(photo credit: AP )
Two brothers from the West Bank town of Sebastia have been arrested by the Palestinian Authority security forces for locking up their sister in a storeroom for three years.
The "crime" of the 40-year-old woman, whose name is Amirah: Her husband, a construction worker, had divorced her.
Residents of the town said Amirah's brothers tried after the divorce to have her admitted to a mental hospital under the pretext that she was suffering from a mental illness.
"They were ashamed of the fact that their sister was divorced," they said. "They tried to get rid of her in different ways." But after their attempts to hospitalize her failed, the brothers decided to build a small storeroom and lock her inside.
Amirah was kept incommunicado inside the storeroom for three years.
Last week, a neighbor who heard her screams contacted human rights organizations and the PA police in Nablus. Police officers who raided the storeroom found the woman in poor physical and mental health.
Some residents said they knew about Amirah's plight, but saw no reason to interfere in their neighbors' private affairs.
Amirah was taken to a mental hospital in Bethlehem and her brothers were arrested for interrogation. The brothers claimed they were forced to lock Amirah up because of her health condition and because they were unable to find a hospital to admit her.
Omar Kiwan, a third brother who was not involved in the incarceration, said Amirah got married about seven years ago. "She has a 15-year-old boy, whom she misses very much," he said. "Her mental condition deteriorated because she was not permitted to see her son. Her former husband took the boy and remarried."
He said Amirah was divorced for no good reason. She had been married in the context of what's known in Arab culture as "swap marriages," where two men marry their sisters to each other.
"When we divorced their sister, they retaliated by divorcing Amirah," he said. "First Amirah lost her husband, then her son, Wardan, because they prevented her from seeing him.
Because of that she became mentally unstable."
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