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Gay Palestinian man brutally murdered while awaiting asylum

Decapitated body of Ahmad Abu Marhia, 25, found in Hebron just two months before he was due to start a new life in Canada

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

The decapitated body of a gay Palestinian man who had been waiting in Israel for asylum for the past two years was discovered on Wednesday in Hebron.

Ahmad Abu Marhia, 25, had been the subject of death threats over his sexual identity and was granted a humanitarian permit to remain in Israel while applying for asylum in a third country.

Palestinian police and the general prosecution announced that an investigation had been launched and a suspect arrested but insisted that the motive for the murder is not yet known. Palestinian news agency Maan reported that Abu Marhia’s head was severed, and that images of his body were circulated on Palestinian social media.

“The heart aches at the murder of Ahmad Hakam Hamdi Abu Marhia,” the LGBTQ Task Force said in response. “Ahmad fled to Israel from the Palestinian Authority two years ago, after being persecuted and threatened over his sexual orientation. Yesterday, two months before he was supposed to begin a new life in Canada, we learned of his brutal murder in Hebron, which was disseminated on social media. This is painful and bloody reminder of the harsh situation facing LGBTQ asylum-seekers who are persecuted within the PA, often exposed to real threats of murder, and seeking to reach Israel and find asylum in it.”

According to Natali Farah, a coordinator at “Not Standing By,” Abu Marhia was “a pleasant and sensitive guy, always appreciative and grateful. He had goals he sought to achieve in life, he found a good job and it seemed like it was all going to work out for him.”

Rita Petrenko, from the “Different Home” organization, told Haaretz that Abu Marhia filed an application for relocation with the UN High Commission on Refugees about two years ago.

Farah added that in the past Abu Marhia had received anonymous telephone threats and changed his number. “He was intelligent and quiet. Many people knew him. The whole community is crying now,” she added. “Many Palestinian LGBTQ people and therapists knew and appreciated him. He was at many shelters and frameworks. Everyone is scared now.”

A memorial ceremony in Abu Marhia’s honor was held on Thursday evening on the Tel Aviv boardwalk, attended by friends and well-wishers. Another memorial service is scheduled for Friday.

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