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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Imprisoned for a decade...by her father

Sulaiman Kamal | 7:20 PM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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A young Palestinian woman who was imprisoned for 10 years in a series of dark rooms by her father, said she survived the ordeal by listening to the radio, dreaming of seeing sunshine again and finding small pleasure in an apple she was fed each day.
Baraa Melhem, 20, said she was enjoying her first taste of freedom after a decade of isolation and threats of rape and abuse, and she hopes to use her experience to help others.
“I have joy now. My life has begun,” the young woman, dressed in red sweat pants, white shoes, a black shawl for warmth and a headscarf, told the Associated Press.

Melhem was rescued by Palestinian security forces in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya after an aunt notified police. Adnan Damiri, a Palestinian police spokesman, said she was in “deplorable” condition.
Her father and stepmother, both Arab citizens of Israel, were turned over to Israeli authorities. Locked up in Israel, neither could be reached for comment.
The father, Hassan Melhem, 49, is expected to appear in an Israeli court on Jan 25, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
The stepmother’s name wasn’t available.
Speaking softly but confidently, Baraa Melhem said she was beaten, barely fed and let out only in the middle of the night to do housework.
She was given only a blanket, radio and a razor blade by her father and stepmother, and both of them encouraged her to kill herself.
“I don’t hate my father. But I hate what he did to me. Why did he do it? I don’t understand,” she said.
Melhem said she was first locked up in a bathroom after she ran away from home when she was 10.
In her final home in Qalqiliya, she was kept in what she described as a bathroom that measured 1-by-1 meters.
She dreamed of fleeing, but Melhem said her father threatened to rape her until she became pregnant if she tried to escape. Then he warned he would kill her and justify the crime by saying that she had shamed the family -- what is known in Arab society as “honor killing.”
She said when he was angry, he regularly beat her with electric cables and sticks. He poured cold water on her when she asked for her mother, and sometimes shaved her head and eyebrows. She was let out only late at night to clean the rest of the house. Before dawn, her father then locked her back inside. He gave her bread, oil and an apple every day.
To cope, Melhem said she often jumped up and down for exercise, cleaned the bathroom, dusted off her blanket, washed her clothes and then listened to the radio all day.
Hala Shreim, a social worker who accompanied police on the rescue, said Melhem was found in the small bathroom with a tiny window. She said the woman was wrapped in a blanket and wore threadbare clothes so old that they were disintegrating.
There have been a few similar known cases in the West Bank over the years.
In 2008, Palestinian police discovered two disabled siblings, a man and a woman, whose family had locked them in concrete rooms stinking of excrement and sweat for decades. Shamed by their state, the family feared their conditions would ruin the marriage prospects of their healthy brother.
In perhaps the most notorious case of child abuse worldwide, Austrian police discovered a man that year who had imprisoned his daughter in a windowless cellar for 24 years and repeatedly raped her, fathering her seven children.

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