Anatomy of an ‘honour’ killing: Why a Palestinian community demanded a father murder his divorced daughter
“Honour crimes” are rarely talked about in Palestinian society, but Ms. Zeidan’s mother and sister have gone public to highlight the case and reveal the immense pressure her father came under to commit the crime.
The Media Line
Extended members of the Thamar Zeidan's family accused her of "disgraceful and outrageous acts" in a petition that was widely circulated in her village of Deir Al Ghusun, near the West Bank town of Tulkarem. Reacting to demands to restore the family's honour, Munther killed his daughter.
Extended members of the woman’s family accused her of “disgraceful and outrageous acts” in a petition that was widely circulated in her village of Deir Al Ghusun, near the West Bank town of Tulkarem.
The petition demanded Ms. Zeidan’s father, Munther, “reinstate the cultural and religious morals in his family.”
It was posted in five local mosques during Friday prayer and signed by more than 50 relatives, including Abed Al-Rahman Zeidan, a Palestinian lawmaker.
“My husband was under tremendous pressure,” said Ms. Zeidan’s mother, Laila. “The family wanted to banish us from the West Bank and people started rumours that my husband wasn’t mentally stable.”
Reacting to demands to restore the family’s honour, Munther killed his daughter, Laila Zeidan said.
“My husband is a peaceful man and this is completely out of character, but the pressure was too intense.”
There have been 27 “honour crimes” in Palestinian areas this year, compared with 13 last year, according to organizations who keep track of such murders.
My husband is a peaceful man and this is completely out of character, but the pressure was too intense
“It’s not clear that honour killing is on the rise, but we can say that documenting such cases has improved and police and media are more aware of them,“ said Surayda Hassan, the general director of the Women Affairs Technical Committee.
Ms. Zeidan, 32, was killed in September, but her family are only now speaking out to highlight the tragedy and bring public attention to “honour killings,” which are a sensitive subject in Palestinian society.
Ms. Zeidan divorced her husband four years ago and moved back in with her parents. However, to gain her freedom she had to give up custody of her three children.
Problems began when she became friendly with Iyad Na’lweh, a labourer who worked in Israel. He was married, but promised to make Ms. Zeidan his second wife, which is legal in Islamic law.
Although she wanted to marry him, her family objected, saying he had a drinking problem.
On the night of Sept. 17, Mr. Na’lweh was seen outside Ms. Zeidan’s house. Rumours, many of them false, began to spread.
“People said they had been together in her room for the past three days, but that’s impossible,” Laila Zeidan said. “In fact I had been in the hospital and she spent the past three days in my room there.”
Men from the neighbourhood attacked Mr. Na’lweh and he ran into the house. The police were called and the attackers, who believed they were defending her honour, were arrested.
The men were later released and Ms. Zeidan was taken to Ramallah by her sister and brother-in-law so matters could calm down. But then the petition began circulating.
He told us she will be safe and he won’t surrender to the family’s pressure
Its aim was to protect the honour of the Zeidan family, which is conservative and has its own customs and traditions, Abed Al-Rahman Zeidan, the lawmaker who signed it, told Maan, a Palestinian news agency. However, he denounced “honour killings” as a violation of Islamic teaching.
Ms. Zeidan’s mother said she hoped she could appease relatives by disciplining her daughter.
“I wanted my husband to discipline her. We took away her phone and limited her movement,” she said.
Munther Zeidan later drove to Ramallah to bring his daughter home.
“He told us she will be safe and he won’t surrender to the family’s pressure,” said her sister, Suad.
However, the father then killed his daughter.
“My father doesn’t understand that he will go straight to hell now,” said Suad Zeidan.
After the killing, Munther Zeidan went to the local police station and turned himself in.
Later, the family found a letter he had written, outlining his plan to kill his daughter. It stated he held those who circulated the petition against the family to be responsible.
“Don’t hold any kind of funeral for my daughter, and don’t let those who signed the petition into my house,” the letter said.
Ms. Zeidan’s brother-in-law, Zaher Mohammed, said the family was outraged at the people behind the petition.
“Thamar’s sisters kicked relatives who came to pay their respects out of their house. They were angry because they believe these were the same people who helped spread gossip that led to killing Thamar,” he said.
For some of the relatives, the death was a cause for celebration. Ms. Zeidan’s aunt held a feast celebrating that the family’s honour had been restored.
Ms. Zeidan’s mother said she visits her husband weekly in jail, where he is awaiting trial for murder.
Suad Seidan said the family does not discuss the case when they see him.
“We avoid talking about it as he is suffering physically,” she said. “He only recently stopped crying.”