Mysterious deaths of prominent sisters shock Jordan

The bodies of Soraya and Jumana Salti were found at the bottom of a tower block in Amman, and many are doubtful of reports that it was a double suicide.

Soraya Salti, who headed the Injaz Al Arab NGO, during a debate at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa held in Marrakech, Morocco 2010. Soraya and her sister Jumana were found dead at the bottom of a building under construction in Jwiedeh, Jordan on November 6, 2015. Karim Selmaoui/EPA
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Mystery surrounds the deaths of two prominent and successful Jordanian sisters after their bodies were found together at the base of a building under construction in Amman.

The deaths of Soraya Salti, 44, a mother of one, and Jumana, 37, have shocked and baffled Jordanians and led to an outpouring of grief from friends and colleagues.

Soraya spearheaded Injaz Al Arab, an education initiative that promoted entrepreneurship across the Arab world. Jumana was a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers based in the UAE since 2008.

Police suggested yesterday that the sisters committed suicide by jumping from the building in Jwiedeh, a rundown area of the Jordanian capital on Friday. Detectives found a handwritten note from one of the women addressed to her parents.

But friends and relatives rejected this, prompting speculation that the two women were murdered.

The sisters had played golf on Friday at the Bisharat Golf Club in a suburb of Amman, family acquaintances said.

Later in the day a janitor in a building near the construction site went to investigate after hearing a loud thud. He found the women’s bodies, and notified police. A woman who lives near by said she saw a car pulling over, and one woman left the car in a rush, looking angry and tense. She entered the building, followed quickly by another woman.

Police launched an investigation into the deaths, and tissue samples were examined at a criminal forensics lab.

The janitor who found the bodies told police he saw no one leaving the construction site. Police said that based on the evidence they have so far from their criminal labs and forensic reports, the women died as a result of their fall. They suffered no injuries beforehand, and police do not suspect a crime.

Many in Jordan, including close friends, reject that the sisters would have killed themselves, especially considering their successful careers. In particular, the nature of their deaths has fuelled widespread speculation that they had been killed.

“I find it difficult to believe that they have committed suicide,” Marwan Muasher, a former foreign minister and former deputy prime minister, wrote on his Facebook page. “I knew both and they were full of life and loved life. I was Jumana’s basketball coach when she was eight.”

Naseem Tarawneh, a well-known Jordanian blogger, said: “Jordan, and indeed the Arab world, has lost … two leaders. They will be surely missed and eternally remembered. What a heavy loss.”

In 2013, Soraya was named as one of the 100 most powerful Arab women by Arabian Business.

She served as senior vice president of Injaz Al Arab, a non-profit organisation that promotes youth education and training in the Arab World. It is part of the Junior Achievement Worldwide NGO.

“Injaz Al Arab is devastated by the passing of our founder and inspiration, Soraya Salti,” the organisation said. “She will be remembered as a dreamer that dared to create new opportunities for Arab youth across the region. To date, the organisation she created has affected over 2,000,000 youth. We all mourn her loss today and our prayers are with her family.”

In 2006, she won the Schwab Social Entrepreneur award for Jordan, became a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and was the first Arab woman to win the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2009.

Jumana was part of the government and public sector strategy team at PricewaterhouseCoopers, managing the education and non-profit Middle East Group, according to her LinkedIn account. In 2006 she earned a master’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Before that, she worked at the Jordanian Royal Court for four years on economic and socio-economic national strategies.

The two women both hold American citizenship from their mother Rebecca Salti.