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Israel / Palestinian Territories Correspondent
Israel / Palestinian Territories Correspondent
It was a horrific murder last Wednesday in the Palestinian city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Martyr Ahmed Abu Markhiya, 25, with a sharp device and beheading A video of the crime was uploaded to social media, likely by the perpetrator, and sparked widespread terror.
The murder case took on an added dimension when it was soon reported that the victim had been threatened for years because of his homosexuality. Israeli media reported that he was in various shelters in Israel in recent years, hoping to move to Canada to seek asylum there.
But according to the Palestinian police, there is still a lot of mystery about the exact circumstances of the killing. A spokesman said he had arrested a suspect but declined to comment on the motive pending an investigation. “It’s one of the worst situations I’ve ever faced in my career,” the police spokesman said.
Abu Markhiya’s family issued a statement of condolences and demanded privacy after “this heinous and unprecedented crime.” A relative described the case against Palestinian Radio Al Karama as “too bad to talk about.”
The family claimed that the victim usually resided in neighboring Jordan, where his late father belonged, and was in Hebron to visit relatives. But soon other reports emerged from Israel. According to Israeli news sites, he fled his Palestinian homeland after threats because of his sexual orientation.
“He’s been living in shelter after shelter for the past few years,” said Rita Petrenko, an Israeli LGBT activist. She says she accompanied Abu Markhiya two years ago in his search for a safe haven.
According to the aid worker, he was threatened by his family and fellow villagers and is now living an unknown life near Tel Aviv. “But even there he got calls with threats. He wasn’t sure who. But he always remained positive about the future. Everyone is frustrated that he is now dead.”
A question about motivation
The murder was also widely denounced and condemned on Palestinian news websites and on social media. But the possible motive, the victim’s sexual orientation, is neither discussed nor hardly discussed. Homosexuality is taboo in Palestinian society, where traditional and religious norms define public life.
In recent years, for example, there have been several cases of homophobic abuse by the Palestinian police, according to reports from the interest group Al-Qaws (“Rainbow”), among others. The authorities also banned the meetings of that organization. Al-Qaws has not yet commented on the assassination of Abu Markhiya.
Other Palestinian LGBT activists are also reluctant to talk about this issue. One says that much remains unclear about the issue. But Abu Markhiya’s death appears to have had a significant impact. “The whole community is crying,” activist Natalie Farah said. Haaretz Israeli newspaper. “A lot of Palestinian gays and therapists knew and appreciated him. Everyone is afraid now.”
The US ambassador to Israel also condemned the killing of Abu Markhiya:
There are about a hundred gay Palestinians living in Israeli shelters, according to estimates by Palestinian-Israeli parliament member Ibtisam Marana Menuhin. Israel promotes a liberal policy on gay rights, even though the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community condemns homosexuality. Tel Aviv, in particular, where a major pride event takes place every year, is a gay haven.
Incidentally, this leads to criticism from pro-Palestinian activists, accusing Israel of a form of pink wash. They will distract attention with the LGBT’s tolerance of the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the violation of Palestinian rights.
Although Israel helps shelter Palestinian gays, it still does little for them, says aid worker Petrenko. For example, victim Abu Markhiya has not obtained a work permit in Israel in recent years, and had to rely on permission from Canada to obtain asylum there. According to her, this action was in progress, but in the end it came too late.
In recent days, both in the shelter and elsewhere, Petrenko says, the memory of 25-year-old Ahmed has been commemorated. “We hope this will lead to more awareness of the situation of people like him. Unfortunately, in the history of the LGBTI community, we have often seen that something very bad had to happen before something got better.”
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