What's the truth behind 18 year old Maissa Charrouf's suicide?
A heartbreaking tale of an 18 year old girl committing suicide and leaving behind a scathing suicide note has captured the hearts of social media users and media outlets in the Middle East. The story was been picked up by Scoop Empire and post news, and even made its way to Mashrou' Leila frontman Hamid Sinno's Facebook page. But in this particular case, the story as presented by media outlets and social media doesn't quite match up with what actually happened.
Here's the most common version of the story:
18 year old Maysaa Sherouf (Also Maisa Sharouf, Sherrouf, or Cherrouf in some versions) was a Jordanian girl who committed suicide after being beaten by her brother for smoking cigarettes. In beautiful, heartbreaking prose, she details the rationale behind taking her own life in a final note left on her facebook page. She writes of her swollen and bruised body which has been beaten by her brother, a two-pack-a-day smoker. She writes of feeling distant from a society that favors men and looks down upon women as the lesser:
"Everyone looks at me when I walk in the street. I become a whore just because I refuse to behave as a woman/slave: come back from the institute and cook, clean and fix my brother and father’s clothes, then sit and talk about marriage, chastity, honor and future husband. Was God aware that his kingdom that He pitched on Earth turned into a daily massacre? Did He deliberately make the Middle East, where all his prophets existed and lived, become a cemetery for women?
I really feel sorry for our situation. I am like all women in the Middle East, not good at defending herself, I’m filled with hatred against the injustice that is piling up inside of me every day. "
She concludes by hoping that death will finally bring her the peace she has been searching for. You can read the alleged suicide note in its entirety translated into English at Scoop Empire.
But how much of this story is accurate? As it turns out, the core of the story is true. But the widely circulated version stretches the truth and contains many falsehoods.
Maissa Charrouf was an 18 year old From Sfax, Tunisia who killed herself last month. The pictures circulating on the internet are being taken from her personal facebook page, which has since become a memorial page for the late Charrouf. A post from May catches the eye, where Charrouf says that she has lost hope, she no longer feels what is happening around her, and that she is losing her humanity despite her commitment to it. "Everything around me... humans... relationships... study... society... family... I see nothing but obstacles that merely add to my suffering and bondage."
It's a heartbreaking glimpse into the last weeks of life ended too soon. Other than this particular status update, we cannot really infer more about Maissa's situation. So, where did the rest of the details come from?
According to Naha Sadawwi in an article for Qrtas, an Arabic-language, "apolitical, independent editorial platform for youth" the widely-circulated suicide note was not written by Maissa, rather by one of her friends - Hammadi Khilifi - on his personal blog. In a facebook post, Hammadi wrote "I don't know if this is just a rant, but it's my only response to this tragedy" before sharing the link with his friends.
Themes about inequality, domestic violence, and harassment propelled this story to many Facebook-based Women’s rights and anti-violence pages and later to a number of Arabic media outlets. At some point, Maissa's nationality changed to Jordanian in order to reach a wider audience - and from there the story became viral.
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