Murder of Israa Ghareeb renews debate over honor killings in Middle East

Murder of Israa Ghareeb renews debate over honor killings in Middle East
Palestinian women hold up T-shirts with red hand prints and slogans as they protest against so-called honor killings in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Murder of Israa Ghareeb renews debate over honor killings in Middle East

Murder of Israa Ghareeb renews debate over honor killings in Middle East
  • Suspicious death of a Palestinian woman draws attention to a widely practiced custom
  • Women's empowerment seen as a tool for effecting whole-of-society mindset change

ABU DHABI/GAZA CITY: The death of a young Palestinian woman in the West Bank has sparked widespread outrage across the Middle East amid accusations that it is nothing but another case of so-called honor killing.

The suspicious circumstances of 21-year-old Israa Ghareeb’s death in Bethlehem have also drawn attention to a practice increasingly seen as a stain on the conscience of Middle East societies.

The Ghareeb family has rejected the accusations. However, social media posts by Israa’s friends hinted at a connection between her death and a meeting she had with her fiance in the presence of a chaperone.

Those posts said a video of the meeting had been posted on a social-media platform and forwarded by a relative to the male members of her family. According to the posts, the clip angered the father and brothers, who felt the scenes of Israa with her fiance before the official wedding had taken place dishonored the family.

Subsequently, Israa was physically assaulted in the Ghareeb family home, the posts said. They added that due to the severe spinal injuries she sustained she had to be admitted to the Arab Society Hospital in Bethlehem.

From the hospital, Israa posted a selfie showing her bruised body on her Instagram account, with the message: “I am better now. Alhamdulillah.”

Later, according to the BBC, an audio recording of a young woman being violently tortured went viral on social media, although it could not be independently confirmed whether the voice was that of Israa.

Soon afterwards, #WeAreAllIsraa began to trend on Arabic Twitter, with more than 50,000 tweets displaying the hashtag.

While the precise circumstances of Israa’s death remain unclear, social media posts claim she died in her home just days after allegedly being assaulted in hospital in what amounted to a case of honor killing.

Despite the adoption of tough laws, awareness campaigns and global opprobrium, suspected honor killings — crimes committed against women who are seen as having transgressed social codes of honor — occur in Palestinian as well as the wider Arab society with tragic regularity.

If Israa’s death is confirmed as an honor killing, it would be the 19th case in Palestine in 2019, according to Palestinian NGOs Against Domestic Violence Against Women. Palestinian police data for 2018 show honor killings accounting for 12 percent of total homicide cases.

In the age of social media and gender equality honor killing, once hidden behind a curtain of silence, is generating condemnation of its perpetrators, public support for its victims and pledges to stamp it out.

Even so, honor killings are a major problem in several Middle East and North African countries.




Social media has been flooded with solidarity messages and calls for justice for Israa Ghareeb.

Many of these crimes are believed to go unreported as they are committed by a close relative of the victim, and only a few are made public. Though several countries have taken legislative action to end the practice, much remains to be done in societies where numerically significant minorities continue to justify violence against women.

Women’s rights activists in the region say legal loopholes that are still available for those who commit honor crimes are perpetuating the practice.

Nahed Abu Tuaima, coordinator of the gender studies program at Birzeit University in the West Bank, says there is no denying the persistence of violence against women within Palestinian families.

“This violence is mainly caused by the lack of strict laws in Palestine, and the fact that Palestinian law allows a reduction in the punishment for those who kill women if the crime falls within so-called honor killing,” she told Arab News.

She noted that the public prosecution did not take action on Israa’s case until it became a public issue, especially on social media.

FASTFACT

 

12 - Honor killings as a percentage of all homicides in Palestine in 2018

“The health authorities did not handle the Israa case properly, and the police were not informed that there was an attack against her,” she said.

Abu Tuaima says the legal environment is outdated and is not suitable for protecting women in Palestine. “There is interest from the Palestinian government in unimportant laws but laws that protect women are not amended,” she said.

At the same time, Palestinian feminist institutions are weak and incapable of producing an effective framework for change. “They always use the same tools and do not seek new tools to pressure decision makers,” Abu Tuaima said.

