BEIRUT: The family of Manal Assi, who was allegedly bludgeoned to death with a pressure cooker by her husband earlier this week, expressed a desire for vengeance Friday as they accepted condolences at the Imam Ali Mosque in al-Tariq al-Jadideh.
“He beat her for years, since I was 3 years old,” said Assi’s daughter, 15-year-old Tala al-Nhaily.
When asked if he had beaten her this severely before, Tala replied, “This bad, yes.”
“He broke her nose once.”
Her 13-year-old sister, Sara, stood by her side, nodding.
Dressed in a gray wool sweater and sneakers, Tala appeared collected as she spoke to The Daily Star, with only the slightest crack appearing at the end of the conversation.
“I’m going to throw up,” she said before taking a deep breath and calmly walking away.
The girls’ account was verified by their aunt, Assi’s sister, Ghiwa Assi.
“We want him to suffer as he made Manal suffer for 18 years,” she said.
Manal Assi died in hospital early Wednesday, reportedly due to injuries she suffered from her husband, Mohammad al-Nhaily, beating after a quarrel in their home turned violent.
According to accounts from relatives and neighbors, Nhaily called Assi’s relatives to come to the house and “get their daughter” while he was in the midst of assaulting her Tuesday evening.
“He had a recording of the Quran being read aloud when my grandmother and aunt got to the house,” Tala said. In contrast to previous reports, both the girls were at school when the incident occurred.
Conflicting accounts have emerged as to what happened next.
According to one neighbor, Nhaily stood at his doorstep threatening to shoot anyone who tried to interfere.
“I went downstairs to call some men to help me, at which point he resumed beating her,” Ghiwa Assi said. “He broke her teeth.”
After several fruitless appeals to the police for help and attempts by neighbors to intervene, Assi was finally taken to the hospital, where she died hours later.
Residents and neighbors who knew the family expressed shock at the gruesome crime, although they said Nhaily was known for his rough attitude.
According to a neighbor who has known Assi’s and Nhaily’s families for years, the two grew up living across the street from each other. Assi was only 15 when Nhaily proposed, although it was not an arranged marriage, the neighbor said.
“Their relationship had many ups and downs,” he added.
After years of marriage, Nhaily took a second wife two years ago, and she was living in the same building as Assi at the time of the incident.
The neighbor disputed reports that it was the second marriage that sparked the fight that ended with Assi’s death, countering that the families had been very close.
Following Assi’s death, Nhaily took his second wife, their child and his parents away from the area out of fear of retaliatory attacks. Assi’s family has reportedly warned them against returning or attempting to attend the funeral.
When approached by The Daily Star for comment, Nhaily’s lawyer, Ahmad Badran, did not deny that his client was guilty of beating his wife to death.
“The problem with the wife escalated that day,” he said.
But Badran refuted claims that Nhaily had laid hands on Assi before.
“You can tell how happy they were together from her pictures on Facebook,” he said. According to Badran, Nhaily called Assi’s mother and brother over to “talk as a family and help solve the dispute.”
Badran declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.
News of the crime has sparked wide public outrage, particularly among women’s rights activists. A family violence law has been languishing in Parliament since July, when it finally made it out of committee after the death of Roula Yaacoub and the backlash that followed.
At a news conference held Friday afternoon by the National Meeting on the Elimination of Discrimination, lawyer Wafiqa Mansour al-Doueiri told activists and reporters that the state had failed to protect Assi and others like her.
Some politicians have also weighed in, including former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Lebanese Forces MP Strida Geagea.
“The killing of any human being is a crime and is unacceptable, and must be punished by the law, especially when it is a murder of a woman by her husband in front of her family and in such an ugly way,” Siniora said Friday. He went on to call for “measures” to prevent such attacks.
Geagea, a champion of the family violence law, condemned the “barbaric violence” committed against Assi and called for her killer to face the “severest punishment” possible.