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1 Year After Murder of Lesbian Druze Teen, LGBT Druze Community Still Uneasy

Moran (not her real name), a Druze lesbian student in central Israel, shares her struggle to integrate her Druze and LGBT identities | Anonymous group of LGBT Druze youth: “We call for acceptance of the other, for respect of individuals for who they are, for love, for compassion, and for peace”

הפגנה בירכא בעקבות רצח שרית אחמד שקור, יוני 2023 (צילום: יהל פרג')
A protest in the Druze village of Yarka after the murder of Sarit Ahmed Shakur, a lesbian Druze teen, in June 2023. (Photo: Yahel Farag)
By Yahel Farag

When Moran agreed to speak to Davar about her experiences as a lesbian in Israel’s Druze community, she had some conditions. She would use a pseudonym (Moran is not her real name) and would not even reveal her age. “I’m afraid,” she tells Davar. “I’ll tell the truth: I’m saying my opinions, and I’m afraid that someone will know at all—not that I’m a lesbian, that someone will know that we have criticisms of our ethnicity.”

LGBT individuals in Israel’s Arab minority still feel the pain one year after the murder of Druze teenager Sarit Ahmed Shakur, who was killed because of her sexual orientation. Beyond pain, they also feel a deep disappointment in a conservative society that has not acted to ensure a safe environment for children to grow up in. “By coincidence I was over at her parents’ house to eat,” says Moran, who did not know Ahmed Shakur personally. “We knew that she was murdered, but we didn’t yet know why. Later on, they said she was murdered because of her sexual orientation. I had a panic attack. I got up from the table, I went to the shower, to a place they wouldn’t see me, because I wasn’t able to explain. I changed my clothes and left.”

Ahmed Shakur was murdered on June 9, 2023 near the Druze village of Yarka. Her brother, Sayid Ahmed, ordered her killing at the hands of two hired criminals because he disapproved of her sexuality. “The victim’s car was hit from behind by another car. She lost control and hit the security fence,” the police reported in their arrest of the suspects. “The killers opened fire through the car and Sarit attempted to escape on foot. The killers caught her and shot her outside of her car. The killers shot about 11 bullets and then escaped in their cars, lit  her on fire, and then escaped in an additional car that was assisting them.”

Ahmed Shakur came out as a lesbian in her youth and faced threats and harassment from those closest to her. After she reported harassment from her brother to the police, they arrested him but then released him after a short while. Two months after her murder, after an intensive investigation, the police charged Sayid Ahmed and the two hitmen, Hisham Mraihi and Shadi Abu Saraya, both 39, with her death. All three deny any connection to the killing.

“I left the house and picked up a friend in my car,” Moran says about her meal with Ahmed Shakur’s parents. “I drove, and I expected someone to say something. Nothing happened. Everyone was chill. Sarit was a child. I thought something would be uploaded to Instagram. I couldn’t do it, because I’m not exactly out of the closet, and I didn’t want to direct attention to myself. I waited three or four hours and there was no response. Nothing. As though a cat was run over and we all moved on. After a few hours I wrote on my story, ‘Generally when someone dies, people wear black, and I guess now people should wear colors.’ People shared a screenshot of it. It took off in the network, and I knew that the 20 friend requests that I received in the two days afterward were almost a threat. There were moments after the murder when I said I didn’t care, I will look more lesbian in the village, I will go out in the village looking more masculine. I want to show them.”

Moran now studies in a college in central Israel. Living in a city means giving up her language, identity, and social ties, she explained. The Arab LGBT community is supportive and understanding, but it’s also a complicated dynamic. “Almost everyone knows everyone, and we come with trauma, after being ostracized many times, and we want to show ourselves and others that we’re okay, we’re good, we get it.”

“I don’t want to give up my affiliation with Druze society,” Moran says. “But in response to the murder of Sarit, whose story is almost the same as mine, I asked myself, what am I even fighting for here? For people who wouldn’t care about my murder?”

She shares that a large protest of the Druze community against the government’s plan to construct wind turbines near Druze agricultural land took place just two weeks after Ahmed Shakur’s murder. “There were a lot of responses, and Sarit’s murder just disappeared,” Moran says. “After a month and a half, some guys and girls said anonymously that they condemn the murder. That was the only public condemnation.”

An anonymous group of LGBT Druze youth wrote, “We feel a moral and value-based obligation to protest the despicable murder, and we call for acceptance of the other, for respect of individuals for who they are, for love, for compassion, and for peace.”

In a letter to the sheikhs of the Druze community, an anonymous Druze person wrote, “The leaders of the Druze community showed cowardice rather than courage. Facing a tangible threat, that they could have actually taken action on, the leaders of the Druze ethnicity preferred to hide their heads in the sand. There were no soldiers and cameras around them for them to show off their determination and bravery. These aren’t leaders; these are chickens.”

Moran and other young LGBT people from the Druze community expected a clear response to Ahmed Shakur’s murder from their political and spiritual leaders. One year on, they’re struggling to imagine a better future. “We didn’t sleep all night,” Moran said of the 24 hours after the murder. “Afterwards, we met and cried together. The murder caused a change and an impact for Arab LGBT society. We are more afraid. Murder in Arab society is just rising and rising. I don’t see hope. If something better happens, it will be a miracle.”

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