For instance, she said, “we are negotiating with the government to pass a law limiting early marriage, but we are unable to get it implemented.”

In 2014 a legal consultant for the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq reckoned that 90 percent of such crimes were committed for reasons other than “dishonoring” the family.

The knowledge that courts are more lenient when sexual misconduct is cited as a motive often results in an atmosphere of sympathy for the assailant and his family, leading to a lighter verdict.




Israa Ghareeb

The issue of honor killings in Palestine has been further complicated by politics, with efforts by the West Bank authorities to criminalize the offense not matched by their Hamas counterparts in the Gaza Strip.

It is not Palestine, though, but neighboring Jordan that is viewed as the most troubling case in point. Human Rights Watch estimates that 15 to 20 women and girls in Jordan are burned, beaten, or stabbed to death every year by family members because they are seen as having transgressed social codes of honor.

The Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI) reckons that at least 42 women were murdered by their relatives in 2016 in that country, which was 60 percent higher than the 2015 figure, giving Jordan the dubious honor of having one of the highest rates of honor killings in the world.

In recent years, Jordan’s parliament has sought to improve women’s rights and provide alternatives that would decrease killings in the name of honor, but clearly bold steps are needed to tackle what is by all accounts a deep-seated problem.

On a regional level, though, progress is being made — not only towards ending discrimination and prevention of unjustified crimes against women but also bringing about a society-wide mindset shift. The World Economic Forum 2016 Global Gender Gap Report ranked the UAE as a leading country in terms of gender equality. In 2015, the UAE established the Gender Balance Council, a federal entity that enhances and increases women’s role in leadership positions.

The UAE Women Leadership Program provides training for Emirati women that is seen as a reflection of a drive to forge a gender-equal society. The UAE is also the first country in the region to require every government organization and every company to have female board members.

Along similar lines, Saudi Arabia has made rapid strides in women’s empowerment, the latest being the country’s new law that loosens restrictions on women by allowing all citizens, both men and women, to travel freely. The law has ended a long-standing guardianship policy that had controlled women’s freedom of movement.

Other recently introduced changes in rules allow women to register a marriage, divorce or a child’s birth, and obtain official family documents, in addition to women being allowed legal guardianship of their children, a right previously held only by men.

Against this backdrop, Israa’s death has the potential to spark an important debate on the legal and ethical aspects of honor killings, which are regrettably still an acceptable custom in some parts of the Middle East.

Empowerment is key to tackling the status of women in Middle East society. But raising awareness, changing legal codes, providing alternatives and educating people are equally important steps so that young women do not have to experience the violence that Israa Ghareeb allegedly suffered.


Egypt, Russia in talks over Sputnik V vaccine imports

Egypt, Russia in talks over Sputnik V vaccine imports
Updated 27 min 4 sec ago

Egypt, Russia in talks over Sputnik V vaccine imports

Egypt, Russia in talks over Sputnik V vaccine imports
  • The two-dose Sputnik V vaccine has obtained approval from the Egyptian Drug Authority – both doses are designed to be administered within a 21-day period
  • Russian Ambassador to Egypt Georgy Borisenko said that Russia is keen to accelerate the delivery of Sputnik V doses to Egypt

CAIRO: Egypt is negotiating with manufacturers of the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine in a bid to buy enough doses for Egypt’s entire population, Mohamed Awad Tag El-Din, advisor to the president on health affairs, has said.

The move emerged during a meeting headed by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on Tuesday to discuss ways to control the pandemic. The meeting heard that coordination is taking place regarding the supply of monthly doses.

Egypt’s Health Minister Hala Zayed said that the ministry is working on increasing the daily capacity of vaccine centers so that Egypt can inoculate more than 112,000 people per day, adding that there are adequate reserves of medical oxygen in the country.

Negotiations have also taken place with oxygen manufacturers to increase the amount available in Egyptian hospitals and health centers, and to redirect industrial oxygen to the medical sector. Medical gas networks have been upgraded for 40 hospitals affiliated with the ministry.

Zayed also discussed the possibility of manufacturing the Sputnik V vaccine in Egypt in a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Egypt Georgy Borisenko.

