A candlelight vigil will be held for four victims of femicide (3 women and 1 child) who lost their lives this week to senseless violence. Organized by independent feminist activists, the vigil will take place on Saturday, December 23rd at 5 p.m. before Beirut’s National Museum. The group invites everyone all over Lebanon to organize vigils in their respective towns and villages on the same day in memory of the women victims of patriarchal violence.
Three women and 1 child lost their lives this week. That’s four victims in 1 week. Each had a story. Each had a life to live. Each ended tragically; lost to anger, brutality, sexual violence and forced marriage. Lost to patriarchal violence and toxic masculinity.
December 13, 2017
22-year-old Youmn Darwich’s body was found with a shot to the chest and a blow to the head in the town of Arida, Akkar on Wednesday, December 13. According to media reports quoting her family, her husband, who is also her cousin, Ismail, was violent to her, both verbally and physically prior to her murder. He is now the prime suspect in her case and is currently in custody. She was 5 months pregnant.
December 15, 2017
15-year-old child bride Nazira Tartousi died by alleged suicide. Her body was found with a bullet from a hunting rifle in Akkar’s Jamous on Friday, December 15. Security forces have launched an investigation into the incident, and the victim’s husband, identified as Aa.S, who is ten years her senior, is currently being held by authorities for questioning over the incident. The two had been married for five months. According to the state-run National News Agency, she was born in 2003 – meaning she was either 13 or 14 years old. Al-Jadeed reported Friday evening that Nazira was pregnant but had a miscarriage.
“Girls who marry early are more likely to leave school and are at heightened risk of marital rape, domestic violence, poor access to decent work, exploitation and a range of health problems due to early childbearing,” a Human Rights Watch report released in April says. In recently released global slavery statistics, forced marriage was included for the first time showing “money and debt” to be at the heart of the exploitation. According to KAFA, the recent death of the young girl has prompted action on two levels: pushing for 18 as a national minimum age of marriage and the abolition and amendment of certain articles stipulated by the Lebanese Penal Code, mainly Article 505 and 518, which provide legal justification for child marriage.
December 16, 2017
30-year-old Rebecca Dykes was found by the side of the Metn Expressway outside Beirut on Saturday, December 16. According to media reports, she was sexually assaulted before being strangled by her Uber driver Tarek H. who is currently in custody. The British diplomat reportedly got into the Uber taxi after attending a colleague’s leaving party on Friday night at a bar in Gemmayzah. She was set to return to the UK for Christmas the next day. An official said the murder was a “criminal act” and was not politically motivated.
The forensic examiner in the case of Rebecca Dykes has said in recent comments that he sees “four or five” similar crimes every month against Lebanese and Syrian women.
December 18, 2017
Fatima Abou Hasna (age unknown), was allegedly murdered by her son-in-law on Monday, December 18 in Akkar’s Mechmech. According to media reports, the suspect – who is a Lebanese Army soldier – headed to his in-laws’ home where his wife was staying due to marital problems between the two. When the family asked him to wait a while before they could come to the door, he began shooting from the window. Fatima was instantly killed, and his wife’s sister was injured.
“Toxic Masculinity is Killing Us”
The 4 victims are just the most recent of several cases of femicide this year. According to independent feminist activist Maya Dolly Ammar, who spoke to Newsroom Nomad, 16 cases of femicide have been documented in 2017 alone. They are not confined to women who have been killed by their partner or member of the family and go beyond domestic violence. “It is a sort of backlash against women, a resistance to the change and progress being made.”
“When some men feel their sense of privilege and entitlement being taken away from them, some will react and resist. This is toxic masculinity… It’s a conversation we need to be having,” she said.
“The aim of the vigil is to reinforce solidarity between women. We can all identify with either one of the victims. We want to give strength to one another and not let the culture of fear and intimidation overtake us,” she continued.
When asked about what she and other organizers are hoping to achieve and what they demand from the authorities, she said: “There is work being done by women’s rights groups focused on legal change and policy work, but we feel there is a loophole when it comes to implementing the law on the ground. It’s still weak, and changing mentalities requires time; work needs to be done on a societal level. We have the right to physical integrity and safety. That is the message we want to send out.”
“This is Not Normal”
As news of the murders made the rounds online this week, particularly the high profile case of Rebecca Dykes which made international headlines, many social media commenters condemned the atrocious acts. However, many others said that this was “normal,” that “it happens everywhere around the world.”
It is this culture of complicity that protects sexual harassers, rapists, and murderers. It is this normalization that the organizers of the vigil want to highlight and fight.
“We are a group of women who are still alive. We reject the normalization of violence against women […] it’s clearly a structural and systemic violence that haunts us in private and public spaces; this violence that so far has not been deterred by the legal, social and political systems.
The time has come to admit that violent and toxic masculinity is a structural problem that promotes and produces various forms of violence against women ranging [from] harassment, rape, verbal and physical violence to sexual assault [and] murder. It is time to seriously acknowledge this systematic and patriarchal violence in order to reach tangible and effective actions to respect women’s boundaries, bodies and identities,” the event description reads.
Has the time not come to look this issue straight in the eye and say that it is NOT normal? If not now, when?