Roudayna Malaeb is alive, but is she safe?

Roudayna and Rabih had known each other for over two years.

Roudayna Malaeb, whose husband was recently castrated by several of her male relatives, is staying in her hometown of Baysour. Roudayana told NOW she is doing well, but human rights activists worry her fate is not entirely secure.Early last week, the public learned of Rabih Ahmed, a 39 year-old Sunni man who had his penis severed and teeth pulled out by his in-laws as a consequence of marrying Roudayna, a 19 year-old Druze girl from Baysour. The marriage was both religiously forbidden and done without Roudayna’s parents’ consent.On Saturday, conflicting details of the Baysour girl who ran away with the Sunni man came to light. Roudayna claimed that Rabih – described as violent – lied to marry her, while he countered that she voluntarily fled with him, noting a history of unhappiness, and even a suicide attempt after her brother threatened her. But whatever the reasons behind the incident, Roudayna’s future safety looks far from guaranteed.From the outset, Roudayna’s family opposed her marriage to Rabih. After learning about the ceremony, relatives of Roudayna invited Rabih to a dinner under the false pretext of reconciliation. After arriving at the family home, several of her male relatives separated the two and brutally assaulted Rabih, later tossing him into the town’s main square.Since then, Roudayna’s exact whereabouts have been a mystery, apart from a July 17 television interview in which Roudayna appeared with her face covered. Rumors of Roudayna’s death spread across social media, and other reports on Wednesday said the young Druze girl might have been admitted to the hospital for injuries.Finally, news of Roudayna’s exact location surfaced after Baysour’s mayor, Walid Abu Harb, stated she was safe and with her family. But whether Roudayna is being kept against her will remains unclear. According to a human rights lawyer Nizar Saghieh, if Roudayna is being kept against her will, it constitutes a clear “violation of the law.”On Saturday, NOW met with Roudayna in her Aley hometown of Baysour, where she has been staying since the incident occurred. When asked about her condition, Roudayna tried to allay concerns: “God willing, I’m fine with my family and relatives.” She added, “It’s not easy of course, it’s a difficult time. But we have to face it.”  During the meeting, members of Roudayna’s family surrounded her. The lighting was dim, but a trace of grief was visible on her family members’ faces. One distant cousin forbade Roudayna from specifically commenting on the incident, urging her to save the details for the upcoming legal investigation.Many have remained skeptical of her family’s intentions, especially when considering Rabih’s fate. “These people didn’t accept that their daughter could have her own rights. And they conducted [the attack] to punish her for taking her own decisions,” argued Hayat Mirshad, a feminist activist from the FE-MALE organization. “Violence is not only physical, it can be psychological,” Mirshad added.While Baysour’s mayor claims that Roudayna’s case is now in court, many are criticizing the lack of information on the progress of the investigation. According to Saghieh, “the prosecutor not only has the obligation to act, but he also has the obligation to inform the public about the fate of the girl.”Baysour’s mayor has described the attack as “unacceptable,” arguing that this incident in no way reflects the principles of the village or the broader Druze community. Meanwhile, Roudayna’s family insisted that the Druze are not “barbaric” people. An elder family member asserted, “We’re not from the Middle Ages, but if there is an action… there is a reaction.”Other types of “reactions” are honor killings, still occasionally practiced in the Middle East as a means to remove behavior perceived by some as tarnishing a family’s reputation. According to Nadine Moawad, a civil marriage activist, “women are [still] viewed as the source of honor for the family.”

Moreover, sectarian politics could also prevent justice from being delivered for Roudayna and her husband Rabih. The Progressive Socialist Party MP, Akram Chehayeb, has recently been under fire due to allegations that he is covering up the event to protect his Druze community – and possibly two of his recruits thought to be among the perpetrators.For Nadine Moawad, Lebanon’s judiciary system is “paralyzed,” a reality that may prevent the proper execution of justice. In the case of Roudayna, Moawad notes, “instead of the law interfering, the politicians interfered.”

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