Bassem Tamimi, the father of imprisoned Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi (and the husband of Nariman Tamimi, imprisoned alongside their daughter) issued a powerful message on his Facebook account on 2 February, greeting his daughter as she turned 17 on 31 January.
Palestinians and solidarity organizers around the world held demonstrations, celebrations and gatherings demanding Ahed’s freedom as well as that of her fellow Palestinian prisoners – and Palestine itself. Further events and actions are planned in the coming days.
Bassem Tamimi himself has spent years in prison – including as an Amnesty International recognized prisoner of conscience – for his role in the indigenous land defense movement in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, targeted for repression and land and water confiscation by occupation forces and settler colonial Zionism.
His moving birthday message to his imprisoned daughter Ahed is reprinted below:
Good morning my friends
Birthday… and trial
To be able to write you in a moment like this, I had to lay down in your bed. Then, when I rested my head on your little pillow, you recharged my soul was charged to the brim with gratitude the memory of your generosity. How can my spirit not be lifted when you were the one who brought the world to a gale like a hurricane, you made it bare itself like a volcano?
My courageous, beautiful, shy and bold little girl – victory is befitting of you as much as joy suits you. My daughter, I am so sorry I could not protect you from the ugliness of the Occupation. I am sorry I left the oranges of Yafa sad and unpeeled, yearning for your touch. You are now surrounded by bars of iron, in a place where time is stale, and freedom and love are non-existent. Yet, it is in that cell that my hope of a better future and the certainty we will achieve it is now placed. You, my ray of hope, are locked in a prison, which is built on the ruins of Imm Khaled, near the shore of our sea. The same Imm Khaled that was ethnically cleansed by the army you slapped.
Ahed, your cell, halfway to Haifa, on the through which we will one day return. There, I imagine myself with you, the sound of my voice resonating from behind the walls – Ahed… Ahed… Ahed… My daughter, the strings of my soul – may each year see you shine brighter with the truth you hold inside. May each year see you stronger, more joyful, and as solid as the rocks that hold back the rage of oceans.
When parents celebrate their children’s birthdays, we try to make them special and unforgettable – worthy of this wondrous occasion. As parents, these days bring a soft and graceful joy to our hearts.
Today is your birthday, but I woke up in the middle of the night, not with excitement, but rather uncomfortable and short of breath. This birthday of yours different than the ones before it. Yes, it is the day you were born in, but you are forcefully kept farther away than I can bear. Still, you are closer to my heart than you could ever imagine.
Today my daughter you are a year wiser, a year filled with an even deeper love for your homeland. Today you enter a year that will be harder than those that preceded it. I dread the thought of your prison nights and the knowledge of their chill.
Prison nights are not like those at home, with us. The commotion of birthday parties is a stark contrast to the loneliness of the prison cell they have you in. I am so sorry. All I want is to gently stroke your golden hair my little girl, as I’ve done since you were a baby; to tenderly embrace you after you blow the 17 candles on your birthday cake, like I have done since you turned one. But how can my longing for you can surpass those bars of steel that are now placed between us?
Do not worry Ahed, we will see joy again and celebrate as we always have. I hereby promise, your brothers and I will stand at the gates of prison and sing for you and your mother’s freedom. We will demand the freedom of all those imprisoned unjustly; we will demand freedom for all free spirits. And you and your mother will sing with us, and pound on the prison walls with your mighty power.
Tonight we will celebrate your birthday by showing the world that no matter what happens, we celebrate life. We teach life. We love life and will not let this love be squashed. Never.
But until this evening comes when we celebrate together as a family, I wish you to stay strong and resilient. I know the soldiers may come at midnight, shackle you, and drag you through another interrogation session. If you can dress warmly, put on an extra shirt, because they will do their best to take away the warmth. Every room they will put you in, every military vehicle, will be freezing cold, on purpose. But I know I need not worry. I know how warm your soul is. You shouldn’t be, you really shouldn’t be, my little girl, but I know that you can take whatever darkness and coldness they try and torture you with.
