Hanan Ibrahim's Plea for Asylum

The following statement dated August 13, 2002 was provided via email by attorney John Wheat Gibson, so that readers may make up their own minds “whether the immigration judge Carey Copeland was right or wrong to deny asylum to the family that is in prison now in Taylor, Texas.” Hanan is pregnant with the family’s sixth child.–gm



I was born Hanan Alhaj Hamamri on April 15, 1972 in Jaba’a, Occupied West Bank. My father Nayef Hamamri was born in 1937. He is about 65. He is a farmer, with an olive grove, growing olives for olive oil. The Israelis confiscated some of his land for a military camp.

The Israelis arrested my brother Emad Hamamri several times when I was young. He received chemotherapy for a cancer in his neck, and died in 1987 when he was 28 years old. On one occasion, in about 1983, the Israelis came to the door at about 3 a.m. shouting and banging on the door. When my father opened the door, they demanded Emad. My father told them Emad was very ill. They dragged him out of bed and took him away blindfolded anyway. After more than three weeks he came home, I think because my father took them his medical file and convinced them that he was harmless because he was so sick.
The Israelis also arrested my brother Tarek Hamamri in about 1987, when he was 17. The Israelis came to the house and kicked on the door. My grandmother, my father’s mother, who was 85 years old, opened the door and some of the soldiers came into the house. Others remained outside. They searched the house. They blindfolded Tarek and took him away. He was gone 40 days. He came home with others who had been arrested at the same time. He looked very tired and there were bruises on his face. He said he had been beaten very hard. Another time the soldiers came and asked for Tarek, but he was not at home.

I also remember when the Israelis attacked our village that same year. I was at home when they began their assault. The people had no way to defend themselves from the Israelis. My friend Nea’am was about 20 years old, and she was very brave. Nea’am went into the street to search for her little brothers, and encountered two Israelis just in front of our house. I was up on the roof of our house with my brothers and sisters, but I was afraid to watch. They told me what happened.

One of the Israeli soldiers grabbed Nea’am’s relative Amin, a boy about 15 years old. The other screamed at Nea’am to go home. Nea’am pulled Amin from the grip of the soldier, and he ran away. The soldier started to shoot Amin, so Nea’am tried to hit him with her shoe. The other soldier shot her dead on the spot. Nea’am’s family did not let the ambulance take her body because they were afraid the Israelis would remove it from the ambulance. Sometimes the Israelis took the corpses of their victims from ambulances, apparently to prevent emotional funerals.

On the same day, the Israelis killed a 14 year old girl in her home, Shefa’a. I knew her, too. The Israeli soldiers broke in the door of her home and seized her brother Mohammed, about 25. Shefa’a tried to fight with the soldiers to keep them from taking her brother. Mohammed tried to run, but the soldiers shot him down there in the house. Shefa’a’s sister, who was about 16, brought out a knife and attacked the soldiers, who then shot and killed Shefa’a and arrested the sister, whose name I forget. She was in jail for three years.

They took the wounded brother Mohammed away. I saw him in Jeba’a about five years later, and heard he was released from an Israeli prison. He was walking with a limp.

The family also had a 4-year-old boy, and he was hiding in the closet while the Israelis were murdering Shefa’a, and the Israeli soldiers tried to kill him, too. They shot him in the stomach, but he did not die. An ambulance took him to the hospital. The children’s parents still live in the house in Jeba’a.

On July 25, 1989 I married Salaheddin Ibrahim, and went to live with his family in Al Fandaqumiyah. He worked in Kuwait, but he was visiting home. After Iraq invaded Kuwait, he came back to Palestine to live.

Although I do not remember the dates very well, I do remember that he came home several times badly bruised and feeling miserable. I have learned that there were many occasions when the Israelis abused him that he did not tell me about, since he did not want me to worry, and maybe he was ashamed that they would beat and humiliate him just for sport and he could do nothing about it. Once when Salaheddin came home beaten and feeble we took him to Dr. Ahmad, and on another occasion the doctor came to our house. I also remember that, some time after the Israelis attacked us with gas, he stayed at home for about 10 days because the Israelis had taken away his identity card and he was afraid to go out without it.

After Salaheddin opened his clothing wholesale store, I sometimes helped to clean it, but mostly I kept our house. On February 22, 1991 our son Hamzeh was born in Jordan. We went to Jordan because the medical facilities are better there than in the Occupied Territories, and the doctor told us that sometimes the birth of the first child could be a problem. We also knew that the occupying soldiers in Palestine sometimes enjoyed preventing Palestinian women in labor from reaching the hospital. They are bullies to women as well as to men. We were in Jordan less than a month.