Khaled Megahed, health ministry spokesperson, said that the meeting also involved talks on investment opportunities and a potential strategy of using Egypt as a vaccine manufacturing base for all of Africa.

Megahed said that the ministry “endeavors to provide vaccines and prioritize the health of citizens and workers in Egypt.”

The two-dose Sputnik V vaccine has obtained approval from the Egyptian Drug Authority. Both doses are designed to be administered within a 21-day period.

Borisenko said that Russia is keen to accelerate the delivery of Sputnik V doses to Egypt. He added that Russia has given its “full support and cooperation” to Egypt in fighting the pandemic.


Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit
Updated 20 April 2021

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit
  • During Mostafa Madbouly’s visit, several agreements were signed between the two governments, most notably on the establishment of power stations in Libya
  • Libya is considered a natural extension of the Egyptian market, due to the geographical proximity and long history of trade exchange and cooperation between the two countries

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, accompanied by a team of ministers, visited Tripoli on Tuesday to discuss economic and political cooperation with the Libyan Government of National Unity.

It followed instructions from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who is planning a visit to Libya.

During Madbouly’s visit, several agreements were signed between the two governments, most notably on the establishment of power stations in Libya to strengthen its energy networks.

Libya is considered a natural extension of the Egyptian market, due to the geographical proximity and long history of trade exchange and cooperation between the two countries.

Egyptian companies are awaiting government decisions regarding participation in the reconstruction of Libya, which they hope will produce new opportunities in a renewed market.

According to local sources, Madbouly’s visit is focussed on investments in the country, Egyptian labor issues and the reopening of diplomatic missions.

Last month, El-Sisi discussed with the head of the Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed Al-Menfi, prospects for enhanced cooperation between the two countries.

El-Sisi stressed Egypt’s full and absolute support for the new executive authority in Libya in all fields and for its success in holding general elections at the end of the year.

He said Egypt was fully prepared to provide its expertise to the Libyan government to help restore its national institutions, especially security and police forces, to achieve greater stability.

Since the beginning of the Libyan crisis, Egypt has promoted political settlement by hosting the warring factions in key meetings.


Chemical weapons watchdog weighs measures against Syria

Chemical weapons watchdog weighs measures against Syria
Updated 20 April 2021

Chemical weapons watchdog weighs measures against Syria

Chemical weapons watchdog weighs measures against Syria
  • OPCW members are proposing to strip Syria of its rights at the agency in response to findings government forces used poison gas
  • U.N. director at Human Rights Watch hopes the move will encourage countries to prosecute individuals for criminal responsibility

AMSTERDAM: Members of the global chemical weapons watchdog considered a proposal on Tuesday to strip Syria of its rights at the Hague-based agency in response to findings that government forces repeatedly used poison gas.
A draft document, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, was circulated among the 193 members at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
It was proposed by 46 nations, including the United States, Britain and France.
Syria and its military ally Russia have repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the decade-old conflict, which has turned the once-technical agency into a flashpoint between rival political forces and deadlocked the UN Security Council.
The Russian and Syrian delegations at the OPCW did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The draft decision, which must win a two-thirds majority of members attending and voting during a meeting of the OPCW’s governing Conference of States Parties this week, proposes revoking voting rights and banning Damascus from holding any offices within the OPCW.
The draft, which could be put to a vote on Wednesday, said the ongoing use “establishes that the Syrian Arab Republic failed to declare and destroy all of its chemical weapons” after joining the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013.
Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, hopes the move will encourage countries to prosecute individuals for criminal responsibility.
“While this may be largely symbolic, it’s an important step toward holding the Syrian leadership accountable for their war crimes while confronting the biggest compliance crisis that parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention have ever faced,” he said.
Several investigations at the United Nations and by the OPCW’s special Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) concluded that Syrian government forces used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs, in attacks between 2015 and 2018 that investigators said killed or injured thousands.
Last week, the OPCW’s IIT concluded there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that Syria’s air force dropped a chlorine bomb on a residential neighborhood in the rebel-controlled Idlib region in February 2018. Syria dismissed the findings.


