Perspectives | Femicide

The Murder of Marigona

By - 27.08.2021

Patriarchal immunity and femicide are deeply rooted in Kosovo.

On Sunday afternoon, two men left the lifeless body of a young woman at the emergency hospital in Ferizaj. Another death.

On Sunday afternoon, the body of this 18-year-old showed signs of abuse, injuries that had been inflicted on her as she suffered for two days in a row, at least the two days we know of. Another murder.

On Sunday afternoon, it was announced that Marigona was dead though her body and voice had been already taken, lifeless since the day before. Another femicide.

On Sunday, August 22, the abused, harassed, lifeless body of 18-year-old Marigona was dropped off, after being tortured for two days; already dead an entire day; after dying from the trauma of broken limbs; left at the Ferizaj emergency hospital. Eighteen-year-old Marigona was allegedly killed by her partner and his accomplice. She was tortured and killed because she was a woman. 

Death. Murder. Femicide.

Men killing women due to a sense of patriarchal immunity. Their perceived and nurtured patriarchal immunity.

All week, so many of us have been overcome by a range of emotions rage, anger, shock, fury, outrage. All mixed with pain. 

Pain that women’s existence is controlled and policed not just through preventing them from equal participation in society, but through ongoing violence perpetrated against their bodies and minds, to the point of death just for being a woman. Pain that women’s bodies are so often abused, harassed, raped or tortured based on some man’s idea of honor. Pain that women’s lives are being extinguished in a society that has by and large tolerated and justified violence to the point of normalization that women can be killed just for being women.

Marigona is not the first case of femicide in Kosovo, and she will most probably not be the last. From 2017 to 2020, at least 74 women were killed by their male partners or relatives, often after having been harassed, beaten, violated or tortured. Approximately one a month. Just for being women.

Diana Kastrati, Valbona Marku, Klara Marku, Donjeta Pajazitaj, Antigona Morina, Zejnepe Berisha, Dafina Zhubi, Sebahate Morina. This is just a partial list of past victims. There is a longer, unwritten list, of women that are currently undergoing abuse and violence in the confines of their own homes.

Women are constantly raising their voices, holding protests. Women proclaim #notonemore, though it is said with the hidden fear and realization that one more, or many more, will be killed. Marigona is already one of the “one more” we declared there wouldn’t be any more of.

But there seems to be something also distinct this time, a larger outcry, an angrier demand for accountability for a judicial system that allowed these two men with serious criminal charges, including one with attempted murder and the other with apparently over 135 criminal accusations, to roam free. Now they have allegedly committed murder, a reminder that the majority of victims of femicide had previously reported their eventual murderers to the authorities. 

It seems this time there is a stronger insistence that anyone who tries to justify or relativize femicide, whether it is an individual or a state institution, is going to be called out for it.

Marigona's alleged killers are products of our society, where boys and men are valorized and girls and women subordinated.

The outcry is louder this time partly due to the fact that women themselves have been constantly speaking out, reporting abuse, documenting harassment, challenging oppression. The majority of the victims mentioned above had reported their eventual murderers to the authorities, some several times.

But still somehow individuals convicted of serious violent offenses face short sentences or have their cases continuously prolonged by the system, as was the case with Marigona’s alleged murderers. Individuals with track records of harassment, violence and death threats pose an enormous danger to women, but are not treated as dangerous by the legal system. The prosecutors and judges who continuously fail to uphold the law and instead choose to make decisions based on their own patriarchal reasoning have never faced consequences for their negligence, their failure, and ultimately, their culpability in the steady murders of women, just for being women. 

Marigona’s alleged killers Dardan Krivaqa and Arbër Sejdiu are products of our society. They are products of rigid norms over what constitutes a family, where boys and men are valorized and girls and women subordinated. They are products of an education system that instills in boys a sense of superiority and privilege, and in girls a sense of inferiority and self-doubt.

They are products of state institutions that through their choice to neglect cases of violence become unwitting co-conspirators in past and future cases of femicide. They are products of prosecutorial narratives that highlight “jealousy” as a justifying motive, as the prosecution has done again in Marigona’s case. As such, prosecutors normalize violence, and judges do the same when they give the minimum sentence to husbands who have killed their wives, as in the case of Zejnepe Berisha. 

They are products of an economic system that is just as patriarchal in how it centers and accommodates men while obstructing women from getting and keeping jobs — of a family system that denies women their property rights.They are products of a media culture that celebrates hypermasculinity, that perpetuates bigotry, and that provides a platform to those who belittle women’s voices and lived experiences. 

While women are the victims, they are also the ones leading the protests, the ones reporting violence, the ones asking for accountability, time and time again. However, not only are they let down but even blamed for supposedly not speaking out. 

So, many more women’s voices have been getting louder, angrier, and less compromising. It is turning into a much needed revolt.

Choosing to overlook Marigona's death means to contribute to the ongoing epidemic of femicides.

And this revolt provides clarity. What is clear is the perpetrators’ patriarchal sense of immunity. 

Dardan Kivraqa and Arbër Sejdiu felt comfortable enough, confident enough, to simply drop Marigona’s dead body off at the hospital, as if they wouldn’t face any consequences, based on a sense of patriarchal immunity. 

After having tortured her for two days, they left her dead at the hospital, as if handing over an object they no longer needed. What were they thinking? Perhaps that she might somehow still be alive? But it seemed as if they were saying, “Here is the body, we don’t need her anymore, we are not responsible for what happens next.”

As more information comes out about the cause of death, details sure to add further outrage and pain, some might attempt to depict this as an individual case of brutality. Or as all too often, some might try to justify the perpetrators, that somehow, somewhere, there was some reasonable motivation that triggered the brutality. The prosecution has already done this by ascribing “jealousy” as a motivation in Marigona’s case. 

The revolt is growing. Collective responsibility, state accountability, individual collusion and societal culpability — each and every one of us is part of Marigona’s death, the deaths of the many women before her and the many others who may be targeted in the future. 

Choosing to overlook Marigona’s death, or choosing to block out the appalling final 48 hours she went through, means to contribute to the ongoing epidemic of femicides.

On Sunday, August 22, the tortured, lifeless body of 18-year-old Marigona was dropped off at the Ferizaj hospital, after two days of abuse, her limbs broken, to the point that her family members say she was unrecognizable. On the day she was left there, she had already been dead for a day.

Imagine those 48 hours. Imagine all the other hours before that we might not know of. Imagine what is happening right now to other women, who may or may not end up becoming the next victim. 

Femicide — women are being killed by men because they are women. That’s not a dictionary definition, that is the current reality.

Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.