On September 17, 1992, our daughter Rodaina was born at the hospital in Nablus. In 1997 Salaheddin built a large house on his family’s land, and his parents lived there with us. Maryam was born on May 6, 1998 at the hospital in Nablus.

During summer 2000 the Israelis attacked Al Fandaqumiyah with tanks, airplanes and gunfire. When the attack began I was in the bedroom with the children watching television. When we were aware we were being attacked, I closed the windows tight and sprinkled perfume around to mask the stink of the gas, and returned to the bedroom. We thought also that the perfume might alleviate some of the toxic effects of the gas. The children were crying and they were afraid. I told them not to be afraid, that the Israeli soldiers would leave.

The Israelis were firing gas bombs in the street, and some of the gas was leaking into the house and making the children ill. The gas made them drowsy, also. The Israelis fired a gas bomb through the window of my kitchen and it fell inside the house. Salaheddin came in to throw the bomb out. We all ran out of the house together. The children were sick and we had to wait in the olive grove on our land near the house until the gas cleared.

Maryam was two years old, and she was overcome by the gas. The other children were crying and I was crying. I tried to make Maryam smell the perfume I had brought out. We stayed outside in the olive grove until the Israeli troops left the village and the stink had subsided in the house, maybe half an hour or an hour. Then we went back in the house. Maryam had partially revived, but she was very drowsy and sick. She had great difficulty breathing.

Salaheddin drove to the pharmacy. I started the electric fans to blow the gas out of the house. I was worried about Salaheddin because it took him so long to get back from the pharmacy. The children cried and then I would talk to them and they would stop for a while, and then later they would start crying again. I tried to comfort the children until Salaheddin returned. We gave Maryam the medicine he brought, and she recovered. The children would not sleep in their own room that night, but slept with my husband and me.

A month or two after the gas attack, the Israelis attacked our village with tanks and soldiers in trucks. The soldiers knocked on the door of our house and Salaheddin’s father let
them in. The children and Salaheddin’s mother began crying with fear. The Israeli soldiers went about inside the house breaking our plates and cups and smashing potted plants. They kicked a can of olive oil around, splashing it all over the carpet and furniture. The soldiers took Salaheddin away. He came back later that day.

My last daughter Faten was born on April 29, 2001. I told Salaheddin it was time to go to the hospital, because I was in pain. He was driving me to the hospital at Nablus. His mother was with us. I was in great pain. At a checkpoint between Nablus and Al Fandaqumiyah, near a Jewish-only town, the Israeli soldiers delayed us about an hour, and then would not let us through. After an hour they told us to go back home, so Salaheddin tried to reach Nablus by a different route. There was another checkpoint and the soldiers would not let us through. The soldier said it was not his problem and ordered us to go back. My mother in law told them I was in pain and she was angry that the Israelis were indifferent to my suffering.

But then Salaheddin tried another route, an unpaved road, behind and over the mountain. I was afraid I would deliver the baby in the car, and I was frightened. My mother-in-law had brought scissors and string to tie up the umbilicus if necessary. But eventually we reached the hospital in Nablus. The doctor gave me two injections. Faten was delivered about half an hour or less after we arrived. She was blue. The doctor said she had ingested some fluid during the bumpy trip, and he suctioned out her nose. Afterward the baby was fine.

Before we left Al Fandaqumiyah, sometimes the children would be too upset to complete their homework. Hamzeh still has nightmares, and wakes up in the night afraid. Rodaina has sleeping problems, too, but Hamzeh suffers more. He is afraid of the prospect of going back. He knows that the Israelis kill children and he does not know the reason. He and Rodaina know that the Israelis killed a two-month old Palestinian child and they are preoccupied with it. They found out about it by watching the television news. Sometimes they cry while watching the news on television.

I first knew we were going to the United States when we obtained visas before Faten was born. We wanted to rest and let our children forget at least for a while the horror of daily life for Palestinian children under the Israeli occupation. I first knew that Salaheddin had decided to apply for asylum a month or so after we arrived, when he talked to an attorney.


Sworn to and signed before me this August 13, 2002 by Hanan Alhaj Ibrahim, to which witness my hand and seal of office:

Notary Public in and for Dallas County, Texas

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