In an outrageous decision, the Supreme Court rejected Sheikh Sayah Abu Madhi’m A-Turi’s request for an appeal
Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF) – November 21, 2018
Sheikh Sayah Abu Madhi’m A-Turi is a leader in the fight for land in his unrecognized village al-‘Arāgīb, and one of the leaders in the longest battles for Bedouin land in the Negev/Naqab. Sayah, 69, was born in the village in 1949. He was married in the village and had his children and grandchildren there.
In December 2017, the Be’er Sheva Magistrates Court convicted Sheikh Sayah of 19 counts of trespassing, 19 counts of unlawful entry into public land and one count of breach of law. He was sentenced to ten months in prison, five months’ probation and a 36,000 ILS fine.
Sheikh Sayah appealed the Magistrate Court’s decision with the help of the Human Rights Defenders Fund and Advocate Shehadeh Ibn Bari who represents him in the criminal case. The appeal was denied. A motion for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has recently been filed. The court instructed the state to submit its response by November 2018, before deciding whether to grant leave to appeal. The motion was denied today by the Supreme Court.
The village of al-‘Arāgīb is located west of Road 40, between the Lehavim and Goral junctions, in the midst of a large Jewish National Fund (JNF) forestation project spanning tens of thousands of dunams. Until 2010, when the state began its repeated demolitions of the village, some 400-people lived in it, farming their land and growing mainly winter crops. The population has since shrunk and residents now live near the cemetery, where they were forced to move after the demolitions a number of years ago. They continue to fight against the demolition from there.
On June 27, 2010, the village of al-‘Arāgīb was completely destroyed by state authorities and has since been destroyed each and every month, including Ramadan. As of October 2018, the village had been demolished 135 times.
Sheikh Sayah leads the heroic fight for the village and its land. He faces a united front of state authorities that have joined forces to prove his land ownership claims are false. The Israel Police, the State Attorney’s Office, the Negev Bedouin Development Authority, the Israel Land Authority – all work against this steadfast man who continues to live in impossible conditions, with no running water or electricity, leading his community out of faith in the justice of his path. Sayah uses his public position to raise awareness and promote recognition for other unrecognized villages in the Negev facing similar difficulties.
Two of Sayah’s sons are on trial for similar offenses. The criminalization of Sayah’s living on the land and the findings that these offenses carry prison sentences effectively criminalize dozens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Bedouin citizens with similar status in the land. There is reason to believe Sayah and his family have been singled out for enforcement action to the full extent of the law precisely because they have opted for a non-violent struggle for Bedouins’ rights in the Negev. Throughout all legal proceedings taken against him Sayah has repeatedly expressed a strong public stance of determination and perseverance and shown he was prepared to pay the heavy cost of refusing to give up the fight.
The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF) will continue to support Sayah and his family in their just struggle.