Dozens of people demonstrated on Saturday at the entrance to the city of Taibeh in central Israel and in several other cities, protesting the murder in Taibeh of Wafa Johar Masarwa on Thursday by her husband.
Demonstration organizers received threats prior to the protests, as did a Ynet reporter who had planned to cover the event.
The protesters held signs with the names of women who had been murdered. Some carried a picture of Masarwa’s 5-year-old daughter, who had witnessed the murder and was seen running after a car in which her father was riding.
Two women have been murdered in Taibeh this year, while another woman was killed by a stray bullet.
Masarwa’s husband, Ayman Masarwa, confessed on Saturday that he had killed her, but told the Petah Tikvah District Court that he hadn’t meant to do so. He is suspected of stabbing his wife in their home, after which she collapsed in the stairwell of their building. The court ordered Masarwa remanded until Thursday.
Neighbors told Haaretz that Wafa, 40, had supported her family after Ayman became ill and lost his job. The couple had been trying for 16 years to have a child and had undergone fertility treatments. Five years ago, Wafa gave birth to twins, one of whom died at age 2. She didn't have a driver’s license, according to her neighbors, and they would take her to the hospital when her daughter was sick. Neighbors said she led a traditional and religious lifestyle.
“I didn’t cry about the murder, I only cried about her daughter, a neighbor, Fatma, who took part in the Taibeh demonstration, told Haaretz. “We’ve taken to the street a lot, not only for women but for everyone killed…. She [Wafa] isn’t the first victim here and she won’t be the last…her daughter is so small, she saw her mother die…how will she live?”
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Amal Abdelkader, who knew Wafa, said that she was “always smiling even though it was hard for her to have children.” Abdelkader recalled: “I never saw her suffer from violence. I understand he was sick and became depressed. Does that mean he needs to murder his wife? There’s no excuse. They have to teach children in school from a young age to respect women…. That should be the responsibility of the Education Ministry.”
Maysam Jaljuli, who organized the protest, told Haaretz that organizers had received threats from fake Facebook accounts, as did a journalist who consequently did not show up to cover the event.
“This isn’t the first time we’re protesting violence against women but this is the first time we’ve been threatened. It’s as if things are escalating more and more because there’s no law enforcement.” Jaljuli said she hoped the police would apprehend the people who had threatened the organizers.
“The threats were frightening, but we never thought for a moment to cancel the demonstrations,” she added. “Some things have a bigger impact than others emotionally. The report of the child running and screaming touched people. Women pay a price and children pay a price. This led a lot of people to show their support.
Yahya Mitani, from the town of Kalansua, said it was good that people were protesting in other places besides Taibeh. “There are many places in Israel where they’re protesting the murder of women, both Jewish and Arab,” and the fight to stop violence against women had brought Arabs and Jews together.
Mitani accused the police of negligence in dealing with crime in the Arab community. “It goes hand in hand with racist politics – let the Arabs kill each other. It’s dangerous politics. When I protest I’m not afraid to come up against the criminals.”
MK Sondos Saleh (Joint List) said: “Women whose lives are now being threatened are forced to find enormous strength to beg for help, for shelters, for a little security. The state needs to fund social services properly. The police have to support women. And the community has to support them, to put violent men in their place and to stop asking women to accept it in the name of domestic peace.”
I’lam, the Arab Center for Media Freedom, Development and Research issued a statement Saturday night condemning the threats against the reporter, Hassan Sha’alan, before the protest. According to the statement, Sha’alan and his wife were told their lives were in danger and that he should not cover the event. Sha’alan stressed that the fact that an Arab journalist who was going to cover a protest about violence in the Arab community receives such threats “shows that Arab society is in deep moral and ethical crisis and both the victims and those who cover the story have become targets.”