BEIRUT – The murder of a 26-year-old woman by her husband in the Choueifat district southeast of Beirut over the weekend sent shock waves across the country and revived calls to end the rampant violence against women in Lebanon.
In the early hours of Saturday, Hasan Zaiter shot his wife, Zainab, in front of their three children – the oldest being 7. According to Sharika Wa Laken, a local feminist website, Hasan shot his wife with around 10 bullets.
Several reports are circulating about a possible motive. Some claim that Hasan, who is said to have a neurological disorder, has been receiving anonymous calls alleging that his wife is cheating. Other reports claim he saw pictures of his wife without a hijab online.
An online video showed the victim’s brother opening his brother-in-law’s coffee as a goodwill gesture. The brother is heard saying he is on good terms with his brother-in-law, who has “washed away the shame” his sister had caused the family. He said that if Hasan had not killed Zainab, he would have done it himself to preserve the honor of the family.
Local reports say police have issued a search warrant for Hasan, who fled the country after the killing, leaving his wife’s bloody body on his bed. A source close to the family told the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news website that Hasan is believed to have fled to Syria – or possibly Germany, where his brother lives – while his family remained in his hometown of Hadath Baalbeck in eastern Lebanon.
The murder of women goes unpunished in Lebanon amid rising cases of domestic abuse and violence. Cases of domestic violence have increased since Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019, with jobless men resenting their wives. According to the Internal Security Forces (ISF), nine women were killed in domestic violence crimes between January and October 2020 and 18 in 2021. The ISF also reported that it received 1,468 cases of domestic violence in 2021, an increase from 747 the previous year that. .
Last month, a retired police officer shot and killed his ex-wife with a hunting rifle in broad daylight on a street in the northern city of Tripoli. In February 2021, Lebanese model Zeina Kanjo was shot to death by her husband after finding out she wanted a divorce. Nine other women were killed by their fiances or husbands in the month period between December and January 2018.
In late 2020, the Lebanese parliament passed a law criminalizing sexual harassment. Another law against domestic violence has been in place since 2014, but marital rape is not outlawed. Religious courts in the country still preside over personal laws related to matters such as divorce and child custody — denying women rights in many cases.