For a second, Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, thought he had died as he regained consciousness from a beating he suffered at the hands of Israeli police on Thursday, during a riot in Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood that broke out after the murder of his cousin Muhammad.
“I thought I was dead for a second until I found out I was in the hospital,” the teenager told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, just one day after he had been released to house arrest.
Photographs taken of him immediately following the beating showed a face with swollen and ballooned lips.
By Monday, the swelling in his lips had gone down, but his cheek was still slightly blown out and there were purple bruises under his eyes.
Police have charged that he was one of six people arrested for throwing stones and Molotov cocktails during the riot.
But Abu Khdeir, an American- Palestinian teen from Tampa, Florida, who is in Israel for six weeks with his family on their summer vacation, said he was merely an observer to events that happened just a short distance away from where he was staying.
He spoke with the Post as he stood outside the mourners tent for his cousin Muhammad, who was murdered early Wednesday morning. Six Israelis have been arrested in connection with that murder.
Behind Tariq, hanging off of a building, was a large poster with Muhammad’s face.
A day after Muhammad’s body was found, he said, he stood at the entrance of Shuafat, just outside of the Beit Hanina neighborhood, as rioting took place.
“I was trying to jump a fence to run away. I fell off the fence and they [the police] jumped the fence and they grabbed me from there and they started hitting me in the face and kicking me in the face,” Tariq said.
It seemed to him that the beating lasted for five or ten minutes before he lost consciousness.
A camera caught the police beating Tariq as he lay on the ground, and at one point it seems as if he has a white and red cloth over his head. A police officer also appears to carry a sling-shot in his hand as he helps carry Tariq from the scene.
Tariq said he hadn’t participated in any violence. “I was not throwing stones, I was not taking any action during the entire protest, I was there watching.”
His father, Salahedeen, said he received a telephone call telling him that Tariq had been arrested.
He found him at the Neveh Ya’acov police station around 7:30 p.m., where he slipped in and out of consciousness.
The police told him to go home, he recalled. From that moment, “I was very mad. I started screaming.”
Pragmatically, however, he also called the US embassy and asked them to help him sway the police to transfer Tariq to the hospital.
He was taken there at 1 a.m., almost six hours later, Salahedeen said.
His mother Suha said she joined her husband and son at Hadassah University Medical Center, in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, having heard only that Tariq had been arrested and “slapped around.”
Instead, she found him badly swollen, handcuffed to the bed, with a guard at the door who initially didn’t want to let her in.
The guard relented and let her in, but with strict instructions not to touch him or speak with him, she said.
On Friday, Tariq was taken to court and then to jail, and from jail back to court on Sunday morning and then to house arrest.
But his experience, he said, has not deterred him from wanting to be in Jerusalem with his family. Tariq, who arrived on June 4 and who is scheduled to leave the country on July 16th, said that “I want to come every single year.”
His mother said that it was partially Tariq’s desire to travel to Jerusalem that pushed the family to come. His parents made him earn the trip by improving his grades.
On Monday afternoon, Tariq, Suha and Salahedeen traveled with Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s family to Ramallah to visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Salahedeen said he considered Abbas to be his “second president” after US President Barack Obama.
“I respect him. He is good to support my son and my cousin,” he said.