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Imtithal's Story: Humiliation of Skunk Water in Nabi Saleh

The village of Nabi-Saleh holds weekly demonstrations on Friday’s against the Israeli occupation and specifically against the nearby expanding settlement. During those weekly demonstrations, they march peacefully from the village square down to the water well, which has been taken over in December 2009 by the Settlers of Halamish, a settlement located on the opposite hill of Nabi Saleh. Ever since the start of the demonstrations the protesters have only been able to reach the water well three times, all other times they were prevented to do so by the Israeli army.

Every Friday morning at around 8.00 a.m. the army enters the village in military jeeps; some soldiers hide behind olive trees in the field surrounding Nabi Saleh, others sit in a jeep at the junction in the village. In order to disperse the protest the army uses all kinds of weapons including teargas, rubber-coated bullets and live bullets aimed at the protesters, some of whom are minors. Their most recent method is the usage of so-called “Skunk water”. Skunk water is a blue liquid substance that is sprayed by a water cannon, it smells like garbage and sewage water. When sprayed on fabrics, like clothes, carpets and curtains, one will almost be unable to wash it out and most of the time be forced to throw the fabric away.
 
Imtithal is mother of 9 children. Her house is located along side the main road of the village. It is usual for the protesters to use this road to walk towards the water well. And as the army often randomly uses disperse methods at the protest, Imtithal’s house if often targeted by the army.
 
“In January 2011”,imtithal recalls, “our house was sprayed with skunk water for the first time. Because our house was still under construction, some windows at the porch and the second floor were still missing. Thus, when they sprayed the house all the furniture in our living room was drenched in skunk water. Until now, you can still smell the skunk water in our carpets and sofa’ s. It’s horrible!”
 
“Ever since that day, I would thus always take prevention measures, like cover the windows with wood or blankets, just in case the skunk water car would come down the village streets. However on the 2nd of June, 2011 I felt safe and I didn’t take any measures. Just before the protest started that day, my daughters and I were standing on the rooftop of my house. Like usual we watched the demonstrators as they marched down our street. Normally we are safe at the rooftop, however this time as soon as the protest started, the Israeli soldiers, who were standing at the end of our street, started shooting teargas at the roof. One of these teargas canisters was aimed at my daughter’s head, luckily it just touched her hair that was tied in a bun on top of her head. Quickly we ran into the house to avoid the teargas.” Imtithal recalls.
 
…“after a short while it became quiet and my daughters went back to the rooftop to watch. I decided to start cooking in the kitchen on the first floor. Around 6.00 p.m. I heard my daughters screaming “the skunk water car is coming, the skunk water car is coming!” While they were still screaming I heard how teargas was again shot on the rooftop. The girls kept on screaming. I heard them say they were trapped on the rooftop. The teargas was thrown near the stairs, which prevented them from going anywhere. Then suddenly I heard the skunk water truck approaching our house and heard how they started spraying at our rooftop. The army started spraying the skunk water directly at my daughters who were stuck on the rooftop . At the same time they threw teargas at the rest of the house. One canister hit the front porch. So the whole house was full of teargas. Now I was also trapped inside the house. I couldn’t do anything but hear my daughters screaming from the rooftop. I felt like destroying the whole house, just to get my daughters off the rooftop, but I couldn’t do anything.” Imtithal adds.
 
Since the house of Imtithal was still under construction and was missing many windows, the teargas spread fast throughout the whole house. Moreover, the skunk water got into the house. “They were aiming at the windows. That is something we found out later on the videotapes that were shot during the protest.” Imtithal stresses.
 
“Finally when the army had left, my daughters and myself, went outside to clean the porch. But suddenly teargas was shot at us by the army. One of the teargas canisters hit my 22-yearold daughter in her leg. As we went inside to take care of her injury all the protesters came to help out. So everyone was walking with their feet in the skunk water and then through my house. My whole house was covered with skunk water!” Imtithal continued.
 
“I was so surprised by all what had happened that day. My house was full of smelly skunk water, teargas was thrown at my house, and directly at my daughter. I didn’t feel like cleaning, I was overwhelmed by the whole thing. Luckily, my daughters began to clean the house it took them until 11.00 at night to clean the house. Three weeks later, the smell is still in the house, especially on the stair, where the smell is still very strong.”
 
“You know” Imtithal starts “sometimes I feel like I can handle everything; the gas and even someone getting injured during the protest, but the skunk water makes me crazy. I just can’t handle this thing, it’s so humiliating. The teargas you can smell it for a while and then it goes, but the skunk water, even after cleaning everything it will still stink. I even had to throw up a couple of times during the cleaning of my house. And even though I cleaned my house so many times, the stench remained; it feels like I did nothing. It’s so humiliating.”
 
The skunk water, used in Nabi Saleh, is often sprayed on people and directly aimed at houses. Like Imtithal’s case suggests, the skunk water cannon is often aimed at open windows, gardens and open stairways. The skunk water is aimed directly at the villagers’ property. Deliberately causing damage,
 
Until now the exact chemical substance in skunk water is still unknown. Therefore it is unclear whether skunk water will have long-term negative health effects when used directly at people or indirect health effects when sprayed in gardens, where the villagers often grow herbs and vegetables.