#MGTop8: The Fearless Girl Ahed Tamimi

Ahed Tamimi gets our Fearless Girl superlative in our first-ever #MGTop8. The #MGTop8 highlights fearless changemakers that are making an impact on elevating Muslim women’s voices. To view the rest of our #MGTop8, click here.

Having recently celebrated her seventeenth birthday behind bars, Ahed Tamimi has lived under occupation her entire life. Restraints and restrictions have been placed on her every movement, her ability to dream, and her access to opportunities and basic resources. This is the reality of every Palestinian teenager who, unlike their Israeli or American counterparts scrambling to save money for tickets to the next concert or filling out college applications, are entrenched within the omnipresence of the illegal Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Ahed was nine years old when the weekly protests at Nabi Saleh started. As an eight-year-old child, her mother was arrested for being disobedient with occupying soldiers. Her father was arrested two years later, with Amnesty International calling for his release as a prisoner of conscience.  At the age of 12, Ahed saw her cousin killed at a protest when soldiers shot a tear-gas canister at his head. At 13, she saw an uncle murdered by the Israeli military. At the age of 14, when she struggled with Israeli soldiers to free her 11-year-old brother from arrest (shown in the picture above), her fearless demeanor and protective instinct went viral. In December, her 14-year-old-cousin and confidant was placed under a medically-induced coma after an Israeli military soldier shot him with a rubber-coated bullet, penetrating his skull. She has been labeled a “serial provocateur since childhood,” with some Israeli politicians calling for a life-long prison sentence for the teen.

Ahed Tamimi has been incarcerated by the Israeli military since December, facing 12 charges against her for slapping an Israeli soldier. She has been charged with aggravated assault of a soldier and incitement, facing ten years in prison, and will not be released until the trial is done. It’s safe to say that this move on part of the Israeli military and government has incited international outrage. Ahed faces up to ten years in prison at 17-years old for resisting a brutal military occupation. She has faced an aggressive detention, with long interrogations at night, and has braved threats made against her family, according to Amnesty International, which has issued an urgent and immediate appeal for her release.

Even with her unique situation and international fame, Ahed is still only one of over 300 Palestinian children in Israeli custody, a number that has doubled according to the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer. Her father writes proudly but somberly on Ahed’s imprisonment, saying that “although it is Ahed’s first arrest, she is no stranger to your prisons. My daughter has spent her whole life under the heavy shadow of the Israeli prison — from my lengthy incarcerations throughout her childhood, to the repeated arrests of her mother, brother and friends, to the covert-overt threat implied by your soldiers’ ongoing presence in our lives. So her own arrest was just a matter of time. An inevitable tragedy waiting to happen.

Ahed Tamimi comes from a family, and community, of activists. Nabi Saleh, the small village of 600 that she calls home, falls beneath the shadow of the illegal Halimish settlement whose settlers have usurped the communities’ access to fresh water and destroyed their crops and livelihood. Ben Ehrenreich, a journalist and the author of The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, which has been hailed as a love letter to Palestine, told The Atlantic that “what is unusual about Nabi Saleh is that they have had these protests and have committed themselves to a path of unarmed resistance against the occupation and have done everything they can to bring international attention to their struggle and to their plight…When something happens there, it gets noticed a lot more than if it happened elsewhere.” From 2010 to 2016, the community has participated in weekly, organized, nonviolent protests against the Israeli military presence that sanctions the theft of village land and freshwater springs by the Halimish settlement.

Ahed’s fortitude reflects the strength and strategy of a community organizing, collaborating, and pushing back in such a way that her opposition is felt with the force of an entire nation. Ahed symbolizes everything about Palestinian resilience, from its proud and unwavering presence, to its legacy and history as an international movement, to the forceful oppression of a military occupation which it has resisted for so many years. It is within this culture of resistance that Ahed Tamimi has blossomed into someone Muslim Girl is proud to call a “Fearless Girl.”

Her revolutionary spirit and fortitude have compelled her to resist the occupation at a time when no girls should be forced to bear such burdens. While the violence and detention she continues to face as a child should cultivate feelings of horror and disbelief prior to glory, even at a young age Ahed has history of protesting for dignity, existence, and freedom. She is a survivor and symbol of power against a colonial and governing force that would sooner see the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people than it would an equitable and just solution to the occupation.

Her life has demonstrated that children are not only the future, but they are the changemakers of today. Ahed Tamimi embodies a fearlessness, youthfulness, and determination that makes every Muslim Girl proud to call her our sister and leader in the struggle for collective liberation.

Power to you, Ahed! #FreeAhedTamimi