Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Jenin's Freedom Theatre Attacked

By Bobi Pasquale 
(Activist in Palestine)

As we near the entrance to Jenin’s Freedom Theatre (FT), Palestine we see coloured lights and a large group of young boys. They are dancing and applauding to loud, bassy music and the atmosphere is nothing short of electric. Considering the uplifting mood, one would never have thought only hours before this hub of positivity had been attacked.

The drama began at around 2.30am 27th July 2011, when Jacob Gough (Acting General Manger) awoke to the sounds of drones flying low overhead Jenin Refugee Camp. Given the traumatic history of the camp, which was attacked in 2002, the drones were not unusual;they fly regularly almost as a reminder that Israel can freely attack when it so pleases. As his phone rang at 3.15am, he quickly learned that the IDF were in close proximity of the camp.

Accompanied by FT co-founder, Jonatan Stanczak, the two approached the theatre from the back entrance. It became apparent that the FT was surrounded by a heavy mob of at least 50 IDF and a dozen jeeps. A family of 6 (including 4 small children between the ages of 6-10 years old) returning to their home had been detained just outside of the scene, and the 2 internationals were pulled from their car at gunpoint and squatted next to them. Jacob told me that despite the fury he felt at the harassment of the IDF, he remained quiet in fear of the family’s safety. Upon inquiring as to what possible justification the soldiers had as to their detainment, they were sharply told to “shut the fuck up or we’ll kick you”, and made ever aware of the presence of the guns the IDF are seemingly too proud to carry. This is the first time the IDF have so blatently attacked the theatre.

Meanwhile, in the FT itself hid 2 young men; Ahmed Matahen (technician of FT) and his brother Mohammed (who has no involvement in the FT). When the army arrived at the site they pelted the theatre and the neighbouring houses with rocks; smashing several windows and of course scaring anybody in the area. Picture the disorientation of being awoken by rocks at your child’s bedroom window whilst being surrounded by heavily armed thugs.
Qais Alsaadi, actor at FT told me how Ahmed was forced out of the theatre, and his 17 year old brother handcuffed. The security guard was also forced out and made to lift his top and drop his pants; as though he posed any remote threat to the sudden attack of an army.

Juliano Mer-Khamis
Amidst the debris of the theatre, who recently suffered the murder of it’s leader, Juliano Mer-Khamis (4th April 2011), the targets of this surprise ambush became evident. Bilaal Al Saadi and Adnan Nagnaghia (Head of the FT board and Manager of FT) were both arrested. Their whereabouts cannot be confirmed but it is believed that Bilaal is being held in Mojido and Adnan in Jalame – a notorious interrogation unit infamous for it’s torturous methods of interrogation. Both have been refused access to their Lawyer, and nobody has been able to visit them.

Although this act was obviously with intent to intimidate members and supporters of FT, the strength of it’s members has not been broken. There are fears that the Israelis will return and work “from the top down” to interrogate all members in connection to the death of Juliano (although Israel has yet to release a statement of explanation). Upon speaking to many citizens of Jenin, it is clear that Juliano was considered a Palestinian and deeply loved by Jenin. There is much speculation that his masked assassin resides outside of Jenin and highly doubted to be involved with the FT itself.

The FT has not speculated on the reasoning behind this attack but it appears to be “an act of desperation” on the part of the Israelis to destroy this small beacon of hope for the children of Jenin. The work of the FT is incredibly inspiring and they will soon embark on a tour, performing their powerful piece; “Fragments of Palestine”.

Updates will be published as we receive more information.

More information can be found on the FT website;