Snapshot: A Facebook photo that raises questions about a mysterious death
No matter how long you stare at this picture of the young Druze couple, which was posted on Facebook on July 9, it’s impossible to know just what happened in the forest on September 15.
A full explanation for the mysterious deaths of engaged couple Hakim Kayouf and Iham Kadur is not to be found in this photo of them. Not in the contrast between his angled, bemused, slightly insolent, closed-mouth look into the camera, and her direct, gentle gaze, and open, trusting smile. Between his neatly trimmed and spiky-gelled hair, and the way the breeze is blowing her loose, reddish hair away from her face, revealing soft, childlike wisps on her forehead. His head is tilted toward her, in the way of people all over the world being photographed together. But hers does not tilt toward him.
They are sitting next to each other on the grass but, of course, not touching − just sitting very close and, poignantly, both wearing striped shirts. His is gray and white, and tight around his biceps; hers is orange and white, revealing smooth, slender arms. Both are clasping their hands, creating their own closed little circle, yet still they are together.
No matter how long you stare at this picture of the young Druze couple, which was posted on Facebook on July 9, it’s impossible to know just what happened in the forest near Ein Hod on September 15. Why they drove there in his car. What he said to her. How she responded. Her family wanted them to break up, the head of the Isfiya regional council said after they were found dead in the forest. But did she herself want that, or was she forced to obey the family’s wishes? And how did she come to be stabbed to death, in a way so horrifying it cannot be described in the newspaper. And how did he end up hanged, some distance away from her? Was it a murder-suicide, or perhaps a double murder?
This is an amateur photograph, yet it has a tantalizing narrative quality to it. When you look at it, you can’t stop thinking about what led 26-year-old Hakim Kayouf from Isfiya, who worked in an auto-repair shop, and 19-year-old Iham Kadur, from Daliat al-Carmel, to their devastating end in the forest. An end that leaves no possibility for change, for redemption, for overcoming a temporary crisis.
And this modest photograph in which Hakim stands out underscores the realization that, as long as they lived, they lived until the killing. In this photograph, the two of them look conditional. Subject to social imperatives and awaiting punishment. They do not look free.
On the day they were discovered in the forest, 21-year-old Missan Hamdan from Isfiya, a student at the University of Haifa, made up her mind to organize a demonstration, to be held two days later. “She was murdered,” she tells me in a recent phone conversation. “She is the victim. Whether he [Hakim] did it or if it was someone else, whether it was a double murder or a murder-suicide, she is the victim. That’s how I see it. I want to know what happened, and I demand that the police tell us the truth. I took to the street because I am against violence in general and against the murder of women in particular. Society has come to take violence for granted, no one says anything. Everyone is sad for a few days and then that’s it. Enough of this silence. I see everyone talking about the incident for a day or two, maybe a week, and after that you don’t hear a word; it just disappears. The demonstration is against violence.”
The demonstration in which young men and women activists took part was covered in the press, and Hamdan says that on the day she decided to protest, she was thinking about Iham Kadur. Everybody knows everybody, she says. Hakim was from Hamdan’s village and Iham went to the same school as she did, where she was two grades behind her. “On the day we found out about it, I told my parents that I couldn’t get her out of my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was all I could talk about. What must she have felt?”
And did you think about him, too?
She hesitates. She doesn’t wish to accuse, only to protest. “I feel sorry for him, too. Acts of violence, even if it was suicide − there are things behind it that made him commit suicide, if that’s what it was. There’s something called ‘emotional violence’ that made him do what he did.
“Everyone who knew them as a couple says there’s no chance in the world that Hakim was the killer,” Hamdan adds. “I don’t know what happened in this specific case, but I’m angry at society and how it relates to such cases of violence. It’s appalling. No one objects to the violence. There’s no reaction. If I wouldn’t have waved signs together with some other people, no one would be talking about the case. They would just enter our memory as two more unsolved killings.”
To promote the demonstration, Hamdan assembled a collage of photographs, with another photo featuring the couple in their striped shirts at the center. In this photo they are standing, and here, too, his head is tilted toward her, both with their hands clasped together, as in the other shot. Here, too, one can see Iham Kadur’s small, delicate face and soft hair. I ask Hamdan if the dark spot on Kadur’s chin, which looks like a slightly blurred decoration, was always there, if it’s a beauty mark. And she says yes, it is a beauty mark. She remembers it.