Death of Palestinian young make-up artist Israa Ghrayeb raises questions over “honor murder”

Bethlehem (QNN) – #WeAreAllIsraa, a hashtag that has spread like wildfire in solidarity with a 21-year-old Palestinian young woman from Bethlehem, who died after allegedly being beaten and tortured by her family after she posted a video on social media with a man who she was soon to be engaged to.

Activists across the world are calling for justice for Israa’ after she was reportedly killed in a family “honor killing” on Thursday, August 22, 2019.

According to Israa’ friends on social media, the video was sent to her father and brothers by relative, they were outraged claiming it dishonored the family by showing her together with her fiancé before the official wedding ceremony.

Israa’ was physically assaulted by her brothers that they broke her spine. Other sources say that she sustained her serious spinal injuries after she fell from the second floor of their house whilst attempting to escape her family’s violence.

Israa’ was moved to the hospital of the Arab Society Hospital in Bethlehem. While on her bed in the hospital, Israa’ posted a selfie on her Instagram account, that showed bruises on her body, indicating domestic violence. She wrote on her selfie, “I am better now. Alhamdulillah.”

She posted another picture of a cannula in her hand, and wrote on the picture that she had to cancel all August and September appointments due to her health condition. It’s worth noting that Israa’ had been a young, ambitious, and skillful make-up artist.

A Facebook account called Remana Naseer, who says she was a friend of Israa’s, shared voice notes where Israa’ is heard screaming for help and beaten up by someone in the hospital.

The voice notes were allegedly recorded and sent by a nurse who heard the noise while she was near Israa’s room. According to witnesses from the hospital, it was Israa’s brother in law who was with her in the room.

Israa’ was heard screaming “Police! Where’s the Police!” amid sounds of beating, but no help was offered.

The circumstances surrounding her death are still unclear, with social media reports claiming she died at home days after being assaulted in hospital.

Social media accounts published a statement said to be by Ghrayeb family in the aftermath of their daughter’s death, claiming that Israa’ was suffering from psychological disorders and that’s why she threw herself from the second floor on August 9 and sustained spinal injuries before she was transferred to the hospital.

“Due to the turbulent behavior by Israa’, it was necessary to get her out of the hospital on family responsibility and complete her treatment at home, but it didn’t take her much time until she died from a stroke. Her body has been transferred to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Dis for autopsy, and we’re waiting for the medical report to be issued by the official authorities,” the statement said.

QNN contacted the family who denied their relationship with the statement and refused to offer details about Israa’s death.

Later on August 30, 2019, Israa’s brother in law, in a live broadcast on his Facebook profile, denied all the accusations and claimed that Israa’ died from a heart attack. He said she was not beaten by her family, and the sounds of her screaming in the hospital were because she had been jinn-possessioned (meaning she suffered from mental health problems and hallucinations by an evil spirit).

Adalah Justice Project, a Palestinian Human Rights organization, said they were “outraged and saddened” by Israa’s “heinous killing”, and called for an investigation into her alleged murder.

“Israa was murdered by members of her family after she posted a selfie video of an outing with her fiancé. The crime is being called an ‘honor’ killing, but this is misleading and false. There is no honor in murder,” the group said in a statement.

The director of Center for Women’s Psychosocial Counseling and a member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Women’s Union, Khawla Azraq, said in an interview, “we gathered some information which proves that Israa’ did not suffer from any mental disorders. She worked in a well-known beauty salon in Bethlehem and was a skillful make-up artist. Israa’s acquaintances did not mention that she suffered from any mental disorders.”

Following an Arabic hashtag which translates to #WeAreAllIsraa, several people, social activists and institutions posted messages of solidarity calling for justice for Israa’.

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