Palestinian officials confirm Israa Ghareeb died from physical assault wounds
The Public Prosecution of the State of Palestine confirmed on Thursday that Israa Ghareeb, the 21-year-old Palestinian woman whose murder sparked international debate on gender-based violence, died as a result of being physically assaulted.
Palestinian Attorney General Akram al-Khatib said in a press conference in Ramallah, “Israa [Ghareeb]’s death was the result of severe respiratory failure that resulted from her having been beaten and subjected to violence.”
Three of Ghareeb’s relatives were detained and are being charged with Ghareeb’s murder, al-Khatib added.
Following her death, her family had told reporters that Ghareeb’s injuries were the result of her jumping out of her bedroom window because she was possessed. The family later claimed that she suffered from a mental illness. They also then insisted that she had died of a stroke.
“We have proved through investigations and evidence that the claim that she had fallen from the balcony of her home was false, and was made to hide the domestic violence she had endured before being admitted to the hospital,” al-Khatib said.
A mental health and neurological disorders’ specialist, Dr. Tawfiq Salman, told Al Arabiya channel that Ghareeb’s medical records had not indicated a history of mental illness.
The make-up artist’s death sparked outrage earlier this month as hundreds of people took to social media and the streets of Bethlehem and Ramallah to condemn so-called honor killings and call for better legal protections for women.
Bernard Sabella, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Jerusalem, told Al Arabiya English on Thursday that Ghareeb’s death came as a shock to most people in Palestine.
“Civil society organizations in Palestine had strongly condemned Israa’s murder. Women and men demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s office in Ramallah asking for the approval of the Family Protection Law. This law prohibits and punishes killing of women on the pretext of family honor,” explained Sabella.
Ghareeb’s murder occurred after the 21-year-old from Bethlehem had gone out to dinner with her fiancé and his sister, and posted a video of their outing on a social media platform.
Her friends alleged that the video angered her cousins and uncle, who told the young woman’s father and brothers that their daughter had dishonored the family by going out in public with a man before they were officially married.
A voice recording shared on social media showed that Ghareeb’s mother had given her permission to go.
On August 10, Ghareeb was admitted to the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital with a broken spinal cord, according to a Facebook post by a doctor who was on shift that day.
In a widely-shared video, Ghareeb is heard screaming amid the sounds of loud thuds, suggesting that she was being beaten aggressively.
At the time, online users speculated that the video captured the sound of Ghareeb’s family inflicting fatal injuries on her. Al-Khatib confirmed that their allegations were correct.
Friends of the 21-year-old have described Ghareeb as a confident, aspirational, and happy young woman.
Legal protection for women
Sabella told Al Arabiya English that the absence of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which is meant to act as the Palestinian parliament but has not convened since the 2007 conflict between political parties Hamas and Fatah, has “indeed hampered passing laws that protect women against violence within the family.”
Award-winning journalist and human rights activist Rana Husseini told Al Arabiya that Ghareeb’s death highlights the much greater global problem of gender-based violence (GBV).
“I think this will open a new door for more awareness on the issue of violence against women, the need to protect women, the need for governments, including governments in [the Middle East], to be more serious about investigating cases of violence against women,” Husseini, author of “Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman’s Heroic Fight against an Unbelievable Crime,” said.
And while the Palestinian Authority ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on April 2, 2014, Sabella said that “more is needed to ensure that Palestinian women would not fall victim to discrimination and violence in society.”
However, he did predict some progress: “With more university-educated women in Palestine and with the public uproar that followed Israa’s murder, the political agenda would have to consider gender-based violence. I am optimistic that Israa’s murder would motivate Palestinian officials to work for better legal protection to women.”
“I think that Israa’s murder may motivate some civil right organizations to work more assertively with political factions and with the government to come up with practical and legally binding protection for women against domestic violence as well as discrimination in the public and private spheres,” he concluded.