#ShesGotVERVE: Ahed Tamimi - A Girl With Guts
On December 15th, 2017, 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi performed an act of defiance against an occupation leading to her worldwide recognition as a symbol of resistance. Like most of the movements sparked by young girls and women this year, her goal to overturn and eradicate the imperialistic and patriarchal systems that not only occupy territories but the people within them deserve to be spoken about. Ahed Tamimi is not just an activist- but like Malala Yousafzai, deserves a place within modern feminism.
Since the age of 11, she has tirelessly demonstrated against the systemic oppression and abhorrent treatment of her family and fellow Palestinians. Her bravery and activism have been recognised by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but also ignited fear and discontent amongst Israeli officials – garnering her the nickname “Shirley Temper”. She has fought against the theft of land and water by settlers as well as Trump’s preservation of legislations that contribute to the erosion of Palestine’s identity. While support of Tamimi’s activism circulated amongst Arab feminist groups, it was widely disregarded within Western feminist discourse at the time.
On December 15th, Tamimi’s teenage cousin Mohammed was demonstrating at a Trump protest and was shot in the face with a rubber-coated bullet by Israeli armed forces. Hours later, soldiers entered Tamimi’s yard to perform a night-time raid on her home. In retaliation, she slapped the soldiers across the face, resulting in her arrest four days later. At 16, Tamimi became 1 out of over 300 Palestinian child prisoners where she faced twelve charges in a court with a 99.7% conviction rate.
“Ahed Tamimi [was] a victim of a systemic issue American feminists should be familiar with: an institution of criminal justice designed specifically to keep an oppressed minority incarcerated without due process”. Tamimi faced eight months in prison, where she experienced several violations: illegal interrogations carried out by male officers, threats against her friends, comments on her body and the legitimacy of her race. Tamimi even faced a journalist calling for her rape and murder while an Israeli Minister suggested she end her life in prison. Despite this, her imprisonment was protested all over the world and shone a light on child incarceration.
Tamimi used her detention as an opportunity to educate herself and her peers. She organised study groups where she spent her sentence learning international law, inspiring her to escalate her advocacy for Palestine’s liberation to international courts. Within hours of her release, she was met by the Palestinian President whilst two Italian artists painted a mural of her face on Israel’s separation barriers that divides Palestinian territories. Tamimi has become an icon of a rebellious young generation of Palestinians and emerged even stronger and more determined to convey the pains and struggles of her people to the world.
Tamimi’s rage is powerful and that’s why her girl power has been labelled as dangerous. Her activism is highly political and embodies decades of Palestinian resistance. Her feminism cannot simply be packaged as the highly sexual, empowered femininity that the West and its political figures so often favour. She seeks justice against oppression and advocates a vision of communal care rather than empowerment that only benefits herself. Her feminism is not “attractive” because it wants to tackle settler colonialism. We cannot continue to be selective in our humanitarianism if we want to abolish these oppressive systems. We must continue to support young activists who fight against the ugly injustice of state sanctioned violence, no matter how unattractive and uncomfortable it may be.
As 2018 has shown us, young girls and women have had to broadcast their pain and traumas in front of the world in order to protect and prevent the same fate befalling others. Although her story gained a disproportionate amount of attention from international media, Tamimi no longer feeds the image of the helpless Palestinian victim, instead she is a strong, young agent of change. Tamimi and many young activists illuminate the toxic side effects of these harmful systems and how they refuse to inherit them. Tamimi perfectly demonstrates how feminism and social justice are bound together as one. Celebrating young girls like Malala or Tamimi has shown us that “oftentimes it is the voice of a young girl, from a marginalized community, that can be the much- needed spark for large-scale global change”. Fighting an oppressive body wrought with toxic masculinity cannot be represented more beautifully than the image of a young girl slapping a soldier in the face – a slap so loud it was heard around the world.
Article by Yaz Omran