On the 28th of April, Mona Mahajna, 29 years old, was found shot dead in her apartment in Umm al-Fahm. Her death follows a demonstration organized on the 26th of April by the Committee against the Killing of Women. A motorcade of women’s rights activists left from Haifa, passing by 12 villages to reach Kofr Qara, where a commemoration was held for another two Arab women recently killed.
“She was killed because she’s a woman”
The Committee against the Killing of Women (1) has called for the urgent engagement of the Arab community to put an end to the crisis of gender-based violence and the killing of women. In the past 10 years, 75 Palestinian women in Israel have been killed by relatives who claimed to be protecting family “honor.” Though programs implemented by the police have aimed to reduce such killings through community outreach, shelters and other forms of assistance, the persistence of this phenomenon is a resounding warning that not enough is being done. For example, the recent killing of 16-year-old Aisha, by her brother despite warnings sent to the police by her boyfriend, demonstrates that Palestinian women under threat of family violence lack critical support from authorities.
To end the murder of women in the name of “honor,” we must terminate the willed silence of the Palestinian community. But to be effective, we must simultaneously challenge the exclusion and marginalization of the Palestinian-Arab minority in Israel. According to the Working Group on the Status of Palestinian women citizens of Israel, it “is also the state’s obligation to raise awareness, in appropriate ways, and create conditions in which Palestinian women can feel comfortable to report cases of domestic violence… The severe budget cuts on social services, while affecting all women, have a more detrimental effect on Palestinian women victims of violence, whose services, such as shelters, were insufficient for their needs before the cuts. Because of their nationality, Palestinian women are more vulnerable to inadequate and irresponsible police responses to incidents of violence; and the social stigma of reporting cases of violence is exacerbated by discriminatory responses by police.(2)”
The murder of Mona Mahajna must not be framed as an isolated event. Justice requires sustained public scrutiny and immediate community engagement. Let us ensure that Mona’s death is not lost amidst the dozens of forgotten women killed by relatives in the name of “honor.” Said Adella Biadi, Kayan’s representative to the Committee Against the Killing of Women, “It is time to isolate all who would support the killing of women. We have an obligation to ensure the right of every woman to live in freedom and security. The veil of silence in our community must be broken.”
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(1) The Committee Against the Killing of Women is an association of twelve organizations, including: Kayan-Feminist Organization, Assiwar-The Feminist Arab Movement In Support Victims of Sexual Abuse, Muntada – The Arab Forum for Sexuality, Education and Health, Aswat-Palestinian Gay Women, Baladna-Association for Arab Youth, Mada Al-Carmel-Arab Center for Applied Social Research, Women Against Violence, the Mossawa Center-the Advocacy Center for Palestinian Arab Citizens in Israel, Al-Tufula Center-Women’s Empowerment Center, and Na’am – Arab Women in the Center.
(2) Status of the Palestinian Women Citizens of Israel, The NGO’s Alternative report submitted to the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women, by the Working Group on the Status of the Palestinian Women Citizens of Israel, 2006