Domestic abuse in lockdown: Jordanian woman's video goes viral

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Distraught and dressed in borrowed pyjamas, Eman Alkhateeb weeps uncontrollably in a video shared widely on social media as she details a torrent of abuse she says her brother and her mother have subjected her to.

It was almost midnight on March 28 when the single mother, 36, from Jordan, posted the heart-breaking video, which has now garnered nearly half a million views, explaining she was forced to flee the family home that day with her 13-year-old son because she feared for her life.

“I call out to everyone, especially in these times, to understand what women have to go through during this [curfew]. It is not easy for me to do this video and tell people what is happening to me, but I didn’t have a choice. I will talk, I won’t be afraid, I want every woman who is like me to come out and say what is really happening to her and not to be scared for any reason,” says Ms Alkhateeb, in between sobs during the recording.

According to the former retail store manager, her family tried to force her to give them money. Just before the country went into lockdown two weeks ago as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, she was in between jobs. Now, with the closure of businesses and the curfew in place as part of coronavirus containment measures in Jordan, it has been impossible to work. Yet, her family continued to press her for money, physically and emotionally abusing her when she didn’t deliver, she said.

“When you look at me, and my pictures, fully dressed and looking normal, you wouldn’t think I get terrorised and beaten up by my family. I almost got killed today,” she says as she breaks down in front of the camera.

Speaking to The National by phone from a safe place provided by the Jordanian Women’s Union for her and her son, Ms Alkhateeb said: “This time I think my heart couldn’t take anymore. I want to survive, so I asked for help.

“I never had any idea the video would have this much attention. The huge number of calls and messages, the support, it’s helped me in this awful situation.”

Violence against women is not a new phenomenon in Jordan: more than 11,000 domestic abuse cases were reported in Jordan in 2018 and 20 women were killed last year in family-related crimes.

The Jordanian government implemented a curfew on March 21 preventing anyone from leaving their homes, but eased it slightly four days later, saying people could travel on foot between 10am and 6pm to buy essential supplies. With the added stress of confinement and a lack of income caused by the countrywide lockdown, women’s rights organisations are concerned violence will increase.

It is not just a concern in Jordan – rights groups across the globe are trying to bring attention to the higher risk of domestic violence during these difficult times.

A Jordanian policemen stand guard at a check point on the first day of full curfew in Amman, Jordan, 21 March 2020. EPA

As part of the measures of protection against the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus disease, Jordan Prime Minister Omar Al Razzaz announced on 20 March that the country will be placed in full curfew from 21 March. EPA

Inhabitants of the kingdom are not allowed out of their homes and from March 24, food and life essentials shopping will be allowed under specific terms and timings. EPA

A municipal worker carries out disinfection at a street in downtown Amman, Jordan, 22 March 2020. EPA

A municipal worker carries out disinfection at a street in downtown Amman, Jordan, 22 March 2020. EPA

Jordan’s King Abdullah II holding a video conference meeting in the capital Amman with government officials including Prime Minister Omar Razzaz. Jordanian Royal Palace via Afp

Jordanian police personnel guard at a checkpoint during the second day of a nationwide curfew, amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus disease, in Amman, Jordan March 22, 2020. Reuters

Jordanian police personnel guard at a checkpoint during the second day of a nationwide curfew. Reuters

The streets of the Jordanian Capital are seen empty during the second day of a nationwide curfew. Reuters

Jordanian army members stand guard outside a hotel transformed into a quarantine station amid concerns over the coronavirus in Amman. Reuters

A Greater Amman Municipality employee sanitises public transport at one of stations. Reuters

Jordanian soldiers stand guard outside a hotel that was transformed into a quarantine station amid concerns over the coronavirus in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

A Greater Amman Municipality employee sanitises public transport at one of stations. Reuters

Jordanian soldiers stand guard outside a hotel that was transformed into a quarantine station amid concerns over the coronavirus in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

Tourists visit the Amman Citadel, an ancient Roman landmark, in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

People shop in a mall amid concerns over the coronavirus spread in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

Jordanian soldiers stand guard outside a hotel that was transformed into a quarantine station amid concerns over the coronavirus in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

Tourists pose for a picture during their visit to the Amman Citadel, an ancient Roman landmark, in Amman. Reuters

A cashier wearing a face mask and gloves amid concerns over the coronavirus spread works at a mall in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

Following weeks of total lockdown, reports of violence against women in China increased threefold. In Spain – one of the worst-hit countries of the coronavirus outbreak – a 35-year-old mother of two was murdered by her partner two weeks ago and in Australia, Google searches for help with abuse from a partner have risen by 75 per cent.

General manager of the Jordanian Women’s Union, Nadia Shamroukh, said the lockdown is making it very difficult to help women who are in danger.

“We usually do field visits but because of the ban on transportation in the city we’re not able to reach these women,” she said.

Salma Al Nemes, secretary general of the Jordanian National Committee for Women's Affairs, said women’s rights groups were worried from the moment the government announced the closure of schools.

“We were all concerned about the ability to deliver services and the lack of space for women to manoeuvre. Before the lockdown they could at least leave the house if they needed to and the men would be out of the house working,” she said.

“During this lockdown, having the space even to make calls may be impossible or they may be unable to buy new phone cards.”

Dr Al Nemes said there is an effort to enhance the cooperation between civil society, the Ministry of Social Development and the Family Protection Department.

“Different organisations are currently trying to provide information through social media on anger and stress management,” she said.

Asma Khadeer, lawyer and president of women’s group Solidarity Is Global Institute in Jordan, said there has been a six-fold increase in the number of calls from women asking for help.

“There are some initiatives by the government to provide support but it’s not enough,” she said.

Ms Alkhateeb’s video has received a mixed response – from criticism at bringing “scandal” to her family to an outpouring of support, as well as women sharing their own abuse stories.

“I want my video to spread throughout the world, to give the other women living in the same situation the power to change it,” she said.

Updated: March 31, 2020 07:25 PM

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