Gender-based violence hits universities in Egypt and Jordan

Two women murdered after refusing marriage proposals

The shooting death of a female student on her university campus on Thursday shocked Jordanians. The murder came three days after an Egyptian student lost her life at the hands of a colleague.

Eman Irshed, a nursing student at the Shafa Badran suburban University of Applied Sciences in Amman, was killed by a non-student who sought to marry her. In a recorded message, he said that if she didn’t agree to go out with him, he would kill her.

When police found the suspected killer, surrounding him on Sunday, he killed himself before he could be arrested.

Mufid Irshed, the victim’s father, gave a moving interview saying he would take his daughter to university rather than allow her to use public transport. He demanded capital punishment for his killer. “She didn’t do anything wrong, why did he kill her?” He asked.

Kristen Batarseh, a postgraduate student in human rights and human development at the University of Jordan, told The Media Line that being a student is scary these days.

“Our universities are not safe. University security guards never check students entering and there are many students with weapons inside the campus. A few years ago, during student council elections, a student shot another student in the foot. I remember they closed the university and asked all of us to leave,” she said.

Batarseh said Jordanian universities have witnessed many crimes. “Many families have banned their children, especially girls, from going to class because it’s not safe.”

Layla Nafaa, head of the Arab Women’s Organisation, told The Media Line that violence against women has not necessarily increased but there is more awareness.

“Just as Israel’s crimes are more well-known now thanks to the media and the cameras, in Jordan too we are much more aware of gender-based violence because of the accessibility of the media and people’s willingness to speak out. and not to push these issues into the spotlight on the carpet,” she says.

Social media was filled with opinions on the case even before the suspect took his own life. But Jordanian courts have issued a gag order barring media of all kinds from reporting on the ongoing investigation while the killer is at large.

Jordanian human rights lawyer Hala Ahed Deeb told The Media Line that acts of violence against female students are among the most extreme.

“The idea that a woman is an independent entity and can refuse whomever she does not want as a husband and cannot be forced to marry them is a fundamental right,” she said.

Deeb said women who refuse such marriages or who want to separate from their current spouse enter a cycle of violence and suffering.

“Even if she divorces, she enters into the painful difficulty of collecting alimony.”

Irshed’s killing is “an indication of something gone wrong in the safety net that is supposed to fend off pressure and intimidation against women, and which should address their complaints,” Deeb said.

The crime in Jordan appears to have been a copy of a case with a similar history. Three days earlier, students at Mansoura University in the Nile Delta had been shocked by the actions of a student carrying a knife and slaughtering his colleague, Naira Ashraf, outside the door of the Faculty of Arts.

“Eyewitnesses reported that the young man, a third-year art student, stabbed the young woman outside the door, as the young woman was walking to the bus stop, returning to her home in El Mahalla, in Gharbia governorate, where she lives,” according to The Egypt Independent.

The English-language newspaper quoted eyewitnesses as saying: “The young man wanted to marry the victim, but she refused his offer, so he decided to take revenge on her and had threatened to kill her before.

The suspected killer, Mohamed Adel, was apprehended and beaten by bystanders, who then handed him over to the police, according to the newspaper.

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