Israa Ghareeb: A Palestinian woman who lost her life in the name of ‘honor’

Ghareeb’s death has sparked outrage across the Middle East, with people taking to social media and the streets of Bethlehem to call for stricter laws protecting women from violence. (via Twitter)

When 21-year-old Israa Ghareeb, a makeup artist from Bethlehem, went out to dinner with her fiancé and his sister, she did not think that the meeting would trigger a horrific turn of events which would lead to her death.

Ghareeb had posted a video of their outing on a social media platform. Her friends allege that the video angered her cousins and uncle, who told the young woman’s father and brother that their daughter had dishonored the family by going out in public with a man before they were officially married.

Based on a video recording which later circulated on social media, it seems Ghareeb discussed the family’s criticism with her cousin via voice notes on WhatsApp. In the video, Ghareeb is heard recording her mother, who says that she had given her daughter permission to go out with her fiancé and his sister.

Despite this, 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. Social media users allege that her injuries were caused by her father and brother physically attacking her.

At the hospital, she had posted a photo of herself with the caption, “I’m better now, [thank god].”

Her family said that the young woman sustained injuries to her body after she had tried to jump out of her bedroom window because she was possessed, and have claimed that she suffered from a mental illness. They also insisted that she had later died of a stroke.

However, in a widely-shared video, Ghareeb is heard screaming amid the sounds of loud thuds, suggesting that she was being beaten aggressively. Online commentators have alleged that the video captures the sound of Ghareeb’s family inflicting fatal injuries on her.

Her medical records do not indicate a history of mental illness, Dr. Tawfiq Salman, a mental and neurological disorders’ specialist, told Al Arabiya channel. He said that friends described her as confident, aspirational, and happy.

Ghareeb’s fiancé has yet to make a statement.

Ghareeb’s death has sparked outrage across the Middle East, with people taking to social media and the streets of Bethlehem to call for stricter laws protecting women from violence and for the punishment of perpetrators.

Hundreds of people condemned honor killings online, using Arabic hashtags which translate to “We are all Israa Ghareeb” and “Israa Ghareeb”.

Police sources said that they were investigating the circumstances of her death, and gave no further details. According to an Al Arabiya correspondent, Ghareeb’s father, brothers, two female relatives, and her brother in law were arrested on Monday and are being interrogated.

Protesters gathered on Monday outside the Ramallah office of the Palestinian National Authority’s Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, chanting “We want security and protection” and  “We will not stay quiet, we will not die.”

Meanwhile, demonstrators held protests in Ghareeb’s hometown of Bethlehem, with several people holding signs that read, “The devil is in your head and not in women’s bodies” and “We call for safety and security.”

Shtayyeh responded on Monday by announcing that a number of people had been called in for questioning in relation to the incident, without saying if they were members of Ghareeb’s 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).

Husseini, author of “Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman’s Heroic Fight against an Unbelievable Crime,” said that violence against women dates back to ancient civilizations, and in countries where patriarchal societies prevail, so-called honor killings occur as a form of GBV.

“Gender-based violence is a global problem. Some people try to link it with a specific religion or place, but it happens everywhere. In more patriarchal societies, we have so-called honor killings, but violence against women happens globally,” Husseini said.

The encyclopedia Britannica defines an honor killing as “the murder of a woman or girl by male family members. The killers justify their actions by claiming that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family name or prestige.”

According to the United Nations, 5,000 honor killings occur globally every year. However, Husseini claims that the accurate number is much higher since many cases of honor crimes go unreported.

To combat the prevalence of GBV, people must continue to raise awareness of these crimes and demand reform, Husseini added.

And while police have yet to complete their investigation, discussions on GBV, triggered by Ghareeb’s death, do not appear to be ending soon either.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:05 - GMT 11:05
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