The gruesome murder of a Jordanian woman at the hands of her father sparked a sit-in on Wednesday in the capital Amman, as well as regional outcry for change across the Middle East.
Videos circulating online earlier this week showed the woman lying in the middle of the streets outside her home in the Ain al-Basha neighborhood crying out for help.
Ahlam, the victim who was in her forties, reportedly ran out of her home and into the road, where she continued to bleed from a wound in her neck before collapsing, bystanders said.
The victim’s father then hit her head several times with a block of concrete, before she succumbed to her injuries, according to a statement from the local Public Security Directorate.
He then sat by her body and drank a cup of tea until police arrived at the scene.
Despite their attempts to stop the brutal attack, bystanders said that Ahlam’s brothers had prevented neighbors from interfering.
A new wave of activism
Demonstrators held a sit-in on the streets near Amman’s parliament building on Wednesday to criticize the government’s failure to protect Ahlam from abuse prior to her killing.
The woman was placed in the government’s custody prior to the incident and had stayed at a shelter for two days, award-winning Jordanian journalist and human rights activist Rana Husseini told Al Arabiya English.
Ahlam was later released back into the custody of her family.
A young women at the protest yelled “My voice is loud, and my voice is free. And abuse will not get a pass,” in Arabic, leading a chant.
“Freedom, dignity, social justice,” dozens repeated loudly.
The sit-in was organized by a group of young women and men on Facebook, all under the age of 30, according to Husseini.
“I think this is another important achievement and a change in activism, because it’s done by people who are not organized, they are not under any umbrella,” Husseini, author of “Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman’s Heroic Fight against an Unbelievable Crime,” said.
“These young women and men told me ‘We want a better future for Jordan, and we want to see changes to better protect women and children.’ I think that is the way to do it. Just move to the streets and demonstrate peacefully to demand change,” Husseini – who has been at the forefront of many protests in Jordan for decades, calling for reform of laws to prevent gender-based violence —said.
Social media users around the Middle East also joined the protests virtually using the Arabic hashtag ‘Ahlam’s screams’ to condemn her murder and urge lawmakers to provide more protection for victims of abuse.
Gender-based violence and COVID-19
The attack is the latest reported occurrence of gender-based violence in Jordan, where there has been a 69 percent increase in domestic abuse since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the children and women’s organization Plan International.
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Ahlam’s story echoes that of 36-year-old Eman al-Khatib who garnered regional attention in April after posting a video of herself online pleading for help after a nationwide coronavirus lockdown trapped her with her abusive family.
Ahlam’s murder is reportedly the tenth recorded case of gender-based violence to occur in Jordan this year.
In the Middle East alone, an estimated 37 percent of women have experienced some form of violence – physical, sexual, emotional, mental, economic – in their lifetime, according to data by the United Nations, with indicators pointing out that the number may be higher.
According to UN Women, emerging data shows that violence against women and girls – particularly domestic violence – has increased globally as the pandemic forces hundreds to be stuck at home.
“As stay-at-home orders expand to contain the spread of the virus, women with violent partners increasingly find themselves isolated from the people and resources that can help them,” UN Women said in their report titled “COVID-19 and ending violence against women and girls.”