Tariq Khdeir has returned home to Tampa; the teenager who was beaten unconscious by Israeli police was welcomed by dozens of exuberant friends, family and supporters late Wednesday night at Tampa International Airport. photos here
In videos and photos taken shortly after his beating two weeks ago, Khdeir’s face appeared bruised and swollen. But as he and his immediate family walked off the airport tram into the welcoming arms of friends and supporters, his outward appearance was like any other teenager. But one who feels lucky to have survived, even though other Palestinian children, like his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir, have not.
“There’s one main thing that I wanted to say, which is that you will only know my story because I’m an American. But I hope you will also remember my cousin, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian named Mohammed Abu Khdeir. He was just a kid like me and this whole thing started because he was killed. I know he must have been terrified like I was. I was in a new place and suddenly attacked by masked police. It was by far the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. The physical pain in those first hours was really rough. And I’m only fifteen but I’ll never think about freedom in the same way as I did two [weeks] ago.”
Tariq Khdeir’s cousin was burned alive by Israeli extremists. Shortly after Mohammed’s funeral Tariq Khdeir was beaten by Israeli police in an attack that was videotaped.
Hassan Shibly, the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says Khdeir will get medical attention for injuries sustained during the beating.
“A Tampa teenager who is brutally attacked and beaten viciously while he is handcuffed by police officers. Thank God he is back home; today we are very excited. I asked him: ‘Hi Tariq how are you doing?’ ‘I still hurt, especially on the inside.’ His eyes are still red from the bloodshot, the veins that that busted when they kicked him. But thank God, he is so excited to be back; lot of friends, a lot of family, a lot of love, a lot of support . It’s really, probably the most rewarding night I had ever have witH CAIR and I think just seeing Tariq smiling made all our efforts really worthwhile.”
The teenager did not take questions from reporters at the airport. Neither did his mother, Suha Khdeir, who read a statement.
“My son Tariq was beaten unconscious by Israeli police while handcuffed and lying on the floor. I can not begin to describe to you the pain I felt when I looked at his face for the first time after that beating. I know that all the mothers and fathers out there, including the parents of the three Israeli teenagers who were tragically killed, understand this kind of pain. They felt it when they saw the photos of his swollen bruised face. They felt it when they watched the video of his lifeless body being beaten.”
Suha Khdeir echoed her son, saying he was lucky to be alive even though other Palestinian children have been killed. Khdeir’s uncle, Ashraf Salah thinks American citizenship helped get his nephew out of jail, but other Palestinian teens are stuck in Israeli prisons.
“I feel good for Tariq that he is coming home. And hopefully everybody who was with Tariq in his age over there they are still in the jails, hopefully they will be out . That what I feel, seriously. In the same minute they took Tariq they took another six teenagers; fifteen, fourteen years old and they treated them the same they treated Tariq and they are still in jail. They‘re still waiting for their court date.“
Tensions have escalated in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories after Tariq Khdeir’s cousin was killed following the death of three Israeli settlers who had been kidnapped. Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza strip have killed more than 200 Palestinians and one Israeli has died in rocket fire from militants in Gaza. CAIR’s Hassan Shibly wants people to remember the victims.
“Well it’s very difficult to celebrate. I mean, one victory is bringing Tariq back home but right now over two hundred people have been killed in Gaza with the Israeli bombing; dozens and dozens of civilians, dozens of children. Just today, four children blown up as they were playing on the beach by the Israelis. So, you know, I think I ‘ll commend him for saying, ‘look it’s great to be home, thanks for bringing me home, but at the same time, let’s not forget the other children that won’t be able to come home tonight.’“
Now that Tariq Khdeir is back home in Tampa, he says he just wants to go fishing with his friends.
Here is the full transcript of Tariq Khdeir’s statement:
“Hello everybody. Thank you so much for coming out tonight to welcome me home. It feels so good to be back in Tampa. I cannot even put it in words. I can’t wait to go back to play with my friends and go fishing. I got through these past two weeks because I know you were all thinking of me, praying for me and sending me messages to support me.
“There’s one main thing that I wanted to say, which is that you will only know my story because I’m an American. But I hope you will also remember my cousin, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian named Mohammed Abu Khdeir. He was just a kid like me and this whole thing started because he was killed. I know he must have been terrified like I was. I was in a new place and suddenly attacked by masked police. It was by far the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. The physical pain in those first hours was really rough. And I’m only fifteen but I’ll never think about freedom in the same way as I did two [weeks] ago.
“I wanted to ask you all to please remember my cousin Mohammed and the thirty-six kids that died in Gaza over the past several days. They have names like mine. I hope the violence will stop for their sake. No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die that way.
“I’m so glad to be back home again and healing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. I feel really good. I feel great.”
Tariq Khdeir exits tram at Tampa International Airport to enthusiastic welcome by family, friends and supporters.
CAIR-Florida executive director Hassan Shibly reacts to return to Tampa from Palestine of Tariq Khdeir: interview with Seán Kinane of WMNF News.
An aunt of Tariq Khdeir, Sanah Abukhdeir, anticipates his return home to Tampa.
Here’s our previous coverage of Tariq Khdeir.