Jordan alarmed by rising familicide
Amman - In a span of six days in January, Jordan witnessed several gruesome crimes in which people were killed or injured by immediate family members, creating an unprecedented level of fear of what is known as familicide.
Jordanians followed closely the killings that struck families in various parts of the country. While some saw the attacks as signs of society’s decay, others were simply appalled by the nature of the crimes involving children.
A man in his 20s stabbed his wife and three daughters in Ramtha, north of Jordan. The mother and two girls died; the third is in critical condition. Also in January, a man shot his brother in the head in Madaba, south-west of Amman and a father killed his 6-year-old daughter before committing suicide.
In other familicide incidents, a man in his 20s killed his sister, who was in her 40s, in front of a hospital in Amman. Police investigated the case of a 26-year-old woman found hanged in her house in Irbid, north of Amman, to establish whether it was a suicide or a death by a family member.
Depression is the main reason behind the incidents, human rights activist Rana Husseini said. “Depression, in my opinion, is the leading cause in which a father in a moment of weakness goes on a killing spree ending the lives of his own family,” Husseini said.
“Of course, there are other reasons such as cases of schizophrenia, which is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves and which might appear in a certain age and a certain situation and sometimes it can go undetected,” she added.
Husseini, who has focused on social issues with a special emphasis on violence against women, recalled an incident in 1989 when a high school student killed his entire 11-member family and a friend due to the pressure his family placed on him.
“That crime is considered among the most horrific in Jordan. The 18-year-old boy killed his whole family because he could not face the pressure they placed on him when he failed his high school exams. The student was executed but authorities should have studied this case and dug deeper to see why it happened,” Husseini said.
Drug addiction is also often mentioned as a cause of familicide. A 20-year-old man who decapitated his mother in 2016 was high on a drug called “the joker,” which is a mix of tobacco and lethal substances such as rat poison.
Dr Momen Hadidi, director of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Jordan, said that addiction to drugs such as the joker could cause unpredictable actions.
“Due to the fact that some drug mixtures vary, the effect on a person varies from one to another, which might lead to murder or rape of your closest family members even if it was taken once,” he said.
“Those who take drugs become vulnerable and you cannot predict their actions. They become extremely dangerous and tend to hurt those who are around them, starting with their families.”
Whatever the reasons behind the crimes, they are unjustifiable for Gaby Daw, 49, a social worker.
“Recently, we have been reading more about tragic cases of familicide,” Daw said. “Usually there are no apparent signs to suggest that anyone is in danger or will commit such hideous crimes, leaving everyone shocked and in a state of disbelief.
“I believe that the current (socio-economic) situation plays a big role in turning a person into a monster whereby one cannot think reasonably anymore and turns to violence and suicide. Difficult financial conditions, economic crises, depression and mental disorders are all factors.
“I personally witnessed several cases in which a person tried to kill himself just because he was rejected asylum in a foreign country. When you are desperate you will do anything to hurt yourself, but to hurt your family, your children, this I cannot understand,” Daw added.
A report by Assabeel news website stated that 12 people have committed suicide in Jordan since the start of 2017. In 2016, there were 117 suicides in Jordan compared to 113 in 2015.
Hussein Khazai, a professor of sociology at Jordan University, said weak family ties and poor faith in addition to drugs contribute to these acts in Jordan. “Authorities need to study each case separately and spread awareness about them in the society,” he said.