Nadine Elali

Failing victims of domestic violence

Nisrene Rouhana’s death and Fatima Seif Eddine’s cry for help indicate that the ISF is failing to take cases of domestic violence seriously

Women take part in a rally, notably to denounce domestic violence, on the "International Women

On Tuesday night last week, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that the body of Nisrine Rouhana had been found near Nahr Ibrahim River, in Mount Lebanon. Rouhana, 38 and mother of two, had been shot dead by her husband, Jean Deeb, who then dumped her body by the river bank. 


NOW tried contacting Joseph Rouhana, Nirine's father, but he was unable to comment as he was still in mourning. In a report published by Lebanese daily An-Nahar, however, he said that his daughter had been a victim of domestic violence.


According to Joseph, Nisrene had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse for many years, but he had only learned of her suffering in May this year when she appealed to him for help. According to the report, the family filed a complaint against Deeb in which they claimed that he was violent person and a drug abuser. The court ruled in Nisrene’s favor and she gained full custody of her children, but Deeb had fled, taking both children with him.


On 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Deeb kidnapped Rouhana at gunpoint and dragged her to a chalet in Mastita, Jbeil, where he tortured her. He then shot her in the shoulder and then in the head, killing her.


“His intention had been to kill her ever since she left his home,” said Georges Abi Rached, Rouhana’s lawyer. “We filed a lawsuit against him, and public prosecution requested that authorities find him to inform him that there was a court hearing expected to take place on 2 December to try him on charges of domestic violence and for threatening to kill his wife, but he remained in hiding.”


Abi Rached told NOW that the proceedings were all in effect and that, legally, there was nothing more that could be done. He did, however, point to shortcomings in authorities’ efforts to locate and arrest Deeb.


According to Maya Ammar, media and communication liaison of Enough Violence and Exploitation (KAFA), a Lebanese advocacy organization for women and children's rights, the bureaucratic process victims of domestic violence must follow remains complex. Although KAFA has not been privy to Rouhana’s case in particular, Ammar told NOW she believes that the lengthy judicial and security process may have been the reason Deeb had enough time and leeway to murder her.


“The first time the search warrant was issued, Internal Security Forces (ISF) claimed that they were not able to find him. And when they were informed of his latest location, they did not act because the warrant was no longer in effect and they needed public prosecution to issue another one. This is one of the law’s shortcomings,” Ammar said. “The assailant should have been arrested way before then.”


Nisrene is the ninth reported victim of domestic violence this year and the fourth, along with Roula Yacoub, Roukaya Mounzer, and Manal Assi, to have been killed after the implementation of Law 293, the Law on the Protection of Women and Family Members from Domestic Violence. The law has been criticized by women’s rights organizations — KAFA included — for not doing enough to protect women.


As the story of Nisrene made headlines, MARCH, a Lebanese NGO campaigning against censorship and fighting for human rights and freedom of expression, launched an outcry later that week on behalf of young girl named Fatima Seif Eddine, who claims to have been tortured by her uncle. In a Facebook post MARCH wrote: “Her uncle beats her and used a gun on her and the authorities are not taking the appropriate measures to protect her.”


Lea Baroudi, co-founder of MARCH, told NOW that Seif Eddine first contacted authorities in August 2014, when the ISF closed her file without conducting the required investigations. Baroudi said Seif Eddine contacted the police a second time about a week ago, but they refused to report to her residence because “it was a Sunday.” On Thursday last week, when Seif Eddine contacted the police a third time, they replied: “Why don’t you come here?”


“At what point do the authorities think it’s appropriate to take action?” said Baroudi. “What needs to happen to Fatima before they react?”


“It is not enough to issue a law — its enforcement needs to be guaranteed.”


According to Baroudi, this law, like other laws before it, does not provide for its own enforcement. She says that a mechanism must be set in place to ensure that the ISF, which bears responsibility for this issue, acts accordingly.


“The question that remains is whether or not the ISF believes that domestic violence is an issue that needs to be treated with the utmost urgency.”


Nadine Elali tweets @Nadine_Elali

On 25 November, Deeb kidnapped Rouhana, tortured her, then shot and killed her, dumping her body on a river bank. (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)

The question that remains is whether or not the ISF believes that domestic violence is an issue that needs to be treated with the utmost urgency.”