Palestinian Woman Was Locked in Bathroom For 10 Years By Her Father

A 21-year-old Palestinian woman has told authorities she was locked in a bathroom for the past decade by her father, who let her out only in the dead of night so she could clean their house.

20-year-old Baraa Melhem was imprisoned for 10 years in a series of dark rooms by her father said she survived by listening to the radio, dreaming of seeing sunshine again and finding small pleasure in the apple she was fed each day. Photo: Euronews/Youtube

“People are monsters,” Baraa Melhem said her father would tell her, according to a social worker dealing with the case.

Miss Melhem was rescued by Palestinian security forces in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya on Saturday after an aunt notified police.

Adnan Damiri, a Palestinian police spokesman, said she was in ‘deplorable’ condition, Daily Mail reports.

Her father, who holds Israeli citizenship, was arrested and handed over to Israeli authorities. He is due to appear in an Israeli court on Wednesday, an Israeli police spokesman said.

Speaking softly but confidently, Miss 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.

She was beaten with a baton and metal wires and given only one blanket to keep her warm, said the social worker, Hala Shreim, according to The Huff Post.

“The bathroom was only 1-1/2 meters big, it was like a cell,” Shreim said.

Melhem told Voice of Palestine that her father used to shave her hair and her eyebrows, and allowed her to shower only once a month.

He would let her out of the bathroom every night at 1 a.m. to clean the house until 4 a.m., she added.

Miss Melhem is now living with her mother, Maysoun, in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Mrs Melhem, who has remarried, refused to give her last name or age. She said she was so eager to divorce her first husband that when he insisted on keeping their daughter, she agreed.

She took their son because the father used to spray perfume into his eyes. She said he was not violent toward the daughter.

“I was so young when I was getting a divorce. I didn’t understand anything. I was just so desperate to be rid of that man,” she said.

Miss Melhem‘s mother, who remarried and moved to a different town, had 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, said social worker Shreim said.

Miss Melhem she said she was finally happy in her new home – a shabby, purple-painted room with pink curtains, four mattresses on the ground and a red blanket. She clutched a large doll that her mother gave her as a gift.

‘This is heaven. Because you have always been free, you don’t appreciate it. But for somebody like me, who has tasted the bitterness of a prison, this is heaven.’

“She told me that she loves life and has to live,” Shreim quoted Melhem as saying.

She dreamed of fleeing, but Miss 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.’

To cope, Miss 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.

When she was taken outside, Miss Melhem said she was blinded by the pale winter sun. It was more sunlight than she had seen in 10 years.

“Is that the sun? Is that the sun I was dreaming of?” she said she asked police. 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.

And 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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