By Diana Hsieh
BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK—The brutal killing of a battered wife in front of horrified witnesses in an open-air Bethlehem market prompted angry accusations Wednesday that Palestinian police and courts ignore violence against women.What can be said about such a case? Or about a culture and religion that does not merely tolerate such terrifying brutality against women, but actually encourages it?
Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had her throat slashed Monday after seeking a divorce from her abusive husband of 10 years. The husband was arrested at the scene and is the prime suspect, West Bank officials said. The case reverberated across Palestinian society because of the brutality of the attack. However, violence against women continues to be tolerated — similar to attitudes in other parts of the Arab world — and women’s rights activists say abusive husbands are rarely punished.
Zaboun was regularly beaten by her husband, 32-year-old Shadi Abedallah, at times so severely that she had to be hospitalized, said Haula al-Azraq, who runs a West Bank counselling centre where Zaboun sought help. Even so, Abedallah was never arrested. Police only made him sign pledges he would stop hitting his wife, said al-Azraq, adding that Abedallah himself is a former police officer.
Zaboun was killed after attending a hearing in her divorce case. She was walking on the steep paths of an open-air market — not far from the Church of the Nativity, marking the traditional birthplace of Jesus — when she was fatally slashed.