Authorities in Palestine have been told by a 21-year-old woman that she had been locked in a bathroom for the past ten years by her father, who decided to let her out only during the middle of the night so she could clean the house where they lived.
According to a social worker assigned to the case, Baraa Melhem said that her father would tell her, “People are monsters.”
Melhem was freed from a small bathroom in a home in the West Bank city of Qalqilya by Palestinian police this past Saturday after receiving a tip from an unknown person. Melhem’s father has Israeli citizenship. He was arrested and then handed over to authorities from Israel. He is scheduled to appear in court this Wednesday.
Melhem told authorities that the first time her father locked her in the bathroom was when she was 11, preventing her from going to school and from seeing her mother, whom the father had divorced.
Hala Shreim, the social worker on the case, said Helhem was beaten with a baton and metal wires. Helhem was also given one blanket to keep her body warm while in the bathroom.
“The bathroom was only 1-1/2 meters big, it was like a cell,” Shreim said.
A statement issued by Palestinian police said that the father admitted to locking up Helhem because of a family argument. He also admitted to feeding her only bread.
Melhem also said that her father used to shave her hair and her eyebrows, allowed her to shower once per month, and would be removed from the bathroom at 1 a.m. to clean until 4 a.m. The social worker also said that Melhem was routinely encouraged to commit suicide by her father.
“Her only consolation was a radio which kept her connected to the world,” Shreim said.
Melhem has since been reunited with her mother.
“She told me that she loves life and has to live,” Shreim quoted Melhem as saying.