Zainab Ali Zeaiter, a 26-year-old mother of three children, the eldest of whom is seven years old, was brutally murdered by her husband on Saturday, March 25. According to local media, the perpetrator is Hassan Mussa Zeaiter, who shot ten bullets at his wife in their home in Beirut’s Choueifat neighborhood.
The horrific act of domestic violence has sent shockwaves throughout Lebanon and beyond, reigniting the urgent need for greater action to protect women from such tragedies – an issue long ignored by the Lebanese state.
Why this matters, Unfortunately, violence against women is pervasive in many communities throughout the Arab world, and this episode is far from unique. In Lebanon especially, personal status regulations that favor men over women rob women of their legal rights. Also, laws protecting women from domestic violence are almost non-existent.
Regarding Zeaiter, neighbors reported that the perpetrator received numerous calls from an unknown source claiming that his wife had been cheating on him. They added that a long-term neurological disorder has been plaguing the husband.
Another claim was that the husband discovered pictures of his wife without a veil while searching her phone. The device has since disappeared from the crime scene, according to security sources.
Shortly after the incident, a video was released in which the victim’s brother opened the door to his brother-in-law’s shop as a sign of goodwill. In the video, the victim’s brother stated that he did not seek revenge on the killer, but was satisfied with what happened because it allowed him to “wash off the shame” his sister caused. Certain clans have practiced honor killings for as long as the country has existed. The murder of women who commit immoral acts according to societal and family standards have, thus, remained unpunished.
Nine women were reportedly killed in domestic violence crimes between January and October 2022, and 18 in 2021. However, the unofficial number is likely much higher, with domestic abuse on the rise.
Important Note, the motivations for these heinous acts may differ from case to case. Despite this, it is possible that the economic crisis has negatively affected men’s traditional role as the family’s primary breadwinner, which has made women easy targets for anger in difficult economic times.
Due to the continued normalization of honor killings and the lack of legal protection for women, the perpetrators are able to escape justice.
With an insufficient judicial system coupled with the right connections, it becomes easier for them to escape any type of punishment, as seen with the Zeaiter husband who managed to flee along with his children.
This grim situation is only further exacerbated by the recent shooting in Tripoli, where a retired member of the internal security forces killed his ex-wife in broad daylight, though he was subsequently arrested.
In conclusion, Lebanon has become accustomed to hearing a murder case every month. This devastating trend is worrisome and calls for the implementation of stricter laws, increased awareness-raising campaigns, and improved access to support services for the victims.
However, the responsibility has been given to NGOs, while the state has failed to take appropriate action and allocate necessary resources to address the issue, leaving countless women vulnerable to violence and abuse.
Politicians, continuously lying about prioritizing the fourth-year-old economic crisis, still regard women as less important and needing major efforts and reforms to be protected.
There has been evidence in the last few days, however, that it only takes two major politicians and one meeting to make big decisions like changing the time zone of the entire country.
Dana Hourany is a multimedia journalist with @NOW_leb. She is on Instagram @danahourany and Twitter @danahourany.