By: Alexandra Kinias
Whenever I think that I have seen it all, headlines remind me that the cruelty against women is limitless.
Victims of their gender, mentally impaired sisters Mohedeye and Nedaa Dawabsha had been confined to a room in their family home in the West Bank Palestinian village of Duma. Both girls suffer from severe mental illness. To contain them, their family tied them with metal chains wrapped around their waist and connected to a metal locker in the corner of the room, with only a meter and a half radius to move and live.
The younger sister Nedaa, 21 had been living like a wild animal for 10 years and the eldest sister Mohedeya, 25, had been chained for two years. According to their sister Intesar, mental illness runs in the family, but the condition of Nedaa and Mohedeya is very severe. Because of its meager resources, the family is unable to supply them with medication or adequate care.
Chaining them was a consciousness decision by their family members after the girls started leaving the house, wandering around in the streets at night and ending up in neighbor’s homes. In fear of being sexually assaulted, in a society where a girl’s honor must be preserved under any condition, tying them up was the only way to keep them safe. Since being mentally impaired doesn’t spare them the punishment, it was better to keep them prisoned and chained that getting them killed for losing their honor.
The family understands that it was inhuman to treat the girls in such manner, yet their sister Intesar admits they had no other option. On several occasions she had sought the help of the Palestinian Authority to institutionalize her sisters. She had even visited the office of the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Few days after CNN reported about the Dawabsha sisters, the Palestinian Authority was able to place them in the Bethlehem-based Four Homes of Mercy, one of only two West Bank facilities offering 24-hour care for the mentally impaired.
For the first time in years the sisters are walking around freely with no chains and are receiving medical care. It is not time for celebration yet as no one knows for how long the state will be able to supply for their medical care. The institution where they are being treated survives on donations and is already in serious debt. While they are enjoying their new life, the future is still uncertain as is that of other Palestinians requiring treatment for mental disabilities.