Israa Ghareeb: A Palestinian woman who lost her life in the name of ‘honor’

When 21-year-old Israa Ghareeb, a makeup artist from Bethlehem, went out to dinner with her fiancé and his sister, she did not think that the meeting would trigger a horrific turn of events which would lead to her death.

Ghareeb had posted a video of their outing on a social media platform. Her friends allege that the video angered her cousins and uncle, who told the young woman’s father and brother that their daughter had dishonored the family by going out in public with a man before they were officially married.

Based on a video recording which later circulated on social media, it seems Ghareeb discussed the family’s criticism with her cousin via voice notes on WhatsApp. In the video, Ghareeb is heard recording her mother, who says that she had given her daughter permission to go out with her fiancé and his sister.

Despite this, on August 10 Ghareeb was admitted to the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital with a broken spinal cord, according to a Facebook post by a doctor who was on shift that day. Social media users allege that her injuries were caused by her father and brother physically attacking her.

At the hospital, she had posted a photo of herself with the caption, “I’m better now, [thank god].”

Her family said that the young woman sustained injuries to her body after she had tried to jump out of her bedroom window because she was possessed, and have claimed that she suffered from a mental illness. They also insisted that she had later died of a stroke.

However, in a widely-shared video, Ghareeb is heard screaming amid the sounds of loud thuds, suggesting that she was being beaten aggressively. Online commentators have alleged that the video captures the sound of Ghareeb’s family inflicting fatal injuries on her.

Her medical records do not indicate a history of mental illness, Dr. Tawfiq Salman, a mental and neurological disorders’ specialist, told Al Arabiya channel. He said that friends described her as confident, aspirational, and happy.

Ghareeb’s fiancé has yet to make a statement.

Ghareeb’s death has sparked outrage across the Middle East, with people taking to social media and the streets of Bethlehem to call for stricter laws protecting women from violence and for the punishment of perpetrators.

Hundreds of people condemned honor killings online, using Arabic hashtags which translate to “We are all Israa Ghareeb” and “Israa Ghareeb”.

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