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No one is lifting a finger to protect Arab women

Before she was murdered by her ex-husband, Huda Abu Sarir was betrayed by the rest us. She was murdered because we raise men unstable men alongside strong, steadfast women.

Arab women protest the murder of two women in the city in the span of one week, October 28, 2016. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

Arab women protest the murder of two women in the city in the span of one week, October 28, 2016. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

I drove into the tiny, empty Jaffa alleyway on my way to the home of Huda Abu Sarari, an Arab woman who was murdered by her ex-husband a week earlier. I had a long list of questions and dilemmas following a discussion I held earlier that day with activists from Jaffa: should we demonstrate against our society or against the establishment, which oppresses us? Is this the pure struggle of Palestinian women, or does our common fate tie us to others? Should we invite political parties? Should we speak about violence generally, or only gender violence?

I sat and pondered these questions, yet I could barely speak a word and couldn’t hold back my tears. The women told me the hard truth about Huda; listening to them I realized that my dilemmas were nothing compared to her life, which was cut short last week. Here, around the table set up to prepare Huda for her burial, one can find all the answers. Soon, the white sheet will cover her body, and the truth will be buried in the wet sands of the sea, which she loved so much.

‘Like a monster’

Huda Abu Sarari was forced into an engagement at 14 years old — only her mother managed, after much difficulty and pain — to delay the wedding until she was 14. At 19 she was already a mother. Tell me: was this not a murder? The death of a dream? The end of her future? The killing of a blossoming, strong woman?

These walls and the small courtyard have witnessed many screaming matches, they have been struck many times. Here and there they have seen blood. “This is how we were raised, sit aside and shut up,” Eness, Huda’s only sister, said as tears streamed down her face. Men are born with power and total control, as if it were an inseparable part of their being.

Huda divorced after much suffering, returned to her family’s home and dreamt of turning over a new leaf — one that would allow her to study, work, and simply live. But a divorced woman is treated like a monster, a ticking bomb. She is erased. “As if she weren’t a human being,” says her aunt. She cannot dress up, go out, put on perfume. “I told him before: it isn’t perfume, it’s only body cream,” she added. “It didn’t help, and he hit her. He was possessive of her.” Was he possessive or jealous, I asked. Everyone remained silent.

Huda Abu Sarir.

Huda Abu Sarir.

Huda, who so loved human beings, was murdered. She loved humans, yet no one helped her. She was murdered dozens of times before her soul left her body. We betrayed her, time after time. She was murdered because we raise men unstable men alongside strong, steadfast women. They tie their pride to our fate. An empty masculinity that takes our love and grows to eradicate us.

How many women like Huda Abu Sarari do you know?

“This sick society won’t change until we bring justice for our women,” said an elderly woman who came to the mourning tent from Acre. “How is Jaffa different from Acre, Lod, or Ramle? The situation is the same. Men are failures, yet it’s all our fault.”

My women, we cannot despair. We cannot raise a white flag. Do not wait for the messiah, do not expect redemption. This is our time. We are with the women, alongside us are the few good men. We are many. We will win, undoubtedly. One day a different sun will rise here — one of freedom and liberty. Be sure that we will pay a heavy price, we will shed tears and blood. We have no alternative — we must try, we must struggle, we must hug one another.

Do not fear revolution, my women. Your voice is your sword. If we do not live to see victory and salvation in our generation, we will bear the next one — a generation that fights for women’s rights.

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. i_like_ike52

      Samah Salaime and 972 are to be commended for bringing this important matter to attention.
      I recently heard a report that in the city of Lod which has a large Arab population, the majority of cases of Arab women who are killed by family members are never brought to trial.

      However, it should be noted that this problem can not be separated from the larger issue of endemic violence in the Arab community, both in Israel and in the larger Arab Middle East.
      We constantly hear of violence in the Israeli Arab community related to clan blood feuds and violence related to political conflicts within the community, in addition to general crime rates, which are significangtly higher than in the general Israel population at large.
      Perhaps the most significant is reflected in the excellent recent piece here at 972 by Samer Badawi who wrote about the unwillingness of the refugees from the civil war in Syria that he encountered in Jordan to really confront the causes and instigators of the war there, and their general viewing it in a fatalistic way similar to way people view some sort of natural disaster. This explains to me the question that has been puzzling me for years as to why we don’t see any sort of “peace movement” by Arabs and Muslims both in the Middle East and among those living in the US and Europe calling for an end to the kiling by ALL sides in the war and demands for sanctions against those like the Russians, the Saudis, the Iranians and others who are feeding the killing machine.
      The Arab world, both inside Israel and outside of it will not be able to advance socially and economically until they take an honest look at their community’s values and work to correct the major flaws that writers like Badawi and Salaime have pointed out.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      @I_Like_Ike52 – in 2015 450 Palestinian “structures” we destroyed by Israel and over 500 people displaced, and this goes on continually. Maybe there are other reasons the Palestinians haven’t advanced economically than the primitive Arab mindset?


      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “Maybe there are other reasons the Palestinians haven’t advanced economically than the primitive Arab mindset?”

        The word “primitive” was uttered by YOU Bruce. Not by _ike. From what _ike wrote, the message that I got was “culture”. Arab culture which is violent not primitive.

        As for you Bruce, all you do is display the other thing which _ike described as a tendency of Arab culture: “Never blame the self for your problems, find something or or someone else to blame”.

        Reply to Comment
    3. amazing article.. thanks for sharing.

      Reply to Comment