On August 22, 2019, a 21-year-old Palestinian woman from Bethlehem, Israa Ghrayeb, was murdered by her father and brothers, after a relative sent her father and brothers a video she posted on social media of herself meeting with her fiancé. In a report for Arab News, Emina Osmandzikovic and Hazem Balousha wrote, “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.” When Israa returned home she was physically assaulted by her father and brothers. She suffered severe spinal injuries and was admitted to the Arab Society Hospital in Bethlehem. Allegedly, Israa was followed to the hospital where her relatives continued to assault her. A nurse nearby overheard and recorded audio footage of Israa screaming for help as she was being harassed in her hospital room. Audio of Israa can be found on the website Egyptian Streets.
Israa Ghrayeb’s murder was considered an “honor killing,” a term used to refer to the killing of a relative, most often a young girl or a woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonor or shame on the family. In an article published by Quds News Network, members of Ghrayeb’s family claimed that she suffered from a “psychological disorder,” and that her spinal injuries were the result of her having jumped from the second story of their house. On August 30th, Israa’s brother denied that she was beaten. He explained that her screaming in the hospital was the result of being possessed by evil spirits. However, the director of the Center for Women’s Psychosocial Counseling and a member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Women’s Union, Khawla Al-Azraq, was able to obtain information indicating that Israa Ghrayeb had no history of mental illness.
Details of Israa Ghrayeb’s death sparked outrage across the Middle East. People are protesting for stricter laws to protect women from violence. Arab activists and feminists insist that deaths like Ghrayeb’s should be called murders, not “honor killings.” On social media, people are using the hashtag #WeAreIsraa to show respect and to spread awareness.
As of September 5, 2019, Israa Ghrayeb’s story has not yet caught the attention of establishment media in the US, despite the fact that her story shines light on how women all over the world face threats of physical and sexual violence. In 2000, a United Nations Population Fund’s report estimated that “[a]s many as 5,000 women and girls are killed annually in so-called ‘honour’ killings” (p. 5). As The Arab News noted, “Israa’s death has the potential to spark an important debate on the legal and ethical aspects of honor killings.”
Niveen Ghoneim, “Palestinian Woman Murdered in Honor Killing After Posting Instagram Video with Fiancé,” Egyptian Street, August 31, 2019,https://egyptianstreets.com/2019/08/31/palestinian-woman-murdered-in-honor-killing-after-posting-instagram-video-with-fiance/.
Amira Hass, “Palestinians Outraged Over Suspicious Death of Young West Bank Woman,” Haaretz, September 2, 2019, https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-palestinians-outraged-over-suspicious-death-of-young-west-bank-woman-1.7775243.
Emina Osmandzikovic and Hazem Balousha, “Murder of Israa Ghareeb renews debate over honor killings in Middle East,” Arab News, September 9, 2019, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1548306/middle-east.
“Death of Palestinian Young Make-Up Artist Israa Ghrayeb Raises Questions over ‘Honor Murder,’” Quds News Network, August 31, 2019, https://qudsnen.co/?p=5975.
Student Researcher: Desiree Lewis (City College of San Francisco)
Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Levinson (City College of San Francisco)