A reporter’s arrest in Iowa connects to her mom’s experience in Israel


As I was transported to Iowa’s Polk County jail, my hands zip-tied behind my back and eyes burning with pepper spray, I thought about my mother’s experience being strip searched and thrown in an Israeli detention cell. 

Her crime? 

Traveling to Palestine for her brother’s wedding in July 2009. My mother was born and raised in Palestine. Her homeland has been occupied by Israel for more than half a century.

My crime?  

Reporting on the protests that erupted in Des Moines in May 2020, after George Floyd was murdered under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. I was charged with failure to disperse and interference with official acts, and later taken to trial. (I was acquitted by a jury in March.)

I almost let out a laugh in the back of the Des Moines police van. Like mother, like daughter, I thought to myself. 

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Witnessing my mother’s trauma

Des Moines Register journalist Andrea Sahouri photographed in Bethlehem with her brother, Alex Sahouri, and mother, Muna Tareh-Sahouri, during a childhood visit to Palestine.

In July 2009, my mother, brother, and I were interrogated by Israeli authorities upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. Having spent my childhood summers in Palestine, I was used to the interrogations— they happened every time. 

We were sent to a room we sarcastically call “the VIP room.” There, Palestinians like my family are grilled for hours about our expected travel and activity in the country, our family members, political affiliations, and even our social media. 

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