WORLDPOST

Baraa Melhem, Palestinian Woman, Locked In Bathroom For 10 Years

01/23/2012 01:27 pm ET | Updated Mar 24, 2012

By Jihan Abdalla

RAMALLAH, Jan 23 (Reuters) - A 21-year-old Palestinian woman has told authorities she was locked in a bathroom for the past decade by her father, who let her out only in the dead of night so she could clean their house.

"People are monsters," Baraa Melhem said her father would tell her, according to a social worker dealing with the case.

Palestinian police said on Monday they freed Melhem from the small bathroom of a home in the West Bank city of Qalqilya on Saturday after an anonymous tip.

Her father, who holds Israeli citizenship, was arrested and handed over to Israeli authorities. He is due to appear in an Israeli court on Wednesday, an Israeli police spokesman said.

Melhem told Voice of Palestine radio that when she was 11, her father confined her to the toilet and did not allow her to go to school or see her mother, whom he had divorced.

She was beaten with a baton and metal wires and given only one blanket to keep her warm, said the social worker, Hala Shreim.

"The bathroom was only 1-1/2 meters big, it was like a cell," Shreim said.

According to a statement issued by Palestinian police, the father, citing a "family dispute", admitted to locking up his daughter and feeding her mainly bread.

Melhem told Voice of Palestine that her father used to shave her hair and her eyebrows, and allowed her to shower only once a month. He would let her out of the bathroom every night at 1 a.m. to clean the house until 4 a.m., she added.

Melhem's father, the social worker said, often encouraged his daughter to commit suicide.

"Her only consolation was a radio which kept her connected to the world," Shreim said.

The young woman has now been reunited with her mother.

"She told me that she loves life and has to live," Shreim quoted Melhem as saying.

(Reporting By Jihan Abdalla; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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