Family members of Tariq Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old Tampa boy beaten by Israeli police while on holiday, had sought help from their congressional representative, Rep. Kathy Castor.
Instead, Khdeir’s cousin Tamara Essayyad said a staffer with Castor’s Washington, D.C. office reprimanded her.
For five days after the beating, Castor was unresponsive to the family’s requests, Essayyad said in an interview with the Huffington Post.
Last week, teenager’s family asked Washington-based attorney Essayyad to reach out to Castor’s office.
Originally, Castor’s staff denied Khdeir was a constituent, Essayyad said, but after receiving proof of his residency, she continued to stall.
Hoping to have better luck in person, Essayyad paid a visit to Castor’s office on Capitol Hill.
At first, Clay Phillips, Castor’s chief of staff, would not speak about Khdeir.
Essayyad showed Phillips a copy of the New York Times article with her cousin’s photo.
“They didn’t want to deal with it,” Essayyad said. “They didn’t give me any sort of response as to how we could reach out.”
Phillips told her she needed to follow a particular process.
“Well, how do we tap into that process, because we’re losing essential time,” Essayyad responded. “Tariq needs to receive medical treatment. He needs to know that his representative is trying to get him home, and that’s not happening.”
Essayyad added that Phillips kept repeating, ‘We’re not going to deal with this. We’re just not going to talk about this right now.”
She pointed out that Castor had not condemned the actions of the Israeli police, and only echoed the State Department’s position “expressing dismay at reports” of Khdeir’s beating.
On July 16, Castor representative Marcia Mejia issued a statement calling Essayyad’s account a “misrepresentation of events” to inflame sentiments “at a time when Americans should be working to bridge differences among people.”
All who work in Congress, in D.C. or district offices, have had the experience of meeting with someone who is understandably frustrated or angry who wanted immediate responses or results that could not be provided. That does not mean that they were not heard or that their concerns were not taken seriously.
Our office is assisting the Khdeir family. Congresswoman Castor agrees with the U.S. State Department position announced last week expressing dismay at reports that Tariq Khdeir was severely beaten while in police custody, strongly condemning any excessive use of force, and urging a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.
Israel’s Justice Ministry announced that it was conducting such an investigation last week, and subsequently that it is leaning toward indicting the police officer responsible for excessive force. However, the investigation as to the entire series of events revolving around the protest has not concluded.
In this volatile time, Congresswoman Castor urges peace among peoples and accountability for those who target innocent youth for vengeful purposes.
On a vacation to visit relatives, Khdeir’s beating — which was captured on video — led to nine days of house arrest in East Jerusalem while they investigated his alleged participation in violent protests over the death of his cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir.
Khdeir has since returned to Tampa.