Honor Killings: The Story of Esraa Ghareeb and Why It Matters

By: Rawan Khalil

Thousand of souls are lost annually in depraved honor killings. Families and social groups commit those cruel crimes in the name of protecting their cultural and religious beliefs, both dismissing and overlooking humanity in its very basic form. The victims are innocent individuals who have committed an act which is perceived as shameful, or in other words, an action that does not align with another member’s moral compass- because of course, that person is the ultimate saint that never sins and is supreme enough to offer a death sentence. (Please note the tone)

Esraa Gharib; the latest known victim of honor killings, was beaten to death by her siblings. I also cannot stress the fact that she is one of the few known victims as there is an estimated average of 5,000-20,000 killings a year, and the large range is a product of how difficult it is to pinpoint and uncover those cases. However, it should not matter if it’s one, two or twenty-thousand souls a year- NO HUMAN should have the power to terminate another human’s life just for moral disagreements.

Before I dive into the story, who was Esraa?

A 21-year-old Palestinian girl. A dreamer. She is a girl that dreamt of becoming a famous makeup artist. She worked from her house using her Instagram account as a platform.

Back to Esraa- and, by that I mean let’s go way back to the very beginning of the story to see what led to her demise- to see what led her brothers to drive her to her demise.

Was it worth it?

As if anything is worth losing a family member and having their blood on your own hands.

 Is it justifiable?

As if anything would justify murdering the potential of a 21-year-old girl before she has achieved any of her dreams.

It all started when a man proposed to Esraa- yes our traditional Arab proposals- then she with her mother’s agreement goes out with him and his sister to get to know him better. What a crime? Wanting to know the man she is spending the rest of her life with. The trio goes out to a public place and Esraa records a short video of the three of them which she then proceeds to post on her snapchat story.  

Her cousin, so viciously, after seeing the video decides to go to her dad and try to manipulate his actions to hurt Esraa. She starts shit-talking Esraa and blaming her by criticizing the fact that she went out with a man that can be labeled as her potential-fiance as nothing is yet official, and hence, by her actions she is tarnishing the family’s reputation. She doesn’t stop there, but she continues the criticism by reprimanding Esraa’s clothes and makeup choices claiming that no well-behaved woman would dress or act the way she does and so she concludes that Esraa’s behavior is going to scar the entire family if she isn’t put to a stop. 

Her cousin’s father asks his brother and nephews (Esraa’s dad and brothers) to come over, which they do and he uses that as an opportunity to provoke their anger. He shows them the innocent video and then blabs about all the shame she is bringing their family.

They go home and beat their daughter/sister up, and in her attempt to escape from their merciless strikes she falls off the stairs breaking her spinal cord. They took her to the hospital and told the staff that she was possessed by demons to discredit any stories she tells about how she was abused. 

Esraa’s enrollment into the hospital did not act as a wake-up call for her brothers but instead, they continued with their abusive behavior during her stay in the hospital. They hit her claiming that they are exorcising the demons from her body while she screamed at the top of her lungs, begging for help. One of the nurses even recorded her screams. But, none of the hospital staff dared put all of that abuse on hold, call the police or social services.

I cannot help but wonder how can a licensed hospital with professional doctors who swore an oath to help their patients see a young vulnerable woman screaming for help while getting hit by her family members stand by and watch? I mean those people have obligations- professional and legal obligations to provide aid for those under their roof, for the people in their care. But they did not…

A defenseless woman.

Abusive siblings.

Hospital staff does nothing. 

I am sorry, but what? 

How can the staff working at the hospital go to their beds at night and sleep after hearing a woman’s screams echoing in their workplace and doing nothing about it?

Anyway, going back to the story. Esraa’s third brother who was in Canada was called and he came saying that he will kill her. They took Esraa out of the hospital and she was supposed to get her spinal cord operation in two days. But, Esraa was dead- from a heart attack? And, we are supposed to buy that. I think it’s safe to assume that the amount of violence she underwent, and probably also from her third brother who said he would kill her… actually killed her! I mean she was found with marks of being hit in the head which is what probably led to her heart attack and subsequently her death.

This is a heartbreaking, shattering story and hopefully a wake-up call for those who are responsible for women’s rights or for those who think we have them already. No matter how many milestones we achieve in this world, when we realize things like these happen we should take a step back. Honor killings are primitive, beastly and inhumane. 

We cannot stand back and watch anymore especially when we have a case right here reminding us of the thousands of souls taken each year by merciless families and social groups.

You do not happen to own a woman for being her brother or father. 

You do not own the right to kill her for being her guardian.

You do not own a woman just for being a man.

We, women, are our own entity.

It’s about time we see a change.

It’s about time governments uncover those cases of honor killings and the numbers go down.

Esraa is one out of thousands but her story sure has shed light on thousands. So, share it. Let everyone know. 

Enough is surely enough. We cannot lose more innocent souls with so much potential to primitive ideas.

Rest In Power to every abuse victim.

Rest In Peace Esraa. 

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