Queer teenager killed in Israel after death threats from family members for being LGBTQ+

Israel emergency services

Sarit Ahmed, an 18-year-old queer Druze woman, died after being shot multiple times while sitting in her car in Northern Israel, in a killing allegedly motivated by her sexual orientation. 

Ahmed was found lying in the street near Yarka, with multiple gunshot wounds to her upper body on Friday (9 June), according to Israeli emergency services. After being taken to Galilee Medical Centre in Israel’s Northern District, Ahmed was pronounced dead. 

The 18-year-old had previously received death threats from her brothers due to her queer identity. In 2020, Ahmed filed a complaint against two of her brothers, claiming they had made explicit threats on her life. 

The two brothers were convicted of threatening her life and jailed for three and four months, while Ahmed was placed in a shelter for at-risk young women.

According to the verdict, her brothers found out that Ahmed was not heterosexual and knew about a relationship she had had which was “contrary to the family’s opinion and what was accepted”.

Tensions and threats reportedly came to head in October 2020, when Ahmed’s eldest brother returned home and took Ahmed’s mobile phone from her. It was on the device that he found information about her sexual orientation. 

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Walla reported that Ahmed’s eldest brother advised her to “drink poison, it’s better for you”, while the younger brother threatened to stab her “in the stomach with a knife, and then I will go drink beer – as if nothing had happened”.

Ahmed’s phone was confiscated by her father and oldest brother, and she was barred from leaving the house unless accompanied by a family member. This situation lasted for over a month, as outlined in the indictment, until Ahmed ran away and filed a complaint against her brother. 

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In the brothers’ sentencing, the judge wrote: “I have every hope that after this sentence the parents will find the best way to return their little daughter to the family, to take care of her in a natural way, with understanding and persuasion and not by coercion and threats.”

After a period living in a shelter for her safety, Ahmed decided to live with her sister, but just three weeks ago, she approached police and asked for protection, as she feared for her life once again. 

Police have so far not made any arrests and no formal suspects have been identified.  

Ahmed’s killing raises questions about the lack of protection for LGBTQ+ Arabs in Israel. During a recent Knesset hearing, it was found that the Welfare Ministry employs only one social worker dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ Arabs, Haaretz reported

According to Arwa Adam, director of Arab LGBTQ+ organisation Beit Al-Mim, the Social Equality Ministry approved the opening of a shelter for the LGBTQ+ Arab community, but it had not been implemented. 

Hila Par, chair of the Association for the LGBT, said: “It is difficult to describe the pain of the murder of the young woman after she received threats on the background of her sexual orientation. It is a sad day for the gay community and the entire Israeli public where such a murder takes place.

“When it comes to a girl who has been threatened in the past because of her sexual orientation, we demand that the police thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident,” Parr added. “This harsh reality cannot continue.”

Ahmed was part of the Druze community, sometimes described as a “minority within a minority” of around 120,000 people who form just two per cent of Israel’s population. Druze people practise a form of Ismaili Islam, identifying with the wider community in Lebanon and Syria, and some form of Arab nationalism.

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Although the Druze community have historically pledged loyalty to Israel for purposes of protection, some identify as Palestinian and have begun to refuse mandatory conscription into the Israeli army

Since the beginning of 2023, the number of murder victims in the Arab community has risen to 93, including seven women and two children. 

Palestinian citizens of Israel have long criticised the discrimination they face and police inaction when it comes to crime and violence that disproportionately affects their community. 

In April, Israel police commissioner Kobi Shabtai claimed that it is in the “nature” and part of the “mentality” of Arabs to kill each other in a phone conversation with in a phone call with far-right national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

“There is nothing that can be done. They kill each other. That is their nature. That is the mentality of the Arabs,” the Times of Israel reported Shabtai as saying.

Ahmed’s death follows the unrelated alleged crime gang-related shooting of five people at a car wash on Thursday (8 June) in the town of Yafa an-Naseriyye.

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.

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