Whatever decision it will make, the Israeli military court you will be tried in will not give you justice. These courts were not built to bring justice, these judges do not desire justice, they were built in a realm outside of humanity. 99% of those who stand before them are found guilty. But these are all just the symptoms of the illness – even if you are acquitted, these courts cannot ever be a tool of justice, since they are just another cog in the machine of military occupation. Colonialism and the basic values of mankind will never cross paths. the Occupation can never intersect with freedom, justice, and dignity.
Humanity is beautiful. It paints life with a brush of grace and endows it with beauty. The occupation is ugly, and it is made to disfigure the face of humanity. My daughter, free people do not get lost in their own narcissism, for none of us alone are anything if we do not connect to a deeper purpose and do not dedicate ourselves to positive action. It is through our deep connection, purpose, and action that we move from the solitary conditions of our birth to the real meaning and preciousness that the world has to offer. It is this awareness that allows humanity collective consciousness. You, my little girl, have tapped into that consciousness of all humanity.
They take you to trial because they want to kill that sense of humanity that is in you; they want to destroy your sense of collective struggle for a better world. It is too dangerous for them to handle. Believe it or not, they are even trying to take away your youth saying that, as you turn 17, you are a child no more. And I ask, does your childhood take a different path than you yourself on the day of 17, or does your childhood have a little more time to play in the orchards of youth and enjoy the last of your school days in peace?
Israel’s experts in immoral law may freely deliberate the unlawfulness of the slap served to their fully armed soldier by a girl and shattered their military manliness and put their fragile institutions at risk of collapse. Let them. Care not about their immoral military laws, for these laws are outside of the confines of humanity.
My little angel… Do not bother yourself with the words of those who trade in politics and religion like merchants in the market. Religious men, pious in their own eyes, want to discuss your hair in order to take attention away from your struggle and its legitimacy. The indoctrinated, unadulterated in their own eyes, do not recognize the humanity and truth in anyone who does not blindly pleads loyalty to their dogmas.
Then there are those who are always absent; the ones who refuse to take a stance for that which is right, who shiver at the idea of standing up in the face of oppression. They refuse to confront brutality, and those who struggle for freedom, like you, tear off their masks to show them for what they are.
Don’t worry about those who criticize you now, my little girl. Your bravery has turned you into a lightning rod and those fear their own hypocrisy revealed want to hide by hurting you. All their criticism of you is made up so that they can continue to hide behind their fears. They know, it is your courage that has reminded everyone – the emperor has no clothes.
Here you stand before the world – like days past and days to come – full of truth because you were raised to be honest with yourself and others, and you have learned from our land and history that true freedom comes from having agency. It comes from being willing to challenge fear time and time again. To refuse to give up your dignity.
Now your tiny slap has shaken their mighty blood thirsty military to the core and shattered their symbolic deterrence. Your own personal truth is our truth, the truth of our historical and human struggle to stay on this land. It challenges the false narratives they have, about us and of themselves.
Your truth now carries with it a whole generation that has refused to surrender to oppression, a generation that will continue to fight for its freedom. Your truth shines through because you stood up for your community and your homeland and those you love. You refused to belong to anything but yourself and Palestine.
Your truth is purer than ever, because in our day and age in Palestine, those who are pure can be found in two places, either as political prisoners on the edge of freedom, or as martyrs who have been taken from us and are now watching us in heaven. Your truth is now a beacon of hope for people around the world that have chosen to resist oppression instead of succumbing to it.
Do not worry, my little daughter – your freedom, as is the end of the Occupation is near, and those who stood against our freedom – the hypocrites and extremists and cowards – will not be left with nothing but disappointment when history is written.
When I return home tonight, I will go to your room with your brothers and we will light a candle for you, and feel your presence with us, chanting that you are our “Ahed”, our promise for a better world. Like an Olive Tree grounded in the earth.
Your mother is waiting for you back in prison. If you get to see her, please hug her for me, and celebrate your birthday together with us in your hearts. And if you are kept alone until dawn in their metal boxes, just take a seat on the saddle of hope, rise up on the horse of courage you have imagined since you were a little girl, do not pay attention to those who want to deceive and hurt you, just look at the sun rise from the small hatch and shine your smile back at it, for it is your smile that will bring us towards a brighter future.
I miss you Ahed, but I say happy birthday. May every year that comes make you stronger. May you always be full of love and bursting with truth.
Your loving father.