Nisreen: Court Decisions that Dramatically Impact Peoples’ Daily Lives

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel
Civil and Human Rights 

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Reflecting on success

Nisreen Alyan, for the past 10 years a lawyer and field worker at ACRI, believes the East Jerusalem project is one of ACRI’s  most successful.

“One of the most beautiful things about this project is that it succeeds in achieving court decisions that influence people’s daily lives in a dramatic way,” Nisreen says.

Her recent accomplishments on behalf of East Jerusalem residents include the following:

  • The building of additional classrooms by order of the High Court of Justice
  • The opening of post offices in East Jerusalem, and official names given to a number of streets, thereby enabling GPS systems to work
  • Improved garbage collection and street cleaning in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher
  • Getting official municipality forms translated into Arabic
  • Stopping the police practice of collecting debts owed to government bodies at checkpoints
  • The addition of four well-baby clinics
  • Getting the water authority to connect more residents to clean water
  • Getting three million shekels added to the East Jerusalem school budget in a move toward equalizing education budgets in East and West Jerusalem
  • Exempting minors from a new law that stipulates a prison sentence of two to five years for stone-throwing

Of all of these, Nisreen is proudest of getting the government to build more classrooms, thereby improving upon the dearth of school classrooms in East Jerusalem. There is still a long way to go, but, says Nisreen, “The government acknowledges the need for these things, which they didn’t before. They are aware of the problem. They are building schools. The court’s judgment speaks very beautifully about equality of education for children in East Jerusalem.”

What lies ahead

After 10 years at ACRI, Nisreen has decided to accept a full-time job at the Hebrew University’s multicultural law clinic, where she’s been working part time for two years.

“The government acknowledges the need, which they didn’t before. They are aware of the problem. They are building schools. The court’s judgment speaks very beautifully about equality of education for children in East Jerusalem”

“Ten years is a good time to start something new, to get a fresh perspective,” she says. “I believe I can continue to influence and bring about change in the new role. It was a very difficult decision, because I love ACRI and really believe in its work. I’m grateful that I’ll be partnering with ACRI on some of the issues I will work on at the clinic, such as police brutality against minorities. But I do have mixed feelings. It’s very much like leaving home.”

With more resources…

If ACRI had more resources, Nisreen would like it to petition the High Court of Justice to compel the government to open more well-baby clinics on the other side of the separation wall.

“Mothers now have to cross checkpoints in the rain, the cold, the heat, to get the very basic services for babies,” she says.

Further, the East Jerusalem project’s work is based on findings from fieldwork, and Nisreen would like to see the staff increased to include a full-time field worker, as well as two lawyers.

“In the past, we had more money for the project, and we could do much more work and have more influence on the residents’ lives. It’s heartbreaking to have to say no to East Jerusalem residents who turn to us with cases that we should be able to take on. It’s very hard to say to people, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t take this on, we don’t have the staff.’”

The next big challenge for ACRI’s East Jerusalem project is to monitor the government’s decision – announced on Jerusalem Day – to allocate $2 billion shekels to East Jerusalem.

“There are no details yet,” says Nisreen. “They are currently preparing the programs, and when they finish, we’ll ask that these be made public and then we’ll start to work. We’ll ask: How are they dividing the money? What are their goals? Do they reflect the real needs of the residents? We’ll try to make sure that the money goes where it’s most needed.”

Written and reported by Ruth Mason.

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