Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Palestinian brewery escapes mob attack in `rape' row

LIVING IN FEAR An alleged affair between a Christian and a Muslim led to the woman being killed by her own family and a mob razing a dozen houses in the man's village


The only brewery in the Palestinian territories escaped an attack on Sunday by a mob that razed a dozen homes over an alleged affair between a Christian man whose family owns the beer factory and a Muslim woman from a neighboring village who was then murdered by her own family.

The attack on Taybeh, a wholly Christian village which gives its name to a popular Palestinian beer, came despite appeals from residents to their neighbors in Deir Jarir to refrain from violence while the body of the murdered 25-year-old woman, identified only as Haim, was disinterred for DNA tests to try to ascertain if she had sex with the accused man, Mahdi Abu Houria.

"Because we were afraid of what would happen, we got permission from Abu Mazen [the Palestinian president] to dig her up from her grave and have DNA testing," said Maria Khoury, the wife of Taybeh's mayor who co-owns the brewery.

"You can't just accuse someone without evidence. They buried without testing. We are very suspicious that this family raped their daughter and buried her and they want to find an excuse to destroy our village," she said.

The accused woman was murdered by her family last week in an "honor killing" after the alleged affair was made public.

Palestinian women's groups say that women are sometimes killed after being raped by relatives who then attempt to shift responsibility for pregnancy to an innocent man.

Abu Houria was arrested by the Palestinian police after he was accused of the affair and is being held in "protective custody" in prison where his family says he is routinely beaten. Despite pleas to wait for the results of a DNA test, Taybeh's residents say hundreds of men descended on the village in the middle of the night.

"They came from Deir Jarir, the Muslim village, armed, and they threw petrol and lit up one home right after another," Khoury said.

"They burned 12 homes down which are those of the accused man and every member of his family, third cousins, fourth cousins, anyone related. We have 12 homeless families without clothes, without anything. These are fanatics who take the law into their own hands. If one person is guilty that person deserves punishment, not the whole village," she said.

The brewery was founded by Nadim Khoury a decade ago when he returned to the Palestinian territories after living 20 years in Boston. He and 25 other residents of the village are naturalized US citizens. The family says it attempted to enlist the help of the US consulate in Jerusalem during the attack but it said that the only action it could take was to inform the Israeli army.

"The Israeli army came in, looked around, smiled and left," Maria Khoury said.

"The whole village is a peaceful village. We don't participate in resistance [against the Israeli occupation] and we really don't want to be burned down. We are very afraid. These people will come back," she said.

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