TLV: Parts IV, V, and VI
"That was the thing about my time in Israeli custody, I had no awareness of it (time). That was its own torture. It felt like I was trapped in their tiny little box, controlled completely by them."
The following portions of my story cover a second wave of interrogation, my strip search, the ride to the detention facility, and the first few hours at the detention center. These are not the final parts; there is more to be published.
He told me to get my bags and walk over across the large room. It was another waiting room, smaller in size. I walked over there and waited there waiting, once more, to be called in to talk to someone else. To my surprise, Friend 1 was there waiting too.
They’re definitely deporting me she said. She gave me more information about what had happened to her. She felt that the men had confused her. She went through the same thing I had just gone through. They had pressed her and ultimately she let her guard down and admitted to lying. And they were deporting her anyways. She was feeling the same way. I didn’t feel alone.
I was called in. It was a woman. I didn’t know what I was in for.
I sat down at the desk in front of her. I felt beyond angry, I had entered into a sort of whimsical state of shock. I was in disbelief. I didn’t think I was in my own body.
She asked me questions. Some of them were the same as I had been asked before and some of them were different. I was asked for what felt like the 100th time, whether or not I was a terrorist. I paused. I smiled a little. I really couldn’t believe they were putting me through this. I said no. She looked up at me. Wipe that stupid smile off your face. This is all your fault. Everything that is happening to you is your fault. You lied. You are a liar.
I felt like she had read my mind when I smiled. I responded, I am NOT a liar. I had raised my tone.
She slammed her fist down on the table close to me.
I jumped. I wasn’t expecting that.
Shut up she yelled. Stop talking. Just listen. You people do this. You try to enter our country with our laws and break the laws. You say you are Indian but you do not even look Indian you look Muslim. You are a Muslim.
I felt like I was living in some parallel universe. Was she for real?
I told her, I’m American, my parents are Indian, and we are Indian Muslim.
There are no Muslims in India, she said.
I wish I could say that I told her she was the dumbest person to ever have her job, but I didn’t.
Interrogator 6 was the most verbally violent person I encountered thus far. She was worse than Interrogator 5.
She scanned my fingerprints on a device. She took a picture of me. She told me I would never again be allowed to enter Israel.
Get out of my office she said.
I left and sat outside silently. Friend 1 was gone. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I don’t know why. I wasn’t sure what had just happened. I look over and see Interrogator 3 walking towards me. He had been the one who was friendly to me at first. He had something in his hand. It was a sandwich. He sat down on the bench next to me. He placed a hand on my shoulder. I flinched and moved away.
You haven’t eaten all day, he said.
I hadn’t noticed. It had been well over 12 hours since my flight had landed. His face made me want to vomit. I’m not hungry I said. I didn’t trust him. He told me everything will be okay. He said to wait where I was and a security guard would fetch me. I didn’t respond. There was nothing to say. He left
The security guard came. He walked me to a room at the back of the airport. We passed the empty baggage claim. The airport was massive. It was the first time I had actually felt like I was moving all day.
We got to the room. Friend 1 was sitting in a chair against the wall. There was a table on the other side of the room. There were two pieces of luggage sitting on the table, open. One of them was mine. There were two other guards in the room, a man, and a woman. The man motioned to me to approach the table. The woman called Friend 1 inside a hallway towards the back of the room.
I approached the table. Unpack, he said. I began removing my clothes from my bag, one by one in front of him. He had a plastic baton looking thing in her hand. He used it to poke at the inside of my bag as I removed all of my things only to pack all of it again.
I sat back down. I waited. Friend 1 emerged from the hallway appearing disheveled. My eyes widened. She was holding the scarf she had worn around her neck in a clumped up ball in one hand. Her hair was messy.
The woman motioned for me to come in next. I followed her down the hallway to a small room on the right. Instead of a door, the room had a curtain that could be pulled for privacy. There was a mirror in the room and a small chair in the corner.
Take off all of your clothes except for your undergarments, she said.
She’s not serious, I thought. There’s no way. I looked at her and didn’t move. I even had a smirk on my face because I so deeply couldn’t believe that after all of this, I was being strip searched.
