“This is the well-known Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim, and I’m his pregnant wife. I am pregnant. Omar, who acts like the example of morals and ethics. He .. got upset because I closed the door. It made a loud noise. He got upset this morning .. It shouldn’t have happened..”
With a cracked voice, the young Syrian lady, Aya Sabbagh, uttered the words she had been holding for 2 years, throughout which she was married to Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim, the Syrian journalist, and residing with him in Istanbul. Her husband, who chose the slogan “Thirst Suffocates Al-Hasakah” as a frame for his profile picture on Facebook, did not care for his wife who was also suffocating due to the continuous violence she was subjected to since the early days of their marriage. This was confirmed by Aya Sabbagh in the videos she posted, the photos in her possession, and her interview with “Daraj”.
But what prompted Aya to speak up today and post a video that documents the bleeding wounds on her face on a Sunday morning?
“The turning point was him beating my face and head in a savage manner, while I was holding my eight-month-old daughter and feeding her,” Aya tells Daraj. “My husband said that I had made a loud noise that disturbed him, that I did not care that he was tired and needed to rest and sleep. He kept hitting my head violently until I fell to the floor and fainted for a few seconds. Then I got up to put my daughter in her chair, and then ran towards the door because I couldn’t take it anymore…” She added. What was her husband’s reaction? “You can’t leave the house in shorts!” He yelled.
After Aya published the first video on the day of her abuse and the wave of solidarity that followed, her husband appeared in front of the public to announce that he was in fact, the victim.
Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim, presenter of the TV show “Al-Salon Al-Siasi” (the political salon) on Syria TV, and president of the Syrian Journalist Association, made up a whole story to suit him depending on some tactics which seem to be inspired by his colleague Hisham Allam, the Egyptian Journalist, who is currently being accused of a series of sexual assaults. He started to threaten his wife that he will file defamation lawsuits against her and will make up all kinds of accusations against her. Then he formulated some words derived from the family privacy lexicon, an attempt at justifications that did not answer any of the questions about the reason behind the bleeding wounds on Aya’s face. We concluded from his speech that he thought it was a “family” dispute that should fall into the frame of “Home secrets”, a concept present within all Arab families, and that he was being subjected to attempts of blackmail by means of defaming.
Only two days after the abuse, Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim announced his resignation from Syria TV, the same channel to which he headed to work right after he had finished with his abuse routine against his wife. “He beat me up then he went to work, and appeared on air in front of his audience,” Aya told Daraj.
He washed his hands of her blood, which indeed did not shed for no reason, and went back to his social “salon”. He freed himself from the responsibility of the assault, given what happened inside the police station after Aya refused to retract her decision to resort to the force of law. He leaned against the Turkish police who, according to the post published by Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim, did not find the need to file a complaint. An official report was however written, which the perpetrator chose not to publish for “considerations related to the privacy of the legal papers”, while Aya complained to “Daraj” about the pressure she was exposed to, and to the “bro code” conspiracy she had noticed among the men at the police station.
The assault aroused discussions and controversies within the Syrian community. Still, the Syrian community refused to take this response, one that was worse than the crime, seriously. They continued to describe the incident as a “crime” rather than as a family dispute, as Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim tried to describe it, and to refuse discretion when dealing with cases of violence against women. Neither his political, national, and intellectual affiliation nor his residency among the Syrian opposition symbols in Turkey will bear the burden of condemnation and accountability, especially since it has become clear to many that it was not the first time for him to assault his wife.
According to the narrative given by Aya to “Daraj”, the first time Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim attacked her was a mere few days after their wedding. He brutally beat her up at the time, as severe as the last time.
ِAya, who is 36 years old, studied French literature. She learned a few weeks ago that she was pregnant with her second child. When everything had settled, it was the reflection of her shattered face in the mirror, that made her stop in her tracks.
“I could not believe what I saw, honestly. I never imagined this would happen to me. I looked at the mirror and I could not stand looking at my face. It was then that I put on my clothes, called the neighbors and sought help from the police.”
Aya, who finally decided to speak up about her situation and suffering, told us about how she is still terrified of the door when it opens and the sound of her husband’s keys that would announce the arrival of the person who threatened her security and safety. She had thought, like many others, that her husband would be wonderful and respectful towards her.
“Before the marriage, I loved him for a whole year and I never expected that this hell was waiting for me. He treated me nicely, but everything changed the moment he began calling me “my wife”. He kept scolding me for being a divorced woman .. I have been very patient, and I listened to advice from his family and friends who told me to be patient and calm. But now I will not cave, despite all the pressure I am being exposed to, those asking me to remove the videos and saying what had happened to me was a mere private family dispute. I want justice for me, my daughter and my unborn child. I kept silent for a long time and that was a mistake,” Aya told “Daraj”.
At the police station, where she headed with her daughter and husband on the day of the abuse, Aya understood from the interrogators that filing an official complaint against her husband would result in his deportation from the country. “I was not encouraged to file a complaint. I asked him to apologize and he did not. Then I was too intimidated to stay at the police station with my daughter or by going to the hospital to get a medical report for fear of our infection with the Coronavirus,” Aya said
However, On Thursday 27th August, she came back and achieved her right to seek protection in the division on domestic violence in the Bar association in Turkey. Aya assured “Daraj” that she is continuing to seek divorce, protection and safe residence with her two children, and that she will go on with the legal procedures later after she gets the protection decision expected to be issued within the coming hours, according to which the perpetrator will be banned from violating her.https://www.facebook.com/aya.sabbagh.313/videos/1640237492803733
In another video published by Aya, she repeated phrases such as “Appearances are deceitful”, “What you see on Facebook is a lie” and that the “the educated man who always says “I am the human Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim” is not as nice and open minded as you think”. Then she added: “My dear, my dear” imitating how her husband would speak to all women on his show except for her.
For Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim, the rights of all women, except for his wife, are important. “It’s okay for girls to do so and so”, but “when calling a doctor while he was away, even if he is a friend of his, to make sure I am taking the right medicine after I suffered a gland illness, was not acceptable.”
Moreover, Omar al-Sheikh Ibrahim, just like Hisham Allam, used to publicly support women’s issues. He even expressed his rejection to the blackmailing and threats that his colleague, Maha Ghazal, to what she was exposed to by a former manager in Syria Tv, according to Aya. Maybe he did not know at the time that he would be the next exposed perpetrator.