Violence against women hits universities in Egypt and Jordan

Two women in universities in Egypt and Jordan were murdered after they refused marriage proposals.

 Students wait in a lecture hall at Mansoura University. (photo credit: REUTERS/NASSER NURI)
Students wait in a lecture hall at Mansoura University.
(photo credit: REUTERS/NASSER NURI)

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

Eman Irshed, a nursing student at Applied Science University in the Shafa Badran suburb of Amman, was killed by a non-student who had been seeking to marry her. In a recorded message, he said that if she did not accept to go out with him, he would kill her.

When police tracked down the alleged killer, surrounding him on Sunday, he killed himself before he could be arrested.

Mufid Irshed, the victim’s father, gave an emotional interview saying he would take his daughter to and from the university rather than allow her to use public transportation. He demanded capital punishment for her killer. “She did no 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. The university security guards never check students coming in and there are plenty of students who have 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 us all to leave,” she said.

Male hands arrested with handcuffs in Criminal concept (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)Male hands arrested with handcuffs in Criminal concept (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)

Batarseh said Jordanian universities have witnessed many crimes. “Many families have prohibited their children, especially girls, from going to classes because it is not safe.” Layla Nafaa, head of the Arab Women’s Organization, told The Media Line that violence against women has not necessarily increased but there is more awareness.

“Just like Israel’s crimes are more known now because of the media and cameras, also in Jordan we are much more aware of the gender-based violence due to the accessibility to media and people’s willingness to speak out and not to push such issues under the rug,” she said.

Social media was filled with opinions about the case even before the suspect allegedly took his own life. But the courts in Jordan issued a gag order barring media of all sorts from talking about the ongoing investigation while the killer was at large.

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

“The idea that a woman is an independent entity and can refuse who she does not want as a husband and cannot be compelled to marry him is a basic right.”

Human rights advocate Hala Ahed Deeb

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

“Even if she gets a divorce, she enters into the painstaking difficulty of collecting alimony.”

Irshed’s murder is “an indication of something gone wrong in the protection net that is supposed to fend off pressure and intimidation against women, and that should be following up their complaints,” Deeb said.

Murder in Egypt

The crime in Jordan appears to have been a copycat of a case with a similar background. Three days earlier, students at Mansoura University in the Nile Delta were shocked by the actions of a student carrying a knife and slaughtering his female colleague, Naira Ashraf, in front of the gate to the Faculty of Arts.

“Eyewitnesses reported that the young man, a third-year arts student, stabbed the young lady in front of the gate, as the young lady was on her way to the bus stop, heading home to El Mahalla, in Gharbia Governorate, where she lives,” according to The Egypt Independent. The English-language newspaper quoted eyewitnesses saying, “The young man wanted to marry the victim, but she refused his offer, so he decided to take revenge on her and hadthreatened to kill her previously.”

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