MOVE, she said. I looked back at myself in the mirror. I began unpinning my hijab, carefully resting the pins on the small chair in the room. I undressed. I turned to her. She asked me to turn around. She asked me to squat. She told me to put my clothes back on.
There was a mirror in the room. I'll never forget that image of myself.
She walked me back to the main room. I sat down. Friend 1 was standing at the table with the man who had the stick, poking at her luggage. She sat back down, seats away from me. Although we had spoken before, we made a point not to speak to each other in front of the guards.
A third guard walked into the room. Let’s go, he said.
Friend 1 and I followed him out of the room and back into the airport. We looked at each other and began whispering. Where do you think he’s taking us? Is there time to call my parents? Should we call someone? Are we catching our flight back?
The guard turned around and told us to walk faster. I asked for my passport loudly, as I had countless times to every guard and interrogator that we had come across. He ignored me. We were heading towards a side door of the airport I had not noticed. I asked the guard if he was taking us to our flight. He said he wasn’t. We were going to a place where we would ‘wait’ for the next available flight. We were now out of the airport walking towards an unmarked white van.
I whipped out my phone to call my family. They answered and I told them I did not know where I was going but they would hear from me in the morning. They asked me where I was. I told them we were walking towards an unmarked white van.
The guard turned around and began yelling at me. I was not supposed to be on the phone. He took my phone and put it in the front zipper of my bag. He then instructed us to get into the van. Friend 1 and I got into the van. We both sat next to each other in the back and held hands. My heart was racing. The windows were completely tinted black. We couldn’t see outside and we couldn’t see each other.
The van began to move. I didn’t have a watch on or my phone so I couldn’t tell how much time had passed. It felt like an hour. It might’ve been less or more. I still do not know. All I remember is the blackness of the van and holding hands with Friend 1 as if she was all I had left in the world. I didn’t want to leave the van and enter whatever place they were taking us to. I wanted time to stop.
We felt the van make a sharp turn and then suddenly come to a complete halt. After a few minutes, the side door of the van slid open with full force. The guard ordered us out of the van. It was less dark and I could smell the burn of cigarettes. Friend 1 and I were still holding hands. We let go. Something in my mood. Nothing mattered. I felt like I entered a more whimsical state. I rolled my eyes and let out a soft smile. I couldn’t believe I was here.
The guard smiled at us. But then smiled at Friend 1 and was fixated on her. He asked her where she was from. She responded. She took a step away from him. I grew tense. He opened the trunk and gave us our bags.
He walked us into the building where we met another guard. He had light skin and light eyes. This guard walked us to a room on the ground floor that was filled with luggage. There was barely space to walk. He instructed us to put our bags down. He gave us tags to put on them. I asked him if our things were safe here. He said yes. It didn’t sound reassuring at all. Hurry up he barked. I jumped at his shift in tone. I became even more lost in some kind of delusional state. I smiled at him. I wanted to hurt him. The more time that passed, the more my resistance took on an emotionally repressive state. I could see clearly and through everybody.
I could tell he hated questions. So I asked more. “Can we bring anything with us?” I asked. Friend 1 looked at me and smiled. She caught on. “Yeah can we bring things with us?” she asked. The guard stared at us hard and long. It became harder for me to not smile. “Try me,” I thought.
“No” he said. I said “but I need my retainers. I don’t sleep without them.” He paused, and said, “Is that all you need.” Friend 1 said she wanted to bring her book. “Fine, but we will search through everything you bring.” “Can I bring my book too?” I asked holding back a laugh. Nothing about my situation was funny. I still do not know why I laughed. He turned and said something to the other guard and walked upstairs. The other guard stood watching over us. “Hurry up,” he said.
I grabbed the following things: my travel blanket, my book (ironically my favorite book, the Alchemist), my retainers, all of my cash rolled up and slipped into my underwear, my cell phone, and my toothbrush.
