Israeli Bedouin Protesters Take to Streets Against Domestic Violence Against Women

Claiming the police and social welfare authorities are not properly addressing the issue, dozens of demonstrators call for an end to what they call 'a conspiracy of silence' on violence against women

Protesters against domestic violence in the Bedouin community, Shoket junction, May 30, 2017.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Dozens of Israeli Arabs staged a protest in southern Israel on Tuesday morning against domestic violence in the Bedouin community, calling for an end to what they called "a conspiracy of silence" on the issue.

The protests, rallying at the at the Shoket junction in the Negev, blamed the police and local social welfare authorities, claiming that they were not properly addressing the problem.

The protesters carried signs challenging the idea of honor killings within Bedouin families. "There is no honor in killing," one sign read.

The demonstration was organized against the backdrop of the deaths of two young Israeli Bedouin women, Hanan al-Bahiri of Lakiya and Baraa al-Shurbaji of Rahat, both of whom were 19.

Five members of Al-Bahiri's family, including her older brother were arrested on suspicion of involvement in her killing. The investigation is currently subject to a gag order. Al-Bahiri went missing from home for two weeks before police arrested her relatives.

Protesters against domestic violence in the Bedouin community, May 30, 2017.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

In the case of Al-Shurbaji's death, the police suspected that her brother Mahmad had burned her to death and that another brother had attempted to conceal evidence of the murder. The two suspects spent several days in jail before prosecutors decided to close the investigation after concluding that they were not guilty. The police obtained information that purportedly conflicted with Mahmad's account, but law enforcement officials were ultimately unable to substantiate the information. Police investigators subsequently returned to their initial suspicions that the woman had committed suicide or had died at home of accidental causes.

One of the organizers of Tuesday's demonstration, Insaf Abu Shareb, 38, told Haaretz that the demonstrators had come together to protest not only the women's deaths  but what she claimed was the initial inaction of the police. "It was clear to us from the beginning when a woman disappears, that she has been murdered."

One male demonstrator, Amir Abu Kwider said: "The murder of women or any other kind of murder is an impermissible act that must be condemned." And he added: "We as men are taking part in this effort and are also taking partial responsibility for changing [the situation]," adding that efforts have to be made to change men's attitudes, and the effort to combat violence against women should not be left only to women themselves.

Among the protesters were Joint List Knesset member Jouma Azbarga and former Knesset member Taleb el-Sana.