An Israeli Arab man has admitted locking his daughter, now 20, in a bathroom for nine years in their West Bank home, feeding her leftovers and letting her out only at night.
She was freed this weekend by Palestinian police in the West Bank town of Qalqilya after an aunt tipped off authorities, the Associated Press reports.
The father admitted to police that his daughter had been locked in the bathroom since she was 11, telling them, “She has not seen the sunlight since then,” Haaretz reports.
The woman’s father cited a “family dispute” as the reason he imprisoned her behind a locked, heavy metal door, Ynet news reports.
Balraa Melhem was given only a blanket, a radio and a razor blade by her father, who encouraged her to kill herself, said social worker Hala Shreim, the AP says.
In a statement the young woman gave to the social worker, she said her father locked her up after she ran away from school. Melhem’s parents divorced when she was young and her father had custody.
Melhem told the social worker her father initially locked her up because he said he wanted to protect her from the world outside, describing other people as “animals,” the social worker said.
The father, an Israeli Arab who moved to the West Bank, was transferred to Israeli police, the AP reports. They identified him as Hassan Melhem, 49.
The young woman said her father beat her with electric cables and sticks when he was angry, poured cold water on her when she asked for her mother, and sometimes shaved her head and eyebrows.
“It’s a miracle she didn’t go mad. She had a small radio that she used to listen to programs. She was aware of herself — of her own mental health. She said the radio was her only friend in the darkness,” Shreim said.
She described Melhem as well-spoken and up-to-date on current affairs because she listened so intently to the radio, the AP reports.