The Story Of Issa
A human rights defender in Occupied Palestinian Territories
Issa Amro is a human rights defender from Hebron and the founder of Youth Against Settlements. In 2010 he was named the UN's human rights defender of the year.
Hebron is a divided city. 20% of its lands, including its Old City, are under Israeli military control, in what is known as the 'H2' area. Approximately 7,000 Palestinians live in close proximity to settlers in five settlements inside H2 and two large settlements that surround it. Restrictions and ongoing tensions have led to the displacement of thousands of Palestinians and a deterioration in living conditions for those left behind.
Issa has been consistently targeted both with violence and detention. He has had his nose and wrist broken, he's been shot in the legs three times and had stones thrown at him. He has regularly been arrested and detained. His case has been raised by the UK Consulate in Jerusalem, by the UN and by the EU.
Issa's story is one of a continued struggle for peace and human rights. This is the story of Issa.
Issa's story began when he was at university finishing an engineering degree. In his final year of studies, the Israeli military closed the university. Issa and his friends decided to organise sit-ins as a form of peaceful protest. After six months the university reopened. This experience set Issa on a course of peaceful protest, encouraging other young people to follow his lead. In recent years Issa's political activity has brought him to the attention of authorities and he now faces 18 charges. Issa is due to be tried by a military court:
Issa has trained youngsters to document the human rights violations they suffer using cameras. The footage collected is then often presented as evidence in court to help challenge the charges presented:
"I have used the evidence when I have been arrested and it's allowed me to go home. The response of the youngsters to this project and the opportunity to handle technology and better their situations and lives is encouraging."
Although Issa could face jail, he refuses to stop his protests. The constant threat of arrest and detention means that Issa, his family and friends live with constant worry:
Issa remains committed to the principle of non-violent protest as a means of bringing about change:
"I'm very convinced that the change will come... The change will come from using non-violent resistance. I'm not giving up to the bitterness and hate in the country"
Issa has received support from a wide range of groups, including the British Consulate in Jerusalem, the UN and EU.
The UK Government regularly speaks out about settlement expansion and views them as an obstacle to peace, taking us further away from a two-state solution. The UK Government also funds legal aid programmes which help Palestinians challenge land expropriation, and supports NGOs who take incidents of violence against Palestinians to court. This helps to achieve justice for victims and acts as a deterrent to future attacks.
The British Consulate- General in Jerusalem regularly travels to Hebron to meet Issa and other human rights defenders to be briefed on the impact of settlements and settler violence. Staff from the Consulate attended Issa's first trial in November to observe proceedings. Issa explains why their support is so important:
Issa's right to non-violent protest must be respected, as a basic human right. Human rights defenders like Issa are at risk across the world, but their work is just as important as it's ever been. We must continue to support them:
"There is no neutral position when you see a human rights defender in risk"