Janna Jihad is a 15-year-old girl born in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. But her life could not be further from that of a normal teenager. Why is that? Because she is a Palestinian child living in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israeli forces. And that has completely changed her life – as it has for all Palestinian children – forcing her to grow up before her time.
The Israeli government has been violating international human rights laws for decades. Palestinians living in the occupied territories are threatened, persecuted, discriminated against and have their rights violated on a daily basis. In addition, Israel has also used violence against various non-governmental organizations that advocate for Palestinians and has suppressed several pro-Palestinian demonstrations, even going so far as to shoot blindly at the crowd. Palestinians’ freedom of movement is also severely restricted by checkpoints and roadblocks, preventing them from accessing hospitals, schools and workplaces. In addition, Israel continues unabated to demolish the homes of many Palestinians, making entire families homeless, in violation of occupation laws. The buildings are often demolished under the pretext that the necessary permits are missing, but these permits are practically impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
Most affected by this regime of abuse and assault are of course the weakest and most defenseless, the children. Children who – like Janna – live in fear and terror every day. The Palestinian government ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and is theoretically obliged to enforce it not only in the State of Israel but also, as an occupying state, in the occupied Palestinian territories. In reality however this is not the case at all. The Israeli occupation has a severe impact on the lives of Palestinian children in several ways. First, access to education is largely restricted. Many children live in refugee camps or in villages where there is no school, so they have to travel to reach one. However, they pass through at least one checkpoint on the way there, which can lead to various consequences, from losing a few hours of schooling to being arrested. In addition, schools are usually overcrowded and lack resources, and very often they are also directly attacked by Israeli soldiers. But unfortunately, the right to education is not the only right denied to Palestinian children. According to DCIP (Defence for children international Palestine), between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested and prosecuted every year. The main reason for the arrests is the charge of stone throwing, which can lead to a prison sentence of twenty years. The circumstances under which they are arrested, interrogated, detained and imprisoned are absolutely illegal under both international and Israeli law. Many Palestinians are also arrested under “administrative detention,” which means they can remain in prison for years without formal charges or trial. According to the 2020 UN annual report on children at war, Israel has illegally detained some 361 Palestinian children who report physical violence at the hands of officials. In addition, Israel has attacked 26 buildings like schools and hospitals, according to the report. Furthermore, Palestinian children are not only tortured and unjustly detained, but also brutally killed. According to DCIP, more than 76 Palestinian children have already been killed in 2021 making it the deadliest year since 2014.
At seven years old, after seeing his uncle get killed by Israeli soldiers Janna decides it’s time to do something to change the situation. She takes her mother’s phone and begins documenting everything that happens in her village, from marches and people being stopped at checkpoints, to the soldiers’ violence against the defenseless population. Janna strongly believes that her generation can stop the occupation by appealing to the international community. The situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories has remained too much in the shadows for years. Her goal is to bring it to light, to make the whole world aware of the life conditions of Palestinians in the occupied territories, to awaken their conscience and get help for their situation. Despite the fear of being arrested, tortured, or killed for her work, Janna has become the youngest journalist in the world at the age of 12. She does this work because it is her only chance, the only thing she can do to fight back, because as she says “my camera is my gun” and “the camera is stronger than the gun… I can send my message to small people and they can send it to others”.