The decapitated body of Ahmed Hacham Hamdi Abu Markhieh was discovered in Hebron on Oct. 5 with his head cut off and lying beside it.
Marakhia, a 25-year-old Palestinian, has been living in Israel for the past two years. He fled after he was persecuted and received death threats because of his sexual orientation.
Rumors about Markhieh’s death started to circulate after a video on social media showed his body lying on the side of the road. Markhieh’s friends in Israel, who feared for his safety after he did not arrive at work in the morning, immediately linked his disappearance to the video and assumed that the body on the video was Marakhia’s body.
Markhieh’s relatives, who live in the Palestinian Authority, issued a statement that acknowledged their mourning, but did not comment on the circumstances of his death.
“This is a very ugly crime,” one of his relatives told Al Karama, a Palestinian radio station, while asking for the family’s privacy to be respected after “this heinous and unprecedented crime that shocked the homeland.”
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas R. Nides responded to the murder and said he was “shocked and horrified by the murder and beheading of Ahmed Abu Murkia in Hebron.”
“Violence against LGBTQI+ people is unacceptable,” said Nides.
It is not clear how Marakhia traveled from Israel to the Palestinian territories.
His acquaintances in Israel believe he was kidnapped in Israel and brought back to Hebron, where he was murdered. According to them, Marakhia had no reason to return to Hebron by himself, especially because the danger posed to his life. Even his closest friends who helped him in Israel claim that this is the reason for his murder.
“He said that people in his village wanted to kill him,” said his acquaintances in Israel. “He was afraid of his brothers, his uncles, his cousins.”
The Palestinian police who are investigating the case have arrested a suspect in the murder, but they have not classified it as a hate crime. They also have not identified a potential motive for the murder.
“This is a new type of crime that we are not used to in Palestinian society,” said Loay Irzikat, a spokesman for the Palestinian police. “This is a dangerous development and it must be examined and analyzed broadly and deeply in order to understand why the incident developed in this way.”
Issa Amro, a Palestinian human rights activist, has claimed Marakhia’s death has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.
“To Israeli media and Israeli leftists, Ahmed Abu Markhieh was not killed in Hebron because he was gay”, Amro tweeted, “No one in Hebron knew that he was gay, and the killer was his close friend, who lost his brain because of drugs, so please be accurate about it.”
Markhieh planned to move to Canada
While in Israel, Ahmed was active in the community and participated in an Arab LGBTQ group in the south. The many friends who knew him from volunteering describing a sensitive, brave and optimistic man who did everything he could to start a new life in Canada.
In order to promote his immigration application, Ahmed was assisted by Al Bait Al Mokhtalef (The Different House), a group that assists Palestinian LGBTQ and women in submitting asylum applications abroad.
“LGBTQ and Palestinian women who fled Palestinian Authority territories in danger for their lives due to their sexual orientation or gender identity do not receive any status in Israel and are prevented from submitting an asylum application as asylum seekers from other countries do,” explained Different House CEO Rita Petrenko. “After a long legal battle of human rights organizations, the state specifically opened the process of issuing ‘residence permits for welfare needs’ to LGBTQ people and Palestinian women.
Since this is a different process from the asylum application process, it causes them to lose some of the rights granted to asylum seekers, and deprives them of services intended for other asylum seekers. As of July 2022, Palestinians with residence permits for welfare purposes can receive work permit, which should be a great relief. But this still does not give them stability in life, because their status is not permanent. For most of them, the only solution is to ask the United Nations Commission for assistance in resettlement in a third country.”
The Different House helps those LGBTQ people mainly in dealing with the bureaucracy in the civil administration and getting or renewing a residence permit. The Different House also offers access to shelters, clinics and hospitals.
“We are cooperating with certain Knesset members for the purpose of changing policy. But we do not receive aid from the state for activities on behalf of Palestinian LGBTQs. There is assistance from the Ministry of Social Equality and the Beer Sheva municipality for social activities of Arab LGBTs in the south, in which Palestinians can of course participate,” said Petrenko. “We also collaborating with human rights organizations such as Doctors for Human Rights, the HIAS association, legal clinics, etc.”
Markhieh murdered less than a month before Israel elections
The difficult questions raised by Markhieh’s murder do not remain within the borders of the Palestinian Authority. They have been asked throughout Israel as well.
Media coverage of Markhieh’s murder undermine the sense of security among members of the LGBTQ community in Israel; and the case raises many questions among the members of the community concerning their personal safety. Community members have also demanded that the Israeli government will take care of the safety of those staying within its borders.
Less than a month before the elections in Israel, Markhieh’s shocking murder is even used by the politicians as a tool to confront their political opponents, as far as the LGBTQ issues are concerned.
Right-wing politicians have taken advantage of the opportunity to point out the cruelty of the political partners of the left-wing parties, which include the Arab parties Ra’am and the Joint List, and to emphasize that the aspiration for the establishment of a Palestinian state is the establishment of an ISIS state that executes LGBTQ people. In response, the left-wing activists emphasize that the right-wing parties teamed up with Jewish anti-LGBTQ parties, which are based on an anti-LGBTQ agenda, just to return to power.
There are currently around 100 LGBTQ Palestinians in Israel who received a residence permit to live in the country after fleeing the Palestinian territories due to their sexual orientation. But apart from the possibility of working, they do not receive refugee status that regulates their civil rights, and most of them are in some stage of immigrating to a third country, far from those to seek to do them harm.
The Different House believes that in order to save those Palestinians from Markhieh’s cruel fate, the state must help submit those requests and speed up their processing because these are life and death cases.
“First of all, what the state needs to do is to allow LGBTQ people and Palestinian women to submit asylum applications in the same way as LGBTQ people from other countries, and accordingly to carry out a process of permanent status or resettlement in a third country,” Petrenko says, “Most of the Palestinian LGBTQ people staying in Israel are afraid to stay in Israel, because they are afraid that they could be found here as well. The state can help by granting them asylum seeker status during the waiting period, similar to all other asylum seekers.
For those who are unable to leave for unusual reasons, the state should enable a process similar to the one used in the process of recognizing a refugee and at the end of which permanent status is granted.”
This article was written for the Washington Blade – WDG’s media partner in USA.