Relatives of the American teenager allegedly beaten by Israeli police in the West Bank announced Tuesday that a formal complaint had been lodged with Israeli authorities and then urged the U.S. government to do all it could to speed the return of the 15-year-old to his home country.
The beating of Tariq Abu Khieder, who goes to school in Florida, occurred amid a wave of violent protests following the abductions and killings of three Israelis and a Palestinian, all teenagers, in the past month. The slain Palestinian teen was Tariq’s cousin.
Some of Tariq’s family members who live in Baltimore traveled Tuesday to the District, where they held a news conference with representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and sought help from the government to get Tariq back to the United States.
“I don’t know if we have faith in the courts there, but we do have faith in the U.S. government,” said Tariq’s cousin Hakeim Abu Khdeir, 24.
The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem has been working closely with Tariq’s family, and the U.S. Department of State has issued a statement calling for “a speedy, transparent and credible investigation” of the incident.
The identities of the officers accused of beating Tariq have not been released; Israeli intelligence has placed a gag order on the investigation. Zainab Chaudry, CAIR’s Maryland outreach manager, criticized the lack of transparency.
Chaudry pointed out that a video of the attack appears to show two Israeli police officers beating Tariq in a relative’s yard in a West Bank neighborhood. Chaudry said Tariq received about 20 kicks and blows to his body and face.
The video was released a day after another video that showed Tariq’s second cousin, Mohammad Abu Khieder, being abducted.
Tariq had traveled to the West Bank to attend a wedding and see relatives on his summer vacation. It was the first time he had visited in almost a decade, his relatives said, and he was very close to his slain cousin, Mohammad. Tariq frequently communicated with Mohammad over social media while in Florida, and was the last person to see Mohammad before he was abducted and shoved into a car.
Mohammad’s badly burned body was later discovered in a forest.
At the funeral on July 4, a demonstration ensued with many Palestinians clashing with police, and some throwing rocks. Tariq was accused of being one of those throwing rocks at police.
Tariq’s family said he was not involved in the demonstration and did not throw rocks, and refuted some reports that he had been holding a slingshot when Israeli police beat him in his relative’s yard. Chaudry said that even if Tariq had been holding a slingshot, that did not warrant the violence shown in the video.
An Israeli court has placed Tariq under house arrest.
Fatima Abu Khdeir, one of Tariq’s aunts, said Tuesday that she broke into tears when she watched the video, discovering later that it was the nephew she had watched grow up in Baltimore before he moved to Florida when he was 10. When she called Tariq’s father, she said, she had to pull the words out of him because his voice kept breaking with emotion.
Tariq loves football and performing the dabke, an Arab folk dance, with his family, Chaudry said.
Cousin Hakeim Abu Khdeir said that a day before Tariq was beaten, he messaged Tariq through Instagram: “Be safe, stay off the streets.”
Khdeir said that he visits his family in the West Bank every other summer and that family vacations there are always looked forward to as a happy and exciting time, especially when there is a wedding.
“Blood is blood, and this is wrong,” Khdeir said of the beating. “It’s not about who’s who. All of my friends here, Arab American friends and Jewish friends — all of my American friends – think that this is horrible.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that a video had been released showing the killing of Mohammad Abu Khieder. The video showed Khieder’s abduction.