Jordan's public prosecution ends investigation into 'recent events threatening security'

Jordan's public prosecution ends investigation into 'recent events threatening security'
Updated 20 April 2021

Jordan's public prosecution ends investigation into 'recent events threatening security'

Jordan's public prosecution ends investigation into 'recent events threatening security'
  • The results of the investigation for those involved ‘constituted a clear threat to the security and stability of the kingdom’

LONDON: An investigation into recent events that threatened to undermine Jordan’s security and stability has ended, the kingdom’s public prosecution said on Tuesday.
Brig. Gen. Hazem Al-Majali said: “The Public Prosecution of the State Security Court has completed its investigations relating to the events that the kingdom was exposed to recently.”
On April 5, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi announced that more than a dozen individuals had been arrested on charges of undermining the security of the state.
“It became clear from the investigation that it contained different and varied roles and facts for those involved, which would have constituted a clear threat to the security and stability of the kingdom,” Brig. Gen. Al-Majali added.
He also said the State Security Prosecution is working on completing the final stages of the investigation and the legal procedures required to refer them to the State Security Court,” Jordanian news agency Petra reported.


Egypt fires top railway official after deadly train crashes

People gather by an overturned train carriage at the scene of a railway accident in the city of Toukh in Egypt's central Nile Delta province of Qalyubiya on April 18, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
People gather by an overturned train carriage at the scene of a railway accident in the city of Toukh in Egypt's central Nile Delta province of Qalyubiya on April 18, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 20 April 2021

Egypt fires top railway official after deadly train crashes

People gather by an overturned train carriage at the scene of a railway accident in the city of Toukh in Egypt's central Nile Delta province of Qalyubiya on April 18, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Raslan, who headed the railway authority since July 2018, was replaced Mustafa Abuel-Makarm
  • Country has seen three accidents in less than a month that left at least 29 people dead, some 320 injured

CAIRO: Egypt’s transportation minister on Tuesday said he sacked the country’s top railway official, following three train accidents in less than a month that left at least 29 people dead and some 320 injured.
The firing of Asharf Raslan, head of the railway authority, was part of a wide ranging overhaul of the rundown railway system's leadership amid public outcry over repeated train crashes.
Raslan, who headed the railway authority since July 2018, was replaced Mustafa Abuel-Makarm, the office of Transportation Minister Kamal el-Wazir said in a statement.
The changes included the main departments of the railway authority that manages train traffic in the Arab world’s most populous country.

READ MORE

At least 11 people were killed and nearly 100 injured in a train accident in Egypt on Sunday. Click here for more.

The overhaul was designed to “inject a number of competent professionals” amid efforts to upgrade the poorly-maintained network.
The changes came after a passenger train derailed Sunday north of Cairo, killing at least 11 people and injuring at least 98 others. That followed another train crash in the Nile Delta province of Sharqia last week that left 15 people wounded.
After Sunday’s crash, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi announced the establishment of an official commission to investigate its causes. Prosecutors also launched their own probe.
On March 25, two passenger trains collided in the southern province of Sohag, killing at least 18 people and injuring 200 others, including children. Prosecutors blamed gross negligence by railway employees for that crash.
The country’s railway system, one of the world's oldest, has a history of badly maintained equipment and poor management.

READ MORE

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it expresses its deep sorrow for the train accident north of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Click here for more.

The government says it has launched a broad renovation and modernization initiative, buying train cars and other equipment from European and U.S. manufacturers to automate the system and develop a domestic railcar industry.
El-Sissi said in March 2018 that the government needs about 250 billion Egyptian pounds, or $14.1 billion, to overhaul the run-down rail system.
Hundreds of train accidents are reported every year. In February 2019 an unmanned locomotive slammed into a barrier inside Cairo’s main Ramses railway station, causing a huge explosion and a fire that killed at least 25 people. That crash prompted the then-transportation minister to resign.
In August 2017, two passenger trains collided just outside the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, killing 43 people. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.
Egypt’s deadliest train crash was in 2002, when over 300 people were killed after a fire broke out in an overnight train traveling from Cairo to southern Egypt.