Around a year ago, we were at a loss for words upon hearing the screams and calls for help by Esraa Gharib, the Palestinian girl who was beaten to death by her family in one of the villages of the West Bank.
A few days ago, we witnessed the equally painful story of Ahlam, the Jordanian girl who was murdered in a similar tragedy. Ahlam’s father hit her with a rock on her head repeatedly until she died in a street close to her home in Amman. After committing this horrifying crime, he sat next to his daughter’s corpse drinking a cup of tea until the police arrived. Before Ahlam’s tragedy, we followed the tragedy of an Egyptian woman called Iman, whose husband sent a man to rape and kill her so her death will seem like an “honor killing” crime.
Everyday we hear about dreadful and horrifying stories that fall in the category of horror mixed with physical and mental suffering. For example, as I write this article, a piece of news is circulating about the discovery of the body of a girl killed and disguised by her father a decade ago in the West Bank. The girl disappeared and no one took the matter seriously until her body was discovered a few days ago by coincidence.
The crimes never stop, and everytime we are taken aback by another shock. These series of murders targeting women in several countries are committed in a favorable environment full of shabby social and legal practices that would disregard any crime and deal with it as if it is an ordinary event, not an inevitable outcome of the weak and shaky existence of women in our societies.
Following the dreadful crime of smashing the head of Ahlam who was brutally murdered and no one came to her rescue, the tawdry chatter of the protectors of fake ethics who defended her muder like they generally do with topics related to women’s lives in general came up. They circulated scenarios that legitimize and even applaud this crime. Nevertheless, we should fear of the repetition of the traditional scenario in this case, that the murderer father would claim he was blinded by “rage” over his “honor”, and that a despicable lawyer would help him advocate that his crime is “excusable”, and maybe he would come across a worse judge that would release him after spending a few months in jail, just like what happened in a dozen similar cases.
“We Were Not Created for This”
Many people mocked the statement of the Jordanian member of Parliament and religious scholar, Mohammad Nouh Al Qudah during a TV interview in “Iqraa” channel, in which he justified the poor scientific and technological development in Arab countries. He argued that Arabs were created for divine guidance and reflection, while other populations were created to work. “Some people want us to manufacture aircrafts, vehicles and trains, and to compete with Europe and the US, we were not created for this’, he said. The person who said this funny and shameful statement is a famous scholar who presents frequent programmes in “Iqraa” channel, which is the top religious channel in the Arab region. On this channel, he tackled women related topics countless times, and highlighted what they should do, say and wear, stressing that they are responsible for the sexual harassment attacks they are exposed to. He further advised that women should not go to work or be independent.
The actual paradox is that large segments of the people who mocked his funny statement “we were not created for this” agree with many of his views about women. The same mentalities that instinctively reject his deliriousness and arguments that Arabs were not created for work and inventions to justify deterioration and relapse, are disregarding his opinions that hold women responsible for sexual harassment, and blame them for the way they dress or live.
However, this person is not a nobody, he is a famous figure. He was a minister and a member of the Parliament, which means that he plays a role in legislation and the circulation of ideas. He is an example of many men in power, who keep setting rules for women on how to live and how to die.
Personal status courts issue shameful verdicts on a daily basis, and sexist authoritarian men always make sure that those verdicts will not change. They fight the amendment and modernization of legal texts under religious pretexts. Parliamentarians and politicians refuse to amend discriminatory legal texts against women under the pretext that these texts were derived from sacred books. However, the truth is that the protectors of religion and the political authorities continue to deceive people and manipulate them using terms like halal and haram, honor, heaven and hell.
Women’s freedom of choice has become pure blasphemy because of those people.
Personal status courts issue shameful verdicts on a daily basis, there will always be patriarchal authoritarian men making sure those verdicts will not change.
The screams of the murdered women and the pain of those who are still alive are hitting a dead end represented in the opinions of fools coated with “holiness”. We see sheikhs and leaders talking to women via satellite channels and social media outlets and dictating them what to do. They believe they are custodians and whoever objects shall be turned to a prey to be eaten by the wolves. They control all the details of women’s lives by the name of religion, starting with their clothes, to work, marriage, death and inheritance.
We are currently witnessing a pandemic, economic disasters and an imminent war. However, if we take a look at the public debates in recent months, we will notice a significant obsession about women: what they do, what they wear, and how they live.
May we wish the homosexual activist Sarah Hegazy to rest in peace? May the actress Rania Youssef wear whatever she wants? And should women swim in a swimsuit or a burkini?
Amidst all these debates, Ahlam’s head was smashed, Iman was murdered, among many others..