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Palestinian teen's suspected 'honour killing' provokes outrage in West Bank

Israa Ghrayeb's death has shone a light on violence against women and led to protests in Bethlehem and her hometown Beit Sahour
Make-up artist Isra Ghrayeb was killed in August in a suspected 'honour killing' (Social media)
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Bethlehem, occupied West Bank

The suspected "honour killing" of Palestinian teen Israa Ghrayeb has provoked an outpouring of anger in the occupied West Bank, with Palestinians demonstrating against violence against women in Bethlehem on Saturday.

The death of Ghrayeb, a 19-year-old make-up artist from Beit Sahour, has struck a chord in Palestinian society and encouraged activists to call an end to femicide and domestic violence.

Ghrayeb's friends and supporters say she was beaten to death by her relatives, while her family has said that she died of a heart attack.

'What if someone started to spread rumours about me? Will that lead to my death too?'

- Qamar al-Masri, schoolmate

Footage circulating online is purported to show the screaming of Ghrayeb as she is beaten by relatives in hospital shortly before she died.

The Palestinian police have said an investigation is continuing and her body has been sent for forensic examination.

"Israa was communicating with her friends during the time she was suffering," Minerva Jaraysah, a women's right activist and sociology lecturer at Bethlehem University, told Middle East Eye during the Saturday protest.

"All the material that was published on social media is an indicator that she was hurt and beaten to death by her family."

Palestinians protest against Isra Ghrayeb's death in Bethlehem (MEE/Haya A.Y. Abu Shukhaidem)
Palestinians protest against Israa Ghrayeb's death in Bethlehem (MEE/Haya A.Y. Abu Shukhaidem)

Starting in Bethlehem's Manger Square, protesters marched east toward Beit Sahour chanting "Stop killing women," "There's no honour in honour crimes," and "We are all Israa".

The protest was organized by Manar Raji, a 19-year-old Palestinian from Beit Sahour, who said that she called the demonstration to draw attention to the so-called "honour killing" of women and to condemn those who commit such crimes.

Her family have denied the accusations, and officials have yet to release a post-mortem report describing the circumstances of her death, which protesters have demanded immediately.

On social media, Arab and Palestinian girls expressed fears of becoming victims like Ghrayeb as long as the law does not protect them or criminalise men who kill their female family members.

"After I heard what happened to Israa, I was terrified," said Qamar al-Masri, who went to high school with Ghrayeb.

'All the material that was published on social media is an indicator that she was hurt and beaten to death by her family'

- Minerva Jaraysh, Bethlehem University

"I live with my family and I have my freedom to go wherever I want. But what if someone started to spread rumours about me? Will that lead to my death too?" she asked.

"I live at home and I still feel unsafe. We shouldn't remain silent, and the law must protect us."

Lawyer Fareed al-Atrash, the director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in the West Bank city of Hebron, took part in the protest.

"We are here to raise our voices, as we need new laws to protect women from murder and violence," he said. "We also demand penalties to deter people from committing violence against women." 

Ghrayeb's story has garnered considerable public attention after the hashtag #weareallIsraaGhrayeb emerged five days ago and went viral. It has been a trending on Twitter as tens of thousands of people from all around the world, especially from the Arab world, tweet about it.

Arab celebrities Nancy Ajram, Elissa, Nishan, and Shams have tweeted about Ghrayeb, expressing sympathy and condemning the killers.

Meanwhile other Palestinian and Arab social media users vow to not stop protesting until she receives justice.