A gay Palestinian man who had been living in Israel for two years while awaiting asylum in Canada was found beheaded Wednesday, and a suspect has been arrested after circulating images on social media.
The body of Ahmad Abu Marhia, 25, was discovered in the city of Hebron, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports. He had received death threats for being gay, but police said they had not determined a motive for the crime. Some friends of Marhia’s said he had been kidnapped.
Palestinian Authority police arrested a suspect near the scene, according to The Times of Israel. The suspect, whose name was not released, had recorded a video of the killing and put it on social media. A police spokesman said this was “a new kind of crime in Palestine” and urged people not to share the video, the Times reports.
“The heart aches at the murder of Ahmad Hakam Hamdi Abu Marhia,” said a statement from the LGBTQ Task Force, an Israeli group, quoted by Haaretz. “Ahmad fled to Israel from the Palestinian Authority two years ago, after being persecuted and threatened over his sexual orientation. Yesterday, two months before he was supposed to begin a new life in Canada, we learned of his brutal murder in Hebron, which was disseminated on social media. This is painful and bloody reminder of the harsh situation facing LGBTQ asylum-seekers who are persecuted within the PA, often exposed to real threats of murder, and seeking to reach Israel and find asylum in it.”
Activist Natali Farah told Haaretz that Marhia was “a pleasant and sensitive guy, always appreciative and grateful. He had goals he sought to achieve in life, he found a good job, and it seemed like it was all going to work out for him.”
“Many Palestinian LGBTQ people and therapists knew and appreciated him,” she added. “He was at many shelters and frameworks. Everyone is scared now.”
Palestinian sources condemned the crime as well, with a host on the Karama radio station saying it “crossed every single red line in our society, whether in terms of morals, customs, or basic humanity,” the Times notes.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides shared his thoughts on Twitter.
A memorial service for Marhia was held Thursday in Tel Aviv, and another was scheduled for Friday.
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