For immediate release: [February 5, 2021]
Contributors: Hasan Slika (LORP)
Press Contact: Reem Mansour, email@example.com ; Mohamad Nafeh, firstname.lastname@example.org; Georgio Toumieh, email@example.com
LeMSIC on the Murder of Zeina Kanjo:
Not long ago, we witnessed the international campaign “16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence”, which aimed at raising awareness on the need to end domestic abuse and to create a safe domestic environment for women and girls around the globe. In a country that has gaps in its law and a broad social consensus that protects women against working domestic violence, our role as advocates for the need to end gender-based abuse has never been more important.
Zeina Kanjo, a young Lebanese fashion model from Akkar, was strangled to death at her home in Beirut on the 30th of January, 2021 [Link1]. Details surrounding the murder have yet to be confirmed by authorities, but local journalists and initial reports have noted that the deceased submitted violence complaints to the Beirut court against her husband and was there are reports that she was not leading a happy marriage. Zeina’s sister sent a recorded call to a Local TV channel that reinforced the accusations against the husband. [Link2]
We find it surreal, yet greatly necessary in this country, to release a statement that strictly condemns the use of violence, let alone murder, against women or girls in domestic households or outside them. No reason, whatsoever, can explain such inhumane actions and the persistence of the current socially constructed power dynamics that still govern family relationships around us. Any form of domestic abuse, be it physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual, is a substantial violation of human rights and a criminal act that needs to be legally prohibited. The Lebanese Internal Security Forces have reported an increase in the number of domestic violence incidents from 716 in 2019 to 1272 in 2020, without consideration of the many unreported events [Link3]. It is worth mentioning that this increase is related to the pandemic we are facing and the measures implemented, which are locking in women with their abusers. This urges authorities to put huge efforts into guaranteeing the protection of women during lockdowns and the creation of safe spaces that they can refuge to.
The Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace (SCORP) and the Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SCORA) in the Lebanese Medical International Students’ Committee (LeMSIC) urge the authorities and all stakeholders to step up and take rapid, urgent, and uncompromising actions against the murderer of Zeina Kanjo. This includes, but is not limited to, imposing the strongest punishment possible and issuing an international arrest warrant in case the murderer has fled the country.
It is high time we come to the understanding that Zeina’s death is not only a single isolated crime, but the consequence of a society that still treats women as second-degree citizens. We, herein, push towards radical reform in the way authorities and stakeholders tackle the issue of gender-based violence and domestic abuse. This issue is critical, urgent, and, unfortunately, on the rise. Let us not disappoint more women like we disappointed Zeina.
While she is no longer here with us today, the journey for a better tomorrow continues. We rest assured that the Lebanese population will rise to the occasion and build, united world where women and girls everywhere not only feel safe, but empowered.
Internal Security Forces domestic abuse hotline: 1745
With grief and sorrow,
The LeMSIC Community