Northern Ireland news

Israeli strip search described as 'humiliating' by trade unionists

Michelle McCrystal and Deborah Yapicioz
Connla Young

TWO trade union activists who were strip searched while leaving Israel earlier this month have described the experience as “humiliating”.

The woman were part of an Irish Congress of Trade Unions sponsored trip to the region.

Unison representative Deborah Yapicioz (57) and Irish National Teachers Organisation (Into) member Michelle McCrystal had taken part in a nine-day visit to the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank.

The delegation visited a UN refugee camp for Palestinians and health centre along with a number of schools.

They said they were among a group of seven trade union members who were stopped at Ben Gurion airport on November 3.

It is claimed that of the five women present, four were later fully or partially strip searched.

Neither of the men were singled out.

Ms Yaticioz, who is based in Armagh, said she was taken into a small cubicle by a female member of security staff.

“The security woman had a metal detector and started to pat me down and search me in a far more intimate way than Belfast, touching me in the chest area,” she said.

She said that she was eventually told to remove her clothes.

“There I was standing in my birthday suit and she was scanning between my legs and said the metal detector had picked something up.

“It was intimidating and she made me sit down and I had to open my legs and she had the scanner close to my genital area.”

Ms Yaticioz said the experience was “completely humiliating” and claimed that those who carried out the search were “unfriendly and hostile”.

“There was no empathy shown,” she said.

“I was worried I had to go somewhere else for a more invasive procedure, that was my big fear.”

Teacher Michelle McCrystal, from near Maghera in Co Derry, believes her group was “marked” before they entered the airport.

“We were interrogated, everything about it was antagonistic,” she said.

Ms McCrystal said she was also scanned and forced to remove her bra during a search.

“It was obvious they were targeting the women in particular,” she said.

“These were young women doing this and there was an indifference to what they were doing, you were next to nothing.

“Humiliating is the best word (to describe it).”

Paul Woods, who teaches in west Belfast and took part in the trip, said he believes the searches were “deliberate”.

“It was degrading and upsetting for them and it was done with a purpose of humiliating and to send a message that they (Israel) are in control,” he claimed.

The Israeli Embassy in London was approached for comment.

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