RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Four recent cases of women slain allegedly at the hand of either a husband or father have prompted women and human rights groups to demand tougher Palestinian laws against domestic violence.
Several female activists marched through the streets of Bethlehem on Thursday demanding justice for women in a patriarchal and traditional society. They also demanded severe punishment for men who kill or batter a female family member.
Women carried placards saying: “No to murder, yes to life” and “Shame on us Palestinians who kill our women.”
The march, following previous protests this week, was prompted by a slaying Monday on a busy street in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. A 28-year-old woman was stabbed several times in the chest and her throat was slashed while people stood by and watched. She later died in a hospital.
Her 33-year-old husband is in custody, and police say they expect to file murder charges against him.
The grotesque killing outraged many people, who argued that laws in the Palestinian territories are not tough enough against domestic violence.
In just one month, a father allegedly killed his high school daughter in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, another father is accused of beating his daughter to death in the city of Hebron and a third allegedly killed a daughter in the Gaza Strip. All apparently were so-called honor killings; in each case the alleged killer is in custody and facing murder charges.
The Bethlehem case was different. Police say the couple were at odds for several years and the wife, Nancy Zaboun, who worked at a clothing store in Bethlehem, had filed for divorce. The couple had three children, ages 8, 5 and 18 months, who are currently in foster care.
The Zaboun family initially refused to bury their daughter, demanding that her killer first be put to death, but later agreed to the burial. The Palestinian Authority is opposed to capital punishment, though it is still on the books from the time Jordan ruled the West Bank.
Women's organizations say a severe punishment and laws that take seriously the killing of a female family member would suffice.
-- Maher Abukhater
Photo: A Palestinian woman holds a sign reading in Arabic "Protecting women from violence is an official [authorities] and social responsibility" during a rally Wednesday at the spot where a woman was slain Monday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Credit: Majdi Mohammed / Associated Press