People reacted in shock and outrage to a series of videos that appeared on social media in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in early December, showing an attack on a transgender woman and two other members of the LGBTQ community on a street in Ramallah, in the West Bank. These videos shine a light on how hard life can be for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Palestinians, many of whom end up seeking refuge in Israel.
Several videos uploaded to Facebook and Twitter on December 2 show a group of at least six men beating up three people. The footage shows at least four of the men punching and kicking the victims.
According to Israeli media outlet Ynet, the incident took place in the Kafr 'Aqab neighbourhood, which is about two kilometres from the West Bank town of Ramallah. The assailants were alleged to be men living in the Kalandia refugee camp, which is located in this neighbourhood.
The first video shows a young man being violently punched. The second video shows the group insulting and verbally abusing a transgender woman in a clothing store. The third video shows the group of assaillants searching and then damaging the victims’ car before shoving the three of them into a van, kicking and punching them all the while .
The incidents likely occurred on Ramallah Street, the main street in the neighbourhood. If you check out Ramallah Street on Google Street View, you can see the same concrete median strip as shown in the video, as well as the same kind of billboards located in the middle of the road. That said, the France 24 Observers team was not able to identify the exact location where the video was filmed, as Google Street View does not cover that area.
One of the three survivors of the violence is a transgender person who calls herself Mira and who originally hails from the Palestinian town of Hebron but is now living in the Jaffa neighborhood in Tel Aviv where she is in regular contact with the local LGBT centre. France 24 spoke with the director of the centre, Avihu Mizan:
She is doing well now. She was able to see a doctor here (in Israel) and lives in Jaffa. She went to Ramallah for a nose operation because it is cheaper there. The assaillants broke her nose during the attack but she didn’t have any more serious injuries. Our social workers are in contact with her as well as with the hundreds of other people who we watch over.
"They said that they were going to take us away to kill us, to execute us”
The day after the attack Mira and another victim, Daniel, were interviewed by Israeli public television channel Kan. Mira appeared on screen with a bandaged nose. Daniel explained what happened:
They told us that they were going to take us away to kill us, to execute us. They said, “You won’t be able to go home” and then they threatened us with their weapons…
On the same day, Mira posted a video on her Tik Tok account of herself, Daniel and the third victim, a young man who also had a broken nose. Since then, Mira has posted many more videos which show that her nose is healing.
The image on the left shows Mira in a video posted on December 3. The image on the right shows her in a video posted on December 12.
Same-sex sexual relations are illegal in the Gaza Strip but not in the West Bank, which is the larger of the territories governed by the Palestinian Authority. In general, Palestinian society remains intolerant to same-sex relationships.
In 2013, an Israeli lawyer specialised in LGBTQ rights said that more than 2,000 LGBTQ Palestinians had found refuge in Tel Aviv, a coastal Israeli city which is known for its vibrant and established gay culture and community.
However, most of them will struggle to get legal status in Israel, especially because many are too afraid to seek asylum for their sexual orientation. A 2013 article published by Vice explained that many Palestinians fear that their identity will be revealed during the administrative process. If this happens, they may be accused of collaborating with the Israeli government and risk being targeted or even killed.
Article by Liselotte Mas.