Palestinian police free woman held 9 years in room

Last Updated: Monday, January 23, 2012 - 19:08

Jerusalem: A Palestinian woman was imprisoned
for nine years in a bathroom by her father, beaten, barely fed
and only let out at night, a social worker and police said
on Monday.

She was given only a blanket, a radio, and a razor blade
by her father, who encouraged her to kill herself, said the
social worker, Hala Shreim.

Palestinian police freed Baraa Melhem on Saturday in the
West Bank town of Qalqilya, after a relative told authorities
of the woman`s plight, said spokesman Adnan Damiri.

Authorities said Melhem was in her early twenties and
that she was initially locked up when she was between 10 and
12 years old.

The woman was found by Shreim and the police in a small
bathroom with a tiny window. She wrapped herself in a blanket
for warmth, and her father also gave her used clothes.

"It`s a miracle she didn`t go mad. She had a small radio
that she used to listen to programs. She was aware of herself,
of her own mental health. She said the radio was her only
friend in the darkness," said Shreim.

The social worker said Melhem was well-spoken and
up-to-date on current affairs because she listened so intently
to the radio.

The young woman was not immediately available for
comment, but told Israel`s Maariv newspaper that she hoped her
father would suffer as she did. "I want them to put him in an
underground bathroom, so he doesn`t see the light of day for
11 years, without food and water, to let him go through what I
went through," she said.

Baraa Melhem`s mother, who remarried and moved to a
different town, asked about her daughter, but her ex-husband
would make up excuses why the young woman wasn`t around and
sometimes told the mother to mind her own business, Shreim
said.

The young woman told an Israeli newspaper that said she
stopped asking to see her mother, because her father would
beat her every time she made the request.

It was not clear why the mother did not report to police
earlier that she had not seen her daughter for years. The
young woman`s paternal aunt finally told Shreim of the
situation. Shreim says she then persuaded the aunt to alert
police.

In a statement the young woman gave to the social worker,
she said her father locked her up when she was about 10 years
old after she ran away from school. Police returned her home
and her father later forced her to sign a statement saying she
didn`t want to go back to school. Melhem`s parents divorced
when she was young and her father had custody.

Melhem told the social worker her father initially locked
her up because he said he wanted to protect her from the world
outside, describing other people as "animals," the social
worker said.

The father, an Israeli Arab who moved to the West Bank,
was transferred to Israeli police. They identified him as
49-year-old Hassan Melhem.

PTI



First Published: Monday, January 23, 2012 - 19:08

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