Lebanon News

Disturbing suicide video raises questions

The Ramlet al-Baida eight-story building where Amna Ismael allegedly threw herself on Saturday. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: A disturbing video of a man filming his wife plunging to her death from an eighth-floor balcony that went viral this past week has provoked concern and raised questions as to why the incident was caught on camera. Kifah Fairuz Ahmad, husband of Amina Ismail, filmed his spouse last Saturday evening as she threw herself off the balcony of their recently purchased apartment in the affluent Beirut neighborhood of Ramlet al-Baida. Footage of the video, showing Ismail sitting on the ledge of the balcony and Ahmad begging her not to jump, quickly circulated on social media websites such as Facebook and YouTube.

“What is wrong, my heart?” the husband is heard saying in the video. “If something is wrong tell me my darling.”

“Your mother doesn’t deserve this,” he says. “If you’re unhappy with me my darling [it is not her fault].”

Ahmad screams “my love” repeatedly as Ismail slides back and eventually falls off the ledge. He then runs back inside the apartment, still screaming. Ismail, who appears calm throughout the video, is heard speaking more than once, but her words are muffled.

The couple, who married six months ago, had recently purchased the apartment and were inspecting renovations that day.

According to a source familiar with the investigation, Ismail was a schoolteacher in Tyre for the past seven years before moving to the African country of Angola to live with her husband, a wealthy man working in the diamond business. The couple had recently returned from Belgium and was staying with Ahmad’s family in Ramlet al-Baida in a house facing their new apartment. The couple was to stay there until renovations in new property were finished, the source said.

The source said the reasons behind Ismail’s suicide were likely related to deep psychological problems, adding that she had been taking medication to battle anxiety.

There is also speculation that the video was originally a minute and 40 seconds longer than the 46-second one posted online. Investigators believe thus far that Ahmad was filming the new apartment when he saw his wife sitting on the ledge of their balcony.

The source said he filmed the incident to avoid being implicated in her suicide attempt.

Fadi Safieddine, owner of Ramlet al-Baida Pharmacy that faces the apartment where Ismail fell to her death, told The Daily Star that residents of the neighborhood were not well acquainted with the couple, as they had not moved in yet. However, he denied reports that Ismail survived the fall – one of the many rumors swirling around the incident.

“I heard a loud thud and screaming, and ran out to see what happened,” he said. “I saw a woman lying there dead by the building.”

“Her face turned blue three minutes after she fell,” he added. “Her feet began swelling up. She was definitely dead.”

Ahmad’s parents rushed to the scene and stayed until the ambulance arrived, Safieddine said, denying reports that it took 45 minutes for the paramedics to come.

Although Safieddine did not know the couple well, he said he firmly believed that Ismail was suffering from personal problems, and that she had tried to commit suicide before. He also said her parents were divorced and that she had been living with her maternal uncle prior to the marriage.

“I heard that her husband took very good care of her, and that he loved her very much,” he added.

A source close to the family, however, denied all reports that Ismail had been suffering from a psychological disorder and that she had been taking medication. “She never even took aspirin,” the source said.

He added that the family was waiting for the police investigation to end, at which point they would disclose more information to the public.

Activist Luna Safwan, who was the first to post the video on YouTube, is one of the Ramlet al-Baida residents who initially received the video on their phone. The identity of the person who sent the original copy from Ahmad’s phone is unknown.

Ahmad was released on bail Tuesday and judicial sources told The Daily Star that the investigation was coming to a close.

Ahmad is not expected to be implicated in his wife’s death, the source said, and the cause of death was most likely suicide related to Ismail’s psychological problems.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 03, 2013, on page 3.

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