Surviving her sister's murder: Calgary woman tries to make a difference

It's been two years since Calgary's El-Dib family was devastated by the murder of their daughter and sister, Nadia. One of her sisters says she will fight on against domestic violence with a message aimed at young Albertans.

Racha El-Dib vows to keep spreading message against intimate partner violence

Nadia El-Dib was killed by an ex-boyfriend, who was later killed in a shootout with the RCMP near Edmonton in March 2018. (El-Dib family)

This story is part of Stopping Domestic Violence, a CBC News series looking at the crisis of intimate partner violence in Canada and what can be done to end it.   

WARNING: This story contains disturbing and graphic details.

It's been two years since a young Calgary woman was killed by her jealous ex-boyfriend in a crime that shocked the city and changed a family forever.

Nadia El-Dib's relationship with Abderrahmane (Adam) Bettahar lasted about three months before she broke it off in late 2017.

However, Bettahar couldn't accept her rejection.

Nadia's family believes that over the next few months, Adam was stalking her and followed her in his car on at least one occasion.

In the early morning hours of March 25, 2018, Adam and Nadia left a shisha bar together.

It's not clear if she got into his car against her will, but the 22-year-old texted a friend to say Bettahar refused to take her back to her vehicle.

An hour or so later, she was stabbed 40 times, her throat was slit and she was shot twice with a semi-automatic rifle.

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the homicide, which was officially classified as a domestic homicide even though the two were not in a relationship at the time.

Bettahar was killed in a shootout with the RCMP near Edmonton four days after Nadia's death.

It was one of 13 domestic-related homicides in Alberta in 2018. Two other women in Calgary were also murdered by their intimate partners. It was a particularly bad year.

The number of domestic-related calls to Calgary police involving violence reached 5,300 in 2018, falling back to 4,800 last year. Despite the decrease in 2019, the number of domestic violence cases has roughly doubled over the past decade, and police say there's been an increase in the severity of injuries.

'I need to fight for this'

Nadia's murder changed the El-Dib family forever, but it's motivated them to try to prevent the pain and anguish they've experienced.

Racha El-Dib, one of Nadia's three sisters, describes herself as deeply spiritual. She believes her late sister is guiding her to help victims of domestic violence and to prevent it from happening in the first place.

"I definitely believe that maybe her spirit or just her energy kind of just transferred weirdly into me to be like, 'I need to fight for this,'" she said.

After months of grieving, through sadness, anger and finger-pointing, Racha is trying to make a difference. Her family established Nadia's Hope Foundation, which aims to spread the word against intimate partner violence.

Racha has spoken to dozens of Alberta students about Nadia's story. She stresses the warning signs that they should look for in a potentially abusive partner, or a friend who may be in a potentially harmful relationship.

Nadia's murder changed the El-Dib family forever. It's motivated them to try to prevent the pain and anguish they've experienced. (El-Dib family)

She says teenagers need to know what to look for before they get involved in intimate relationships and where to go if they need help. 

"I remember being 22 years old. You don't know that information, you don't have the resources. That's why I think it's important to address this in the youth age so that later on in life, you'll remember, 'oh my god, these are the resources I can talk to, these are people that I can call."

Intervention programs for men

A leading researcher in children's mental health applauds El-Dib's efforts and welcomes her campaign or any other that raises awareness about how violence occurs in relationships.

Angelique Jenney is the Wood's Homes research chair in children's mental health. She says the overall message for educators and others is to start teaching boys and teenagers not to harm women.

"We could be doing a better job of preventing that kind of violence by promoting different kinds of services for boys and young men in school and in adulthood," said Jenney.

The Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter says more needs to be done to help men who want to change their behaviour.

The executive director says research has shown in families experiencing domestic violence that men have searched online for resources related to anger management and what constitutes abusive behaviour.

The shelter is working on a new digital outreach strategy for men.

"We, as a community, need to be better at making sure that there are healthy avenues for them to make behavioural change," said Kim Ruse.

"There aren't very many great resources out there for men who are looking to change their behaviour. And so I think we need to invest in that part of the prevention framework." 

Nadia El-Dib pictured with her youngest sister. (El-Dib family)

Healing through podcasts

El-Dib also launched a podcast where she laid bare her feelings about losing her closest sibling and provided a platform for several women who shared their stories of domestic violence.

She says it allowed her to tell Nadia's story because there was so much interest and it was emotionally exhausting to repeat it. She says it also helped her grieve.

"How do you cope with losing somebody like that that was so close to you and where you had the closest relationship with?"

Her guests have included female survivors of abuse — stories she found difficult to hear but important to repeat.

While she may have hit pause on her podcasts for now, El-Dib is seeking approval to deliver her message and Nadia's story in Calgary's public schools, something she hopes could be finalized in the fall.

"It's not about, you know, Nadia wants me to do this. It's more of just I want to do this for Nadia."

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Bryan Labby

Enterprise reporter

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.