and begged for some kind of documentation. They told me to come back after three days, and when I went back they had my identity card and gave it to me.
About two weeks later, the Israelis attacked my village with tanks and soldiers in trucks. The soldiers knocked on the door of my house and my father let them in. The children and my mother began crying with fear.
The soldiers went about inside the house breaking our plates and cups and smashing potted plants. They splashed olive oil all over the carpet and furniture. The soldiers asked for me and took me out. Inside their jeep they handcuffed me and blindfolded me. Then they drove about an hour and stopped and took off the blindfold and handcuffs and kicked me (literally) out into the street and told me to go home. I waved down a ride back home.
About 15 days later I received a citation to report to the Israeli occupation office at Salem again. When I went they blindfolded me and tied my hands behind me. They asked me about when I would sleep with my wife, just to humiliate me. The soldiers began to beat me with truncheons and belts. I could tell what weapons they were using by the feeling when they struck me. For about an hour they alternated beating me with asking impertinent questi
ons and screaming curses at me. I fell down and could not move, but they continued to beat me. After a while somebody spoke to them in a language I did not understand and they stopped beating me.
After I lay on the floor about 15 minutes they took me out and took off the blindfold and untied my hands and told me to go. I was in terrible pain, and was bruised all over my legs and body. I sat in my car for 15 minutes trying to compose myself so I could drive, and then I went home. I went to a doctor, who gave me medicine for pain, salve for the bruises, and told me to rest.
Around late 2000 or early 2001 I was in Nablus buying goods for my store when, according to what I heard on the news, an F-16 bombed a building there. What I saw was an Apache helicopter circling a building and shooting rockets at it. I saw the ambulance and followed it to see what happened, and I saw nine or 10 civilians, including two children, about 9 or 10 years old, lying motionless on the ground covered with blood. There were maybe a hundred or more other people injured.
On April 29, 2001 my last daughter was born. When Hanan went into labor, I tried to take her to the hospital in Nablus in my car. She was in great pain. My mother came with us. I had to stop at a checkpoint between Nablus and Al Fandaqumiyah, near a Jewish-only colony, and I asked the soldiers to see for themselves that my wife was in labor and asked to be allowed through. But the soldiers would not let us through. After an hour they told us to go back home, but I tried to reach Nablus by a different route. There was another checkpoint and the soldiers would not let us through.
My wife was frightened and in terrible pain. The Israeli soldier said it was not his problem. He ordered us to go back. I tried another route, an unpaved road, and, after a horribly bumpy ride, eventually we reached the hospital in Nablus. The baby was delivered, it seemed to me, about 10 minutes later.
At the end of June I took my father to Jordan for surgery on his eyes. Since I had a visa to visit the United States, I had no trouble crossing the Allenby Bridge with my family. After the surgery, my family and I came to the United States and arrived September 25, 2001. My father went back to our house in Al Fandaqumiyah. He is 75 years old. When I came to the United States I knew I could not stay in Palestine, but I did not plan to stay in the United States. I did not know I could apply for asylum. I did not know where we could go.
Maryam is 4 years old. She is afraid of policemen in uniform, but the older children understand that they are safe in the United States. In Palestine, when the older children heard shooting or saw helicopters or Israeli soldiers, they would cry and run into the house and pull the bed clothes over their heads. They often were afraid to go to school, and, if they were too terrified to go, we would let them stay at home.
In November 2000 the Israelis attacked our village, while Hanan and the children were in our olive grove harvesting the olives. The children began to cry. Our neighbor had a small boy, Muraweih, 12 or 13 years old, and the Israelis caught him in the street. He was just about one meter tall. He did not run because he was afraid the Israelis would kill him. When Hamzeh heard that they had caught Muraweih, he was terrified, because he thought they would capture him, too.
Al Fandaqumiyah has a main street that runs the length of the town from the entrance. Our house was behind the entrance. The school was at the other end. Some of the Israelis remained at the entrance, and others stormed down the street. The Israelis took Muraweih toward the entrance to the town. The child was crying pitifully. His father Yousef, a man with white hair, tried to wrest his son from the soldier who was holding his arm. An Israeli officer saw what a little boy he was and ordered the soldier to let him go.
On another occasion, the Israelis came down the mountain behind the town, near the school. When they started shooting, all the children ran from the school. The young ones, including Hamzeh and Rodaina, ran crying toward home. I went toward the school and met them in the middle of town. They clung to me and would not let go, and begged me not to leave them, and I took them home. When they reached home, they said they never wanted to go to school again.
I was hoping the situation would improve. It did not improve, however, and the Israeli occupying forces continue to kill and dispossess the Palestinian people just for being Palestinian. My son Hamzeh, who now is 11, has nightmares and wakes up in terror in the night. Rodaina, who is 9, also wakes up in the night. They are fascinated by the news on television, and know the Israelis have killed many children. Hamzeh is terrified at the possibility of having to return home.
Sometimes the children cry while watching the television news. When I was told I could apply for asylum I decided to try to keep my family in the United States.
Sworn to and signed before me this July 29, 2002 by Salaheddin Ibrahim, to which witness my hand and seal of office:
Notary Public in and for Dallas County, Texas