He didn’t see what we took with us. He then took us upstairs. The stairs were narrow and led to the second floor. On the second floor was a small space with a couch. Behind the couch were large windows that were completely black. There was a door next to the couch that was wide open. There were people inside. As we stepped closer We could see everything inside that other little room. The room was lit up by several computer screens lining desks and screens on the walls. Every screen was surveilling a different part of the building and a different room. On one of the screens, there were bunks with people sleeping on them. I woman approached from out of the room. She was stern. So far all of the women had been the most stern. Sit over there, she ordered as she pointed to the couch. Friend 1 and I sat on the couch. Stand, she said to Friend 1. She began patting down Friend 1. She left no part of her body untouched. She had her empty her pockets. She gripped everything. The guard that had driven us and had tried to talk to her was staring. I wanted to break his face. Instantly I became nervous about the cash. I knew she’d find my phone. It was in my pocket. I could feel it.
It was my turn. She found my phone first. She looked me dead in the eye as she held the phone up to my face. “Do you think we’re stupid” she asked. I didn’t say anything. I clenched my fists. It took everything in me to not yell. “I’m asking you a question.” I stayed silent. “Okay then.” She slipped my phone into her pocket. “That’s mine now.” She continued to pat my body down. Her hands came close to the cash. She grazed over it and didn’t stop. I was in the clear. But my phone was gone. My eyes clenched shut in disappointment. My parents had no idea where I was. My heart began pounding. My parents had no idea where I was. They didn’t know. The last they heard, was that I was walking towards a white van. But they didn’t know where I was. Right now, they had no idea.
“Can I call my family?”
“I need to call my family”
“I DEMAND to speak to my family”
“Shut up. Take them inside.”
I lost it. I could see my mom’s face in front of me. I began yelling things that I can’t even remember anymore. I have tried to remember, but I can not.
The guard pushed Friend 1 and me into a room. I didn’t look around. I was so angry. He locked the door and walked away. There was a small window with bars on it and I saw him walk away. The woman was gone. He was gone.
I’m not sure what overcame me, but I began banging on the door. I pounded my fists on that door with everything I had. I pounded and pounded. I yelled. The side of my hand stung from the banging but I did not care. I pounded. I don’t know how much time passed, it could have been an hour, or twenty minutes, I did not know. I pounded and pounded.
That was the thing about my time in Israeli custody, I had no awareness of it (time). That was its own torture. It felt like I was trapped in their tiny little box, controlled completely by them. They knew when to check in and when not to. They never said, “I’ll be back in an hour”. They didn’t give you an idea how much time they had taken away from you or what time of the day it was. In your mind, all you knew was that box you were in. And the box felt like forever. The boundaries, restrictions, punishment, questions, interrogating, all of it felt like forever, because you did not know what time it was.
I was surprised at how loud I was. How long I was able to pound on that metal door. I was most surprised, however, of how I lacked fear. How I knew that all the guards were armed but it did not matter. It was that delusional state I entered. All bets were off.
The woman came back. As soon as I saw her I pounded harder. She approached the door. I could hear her unlocking it. I stepped back.
“One call. And you stop making noise.”
I didn’t say anything. She walked me to the control room.
“You use our phone.”
She handed me a white cordless phone. I took it and called my mom first. It was ringing. She didn’t answer. It went to voicemail. My eyes were closed the entire time. I was praying.
I left a message. I told them I was fine. I told them not to worry. I tried to sound happy. I tried to sound okay.
I hung up. Something told me to try calling my dad. The woman wasn’t paying attention so I snuck in another call. It rang. My dad answered.
He was worried. He asked where I was. It almost sounded like he was crying. I had never heard my father’s voice like that. He was telling me I’d be okay. He was asking me so many questions. He asked me how I was getting back. He asked me if I was safe. He asked me if anyone had mistreated me. He asked me where my passport was.
My voice was calm. I told him I was totally fine.
I told him it was going to be okay. I would be on the first flight back tomorrow. I didn’t know that I would be, but that’s what I said.
He asked to speak to the woman. I gave her the phone.
She stared at the phone for a moment before she took it. They spoke. I heard a sternness in my dad’s tone. She nodded her head in affirmation. She spoke. Your daughter is totally fine, she said. There’s nothing to worry about. She hung up.