BEIRUT: News of the death of young British woman Rebecca Dykes rippled across Beirut in the days after she was murdered, giving women pause, but not deterring them from going about their lives in the city. In Ashrafieh’s busy Gemmayzeh neighborhood, where Dykes was last seen, men and women were out again Monday night in its restaurants and pubs.
“We’re not too frightened by the news, but all of our family had called to make sure we were safe,” Vicky Croft, a Scottish woman living in Dubai, told The Daily Star, referring to the news of Dykes’ shocking death.
Dykes, a British Embassy staffer who had been working in Lebanon since January of this year, was found dead Saturday on the side of the Metn expressway by a routine police patrol.
Dykes had not been seen since she spent Friday evening out with her friends in Gemmayzeh and ordered an Uber to go home after.
Dykes’ Uber driver Tarek Houshieh was arrested early Monday morning by the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch for raping and murdering the 30-year-old.
Croft, who is in Beirut for a five-day vacation with her friends, said she is still using cabs to get around.
“We’ve been sticking together and we take [services] together,” she added, referring to Beirut’s informal shared taxi system.
Finishing a dinner in the area, 24-year-old Racha Sasso said that Dykes’ death was sad, but that she wouldn’t let it affect her choices.
“I don’t think I would change my habits in terms of going out, but of course this is tragic,” she said with her friend Maya Haj Hasan, who nodded in agreement.
“It’s scary,” said Haj Hasan, 23, but maintained that for her, taking a taxi remained the best option.
“At the end of the day, I’m still going to use Uber or a service because I have no other way of getting home. These are my only options; I’m taking an Uber home tonight.”
Dykes’ death has brought to the limelight a number of issues, with some people highlighting the need for Lebanon to have a well-established and safe transportation system, while others underlined the importance of ensuring consistency in security forces’ response in such cases.
Haj Hasan, admitting a lack of confidence in the Lebanese authorities, expressed some relief that the victim was a foreigner, saying: “If it was a Lebanese woman – who knows if the government would even find the murderer.”
Rosette Stephan, 28, agreed, and was also critical of what she suspected the authorities’ response would have been if the victim hadn’t been a foreign national.
“It’s really horrible. It makes you not trust in Uber but also other private cabs as well. These cases happen often in Lebanon,” Stephan said. “But when has it happened that a killer was found [so quickly]? It’s good that the British government was on it, but the Lebanese government would never go to these lengths to investigate [a Lebanese woman]. It’s not the same.”
This sentiment was shared by rights group KAFA (enough) Violence and Exploitation. The group said it hoped that the reaction that Dykes’ case witnessed would be seen in other cases.
“Although we praise the swift action by the security forces and the arrest of the killer of the diplomat, we hoped to witness such quickness in movement and efficiency in all crimes, “the group said in a Facebook post. “Especially in domestic and sexual violence cases,” the group added.
Dykes death, which has been reported as a rare case of such a crime committed against foreigner, was denounced by Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry. The ministry offered its condolences to the victim’s family, stressing that the suspect will be held accountable before the judiciary for what he had done.
“The ministry affirms that it is following-up with the investigations closely,” a statement said.
Earlier in the day, ISF chief Maj. Gen. Imad Othman Monday offered his condolences to British Ambassador Hugo Shorter.
During their meeting Monday, Shorter thanked Othman for the speed at which Dykes’ suspected killer had been arrested, and expressed his confidence in the ISF’s professionalism.
The U.S. Embassy in Beirut also condemned the incident in a tweet.
“Our thoughts and prayers to Becky’s family and loved ones. Our deepest condolences as well as to Becky’s larger family at @DFID_UK , @ukinlebanon & Amb @HugoShorter, our strong partners here in #Lebanon.”
This article was amended on Tuesday, December 19 2017
In a previous version of this story, The Daily Star incorrectly identified Rebecca Dykes' suspected killer as Tarek Hesso.
The Daily Star regrets the error.