Palestinians demand women's protection after suspicious death

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Dozens of Palestinian women protested for women's rights Monday outside the office of prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, following the death of a 21-year-old woman in suspicious circumstances.

Social media posts have alleged that Israa Ghrayeb, 21, died following beatings by her family members in a supposed "honour killing".

The family denies the claims and insists Ghrayeb, from Beit Sahour near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, had a stroke.

The death has caused anger in the occupied West Bank, with the hashtag "We are all Israa Ghrayeb" trending on Palestinian social media.

Local media have published unconfirmed reports that she was killed by her family after posting a picture with a potential suitor.

She allegedly posted the picture on her Instagram account, which appeared to have been deleted Monday.

Police sources said they were investigating, without further details, and no autopsy results have been released.

On Monday morning, dozens of protesters gathered outside Shtayyeh's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, chanting: "We want security and protection."

Similar demonstrations were held Saturday near her hometown.

Shtayyeh responded Monday by announcing that a number of people had been called in for questioning, without saying if they were members of Ghrayeb's family.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa on Saturday quoted Shtayyeh as saying legal protections for women should be strengthened.

Ammar Dweik, director general of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, told AFP the details of the case remained unclear and demanded a full investigation.

Majeda al-Masri, a former Palestinian minister who took part in the demonstration, said she believed Ghrayeb had been killed.

"This demonstration is not only to hold the perpetrators accountable, but to demand that the government assume its responsibility to enact the family protection law."

The law, drafted in 2004 and which is supposed to provide protection to women from domestic violence, has been under consideration by the Palestinian government for years.

The Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, a Palestinian NGO documenting abuses in the West Bank and Gaza, said there were 23 cases of what it called femicide in 2018, and 18 so far in 2019.

The term is defined as the killing of women because they are females, though it can also include suicide in cases of bullying.

Last year, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas repealed an article in the penal code that allowed alleged rapists to escape prosecution if they married their victims, according to Human Rights Watch.