Relatives of Israeli-Arab Woman Charged With Murdering Her After Divorce, Fearing She Would Start Dating

The killing is one of a series racking the Bedouin and wider Israeli Arab community

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Hanan al-Bahiri, 19, who was murdered in May 2017.
Hanan al-Bahiri, 19, who was murdered in May 2017. Credit: Courtesy of the al-Bahiri family
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

Three relatives of 19-year-old Hanan al-Bahiri have been indicted for kidnapping and killing her in a case that has sparked protests in the Israeli Arab community.

According to the indictment, two of Bahiri’s uncles and a cousin kidnapped her after she and her husband divorced because they feared she would begin dating. In the charges of kidnapping, premeditated murder, destruction of evidence and intimidation, they are accused of breaking Bahiri’s neck, burning her body and burying the remains near their home.

The indictment comes a day after hundreds of people demonstrated around the country protesting violence against women. Late last month, dozens of Israeli Arabs protested in southern Israel against domestic violence in the Bedouin community, calling it a “conspiracy of silence.”

The indictment states that on May 3, Bahiri was out walking late at night in the Bedouin town of Lakiya in the northern Negev, where she lived. In a telephone call with her mother, Bahiri said she was near the local council building on her way home, but never arrived.

The indictment, filed by the Southern District of the State Prosecutor’s Office, alleges that the defendants kidnapped her on the path to her house, took her in their car and drove for 40 minutes to one of their homes as she screamed for help.

The police searching for the body of 19-year-old Hanan al-Bahiri in the family compound in the Negev, June 2017. Credit: Israel Police

After killing her, they removed the SIM card from her phone, broke it and threw it away so she could not be located, the indictment reads. They then placed her remains in a sack and buried her.

Her mother, Dalal al-Bahiri, reported her missing to the police and said she suspected her daughter’s uncle, who had taken the family under his wing after Hanan’s father died, along with two other relatives. The police said they immediately feared for the girl’s life and began collecting intelligence to prove their case.

Three weeks after Bahiri disappeared, the police arrested six family members, including her older brother, on suspicion they were involved. Three days after the arrests, on May 26, the police located her remains, buried about four meters (13 feet) underground in the family’s complex in the Goral Hills in the northern Negev.

“The defendants kidnapped the deceased in order to murder her and caused the death of the deceased with premeditation, after they decided to kill her and killed her in cold blood, without any provocation preceding the act,” the indictment reads.

Bahiri was married to a man with disabilities, and a few months before her murder they were divorced. Her mother says Bahiri never met her husband before the wedding and her uncle, one of the men charged in the killing, had arranged the marriage. Bahiri was forced to return the dowry her uncle had paid, and to do so she found a job.

Dalal al-Bahiri, whose 19-year-old daughter was murdered in May 2017, Lakiya, June 18, 2017.Credit: Almog Ben Zikri

The indictment states that a month before the murder, her uncle called Bahiri and told her: “Sit at home with your mother, rot and shut up. Don’t go around west and east .... If I find out you’re leaving the house, you know what will happen to you.”

Dalal al-Bahiri told Haaretz that sometime in the period before the murder, Hanan’s stepbrother, who was under the care of the social services authorities, beat Hanan and broke her hand. The police say Hanan filed a complaint but soon withdrew it. Dalal said her daughter continued to work despite her broken hand so she could repay the dowry.

The mother says she and her family have been receiving threats since she went to the police about her daughter’s disappearance. “My children are afraid to go out of the house and aren’t going to school,” she said. The police said they were taking action on the complaint.

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