North Lebanon village attempts to justify murder of teenager

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Protest organized by Kafa denouncing domestic violence in Lebanon on February 24, 2013. Banner reads “one woman is killed every month. What are you waiting for, Parliament?” (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Rajana Hamyeh

Published Friday, June 6, 2014

On June 4, a funeral was held in the town of Bebnin in Akkar, north Lebanon, for 17-year-old Walaa S., who was killed by her father. There, in the remote village, the funeral rituals proceeded as normal. The young woman was buried and the family opened its home to accept condolences. On the margins of death, however, work will begin to cover up the case the way families do, in a manner that deems a death like Walaa’s “an act of God” that happens in a moment of rage.

It was a moment of “forsakenness by God and a satanic wave,” said a man from the town. The same people who condemned the murder also justified the rage that led to it. They forgot that the man who had forsaken his own sense of fatherhood and committed an act of machismo is a killer and a criminal, and a perpetrator of violence; the kind of domestic violence that the law criminalizing domestic violence ignored. It is as though a father has the right to kill his daughter if “she disobeys him,” as some in the village tried to say.

Walaa, who was killed in cold blood with two bullets to the mouth and two lodged in her heart, is a new victim of domestic violence. Her father killed her because she disobeyed his “right” to decide her future over who she can and cannot marry.

The day she died, Walaa confronted her father. She told him that she “will marry no one but Ahmad B.,” said one of the neighbors. She “decided to marry him secretly after problems between her family and her fiancé’s family escalated and she failed to convince her father to agree to marry her to her fiancé Ahmad.”

They confronted each other. The father insisted that “Ahmad is inappropriate” and the girl “insisted on Ahmad.” When she failed to convince her father, she left her house and went to the neighbor’s.

He followed her and knocked on the door. She opened for him. He asked her to speak privately in the kitchen and when she followed him, he cleared his monstrosity into her face and her heart. Four bullets and he fled with his weapon in which one more bullet was left “to kill her fiancé. He was adamant on the idea because, in his opinion, her fiancé destroyed his life and turned him into a criminal,” said another neighbor.

Everyone there agrees on this version of events but no one dares to give his or her name. Between the families “there is no point in making a bigger deal of the story than it deserves.”

In their opinion, all it deserves is condemnation, especially that “in our village, we don’t have things like that, it is alien to our culture,” said Ahmad Eid, one of the mayors of the town.

The death of a girl whose “reputation is as pure as snow” is condemned, but at the same time, the father “lost his mind at that moment and did what he did. We know him, he’s a good and committed man, so much so that he stopped smoking,” said one of the clerics. He went on: “A child could not listen to her father’s wishes, it happens, but no one dares to kill; perhaps this father lost his temper a bit too much.” Besides, he expects the father now to be “as distressed as we are over what he did.”

This kind of justification is homicidal. In a way, it is worse than the murder perpetrated by the father.

It is harder than the death of this girl who had not yet reached adulthood. There, as in many other villages, things like this will happen. It happened in the case of Roula Yacoub. Didn’t they try to cover up her death? Didn’t the same thing happen in the case of Roqaya Mounzer’s death? Her body will not be exhumed even though there is a court order. And Manal Assi? And others who have been and will be killed.

Until now, the police have not been able to arrest Walaa’s father, and killer. He is still hiding somewhere. The people in the village have not yet taken any decisions except to express condemnation. According to the president of the Association of Mayors in al-Qaite Akkar, Zaher al-Kassar, “We are supposed to meet to take a unified decision... but of course it will not be surprising.”

In the meantime, tension is escalating and many are saying that tension is at its peak “with the ubiquitous presence of armed men in the village.” This piece of news was confirmed by several people in the village, as well as by journalists who went to the village but were prevented from speaking to anyone there.

Tension and the presence of armed men does not cancel the fact that a crime of domestic violence was committed and a murderer is hiding while being accused, according to the law, of committing a premeditated murder that ought to receive a life sentence with hard labor after suspending the death penalty.

M. S. is accused of killing one of his descendents says a lawyer. If he is arrested, he would be subject to the provisions of the third paragraph of Article 549 of the penal code which stipulates that a person who intentionally “kills one of his ascendants or descendants” gets the death penalty. Unless of course, the crime is covered up the way families do.

In this case, Walaa’s death will fall under a category that absolves the father of his crime, as it has done with many before him. Perhaps her death will even have a label. It could be defending the family honor or anything that the law protects.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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