Words by Laurence McKenzie
A Jordanian national self-identified as 20-year-old Layan has attracted national attention for her video discussing her escape from her family’s abuse. Layan’s video in which she explains she has travelled to Turkey caused the hashtag #savelayan to top Twitter in Jordan, attracting the attention of high profile celebrities and royalty, taking to social media in protest. Turkey is one of the few locations a Jordanian passport holder can travel to visa-free.
A distressed Layan explains to the camera that she travelled to Turkey without her family’s knowledge to flee the violence and abuse she suffers at their hands. The details of which are alleged to include sexual abuse, physical violence and beatings, emotional torment and restrictions to her freedom.
Layan tells of how her life had been limited in terms of education and she was permitted to “only do housework” and sleep. Shortly before her journey she was allowed a phone which was monitored and checked by family members who she alleged would threaten to beat her “like her mother”.
Throughout the shocking clip Layan references the rise in so-called ‘honour-killings’ in Jordan as a reason for her eventual decision to leave, for fear of joining this statistic.
The United Nations have estimated that the number of women and girls killed in these ‘honour killings’ may exceed 5000. Many recognise this is difficult to clarify due to the secretive nature of such events with many disguised as ‘disappearances’ and accidents.
In Layan’s home country of Jordan, humanitarian organisation ‘plan international’ has pointed to the restrictions in place in response to the spread of Covid-19 as placing many women and girls at “greater risks of gender-based violence”.
They add that the increased risks posed by the virus have left many “less likely to seek help” under the imposed restrictions. Human rights collective ‘EuroMed Rights’, working with Jordanian agencies have reported an increase of more than 33% in domestic violence cases against women in this period.
Instances of domestic violence and cases such as Layan have been an all-too-common sight on Jordanian media causing activist groups to call for an end to the penal code articles 97, 98, 99, lending themselves to lenient sentencing for perpetrators of ‘honour killings’. Recent international attention on the captivity of Dubai’s Sheikha Latifa has drawn many to call for a reform in the practices and penal codes that allow this gendered abuse across many different nations.
Jordanian activist Rana Husseini has told DW News that activism in Jordan has come along way in the last 25 years and has driven changes to penal code and controversial ‘protective custody schemes’ that can see those under threat imprisoned alongside convicted criminals. When speaking with The Badger, Husseini was quick to point out that this violence is “an international phenomenon” not unique to any “culture, country, class or religion”.
Layan’s plea has been met with varied responses, with some users offering support and advice adopting the hashtag ‘#savelayan’. The movement even caught the attention of the nation’s princess Basma bint Talal who took to Facebook in protest.
Others have accused Layan of attention seeking and of being undeserving of international attention due to some assumption that she is homosexual.
Picture Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969