Aiia Maasarwe's father Saeed Maasarwe is seen at the vigil for his daughter on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia, January 18, 2019.
(photo credit: AAP IMAGE/STEFAN POSTLES/VIA REUTERS)
The mayor of Baka al-Gharbiya has chastised top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, for their silence on the murder of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe in Melbourne last week.
Maasarwe, an Israeli-Arab from the village of Baqa al-Gharbiya, near Haifa, was an exchange student at La Trobe University in Melbourne. She was murdered during the early hours of Wednesday morning while on her way home from a comedy show.
In an open letter released on Sunday afternoon, Baka al-Gharbiya Mayor Mursi Abuch said it was deeply puzzling to them “that until now, days after the abominable murder and the extensive coverage of the tragic incident, we have not heard a single word or statement from any senior Israeli official – while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expressed emotional statements on the matter.”
The mayor said that, “While continuing to investigate the circumstances of the incident [in Australia]... we have not heard any statement from any senior official in the country, neither from the prime minister nor from the honorable Mr. Reuven Rivlin,” adding that the State of Israel considers itself “an egalitarian state for all its residents.”
“We believe that the failure to publish any information in the [local] media – and the lack of concern for the publication of even a short story – is a serious, shameful and embarrassing failure for the State of Israel,” Abuch said.
“The silence of the Israeli government about the collective personal story of Baka al-Gharbiya’s daughter is more than outrageous, and your silence is deafening... We hope that you will correct the negative omission in a proper and appropriate manner [about this] tragic event.”
Meanwhile, in a heartbreaking interview on Sunday morning, Maasarwe’s sister Noor said that her sister “never felt safe” while walking home in the northern Melbourne neighborhood of Bandura where she lived.
Noor told Australia’s Channel 9 News that Aiia would either call her or their other sister, Ruba, while she walked home. The street on which she was killed was just a kilometer from the young woman’s home.
She explained that she had been watching the news in Israel when she realized that Aiia had been found dead in Melbourne. Earlier in the evening, she found out that Aiia was missing after dropping the phone on a call with Ruba.
“[Aiia] screamed and dropped the phone. And then [Ruba] heard someone hitting her,” she recalled.
“[Later] I [saw] in the news that they found a body. They didn’t say who it was,” Noor said on Sunday from Israel. “But it matches all the details. It was on the same road. Everything. I was just praying that it’s not her.”
After seeing pictures of the victim’s shoes and cellphone, Noor immediately recognized that the items belonged to her missing sister, she recalled as she broke down into tears.
The family initially thought the 21-year-old exchange student had been kidnapped or had fallen. Ruba called the police after Aiia had dropped the phone.
In Aiia’s hometown of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, about a thousand people gathered outside a mosque on Saturday calling for an end to violence against women and for her body to be returned speedily.
“We will not be quiet,” Noor told reporters while leading the rally. “We will be loud, very loud.”
“The land wants Aiia back,” read one of the placards held by demonstrators with others saying “We need Aiia home,” “We are all Aiia’s sister’s,” “Aiia is the daughter of all of us,” and “Everyone has the right to get home safe.” The sentiments were echoed in vigils held for Aiia across Melbourne and Sydney over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including a silent vigil on the steps of Victoria’s parliament building.
On Sunday, several thousand people marched through major Australian cities calling for safety for women. The marches were part of the Women’s March rallies held around the world in support of women’s rights.
Some 3,000 people gathered in Sydney, who in their chants demanded safe streets for women in Australian cities.
On Sunday, marchers there held signs paying tribute to Maasarwe and other victims of violence. Television news showed women carrying signs saying: “For Aiia and for those who suffer silently” and “I wanna walk through the park in the dark.”
During one of the rallies on Friday, Aiia’s father, tears streaming down his face, thanked everyone in Australia and across the globe for their support during this difficult time.
On Friday night, a 20-year-old man named as Codey Herrmann was arrested by Victoria Police. Herrmann, believed to be a homeless aspiring rapper, was brought before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Saturday. He was accused of raping and murdering Aiia.
Herrmann was remanded to reappear in the same court on Monday morning.Reuters contributed to this report.
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