EXCLUSIVE: Inside the Life of Middle East's Slain Pop Princess

ABC speaks to those who knew the murdered Lebanese pop princess, Suzan Tamim.

ByABC News
October 15, 2008, 1:43 PM

BEIRUT, Oct. 16, 2008 -- She's the face behind a crime that shook the Middle East. Suzan Tamim, a Lebanese singer who was murdered in Dubai, is the subject of an October 18 trial in Cairo that could see one of Egypt's most powerful politicians face the death penalty.

Pictures of Suzan, who was 30 at the time of her death, show a sultry pop star with a commanding presence, her talent bathed in sensuality. What they failed to capture was a woman who friends say never had control of her own life, because she never freed herself from the men who controlled her.

"Suzan was the victim of her beauty," friend and stylist Joe Raad told ABC News.

In the Tamim family home in Beirut, a grand, if run-down French mandate-era house, Abed al-Sattar Tamim recalls his daughter's musical beginnings: as a toddler Suzan was the neighborhood doll, singing religious music for family and friends.

Tamim grew into a teenage beauty queen, admired and desired by men but sheltered by her conservative Muslim family. Picnics, trips to the beach and, crucially, encounters with boys, were under her father's careful eye.

"She lived a full life but under my auspices," said Tamim's father. "I sometimes regret that I was over-protective as she was growing up."

Under that protection Suzan developed a quick trust in people, particularly men. As a college student at Beirut Arab University, she met and married a classmate, Ali Mouzannar. In 1996, soon after the two eloped, Suzan won a competition called "Studio Al Fan," a televised talent show akin to "American Idol." Her music was a hit, Suzan a new entry in Lebanon's long roster of singing starlets.

The success worried her conservative father, uncomfortable with his daughter's beauty on display within the highly sexualized world of music entertainment.

"I often used to pray that she wouldn't win," said Tamim's father.

"My daughter was beautiful and she had a beautiful voice, but I didn't want her to follow this path. I wanted her to get a good education, get married, to have a normal life in the midst of her family."

But Suzan wanted to sing. Fame and marriage would liberate her, to a point. She moved out of her family home, dropped out of school, and had Mouzannar start managing her career. The newlyweds had a troubled relationship over time, Mouzannar wanted more control over her movements.

"Problems started between him and her family, why he didn't want to divorce her," said Hanadi Issa, a journalist who knew Tamim and her first husband.

"To him she was a business, a possession," said Khalil Tamim, Suzan's soft-spoken brother.

With her career tied up in her marriage, Suzan called for help. Her family brought her home and helped her file for divorce. But the experience, says her father, set her on a confused path of failed relationships. Rather than confront problems, she would run from them and toward the next man.

Suzan's next step would lead to Adel Maatouk, a well-connected music producer who took her on as a client and helped shake off her ties to Mouzannar.

"Maatouk was a way out, so she took it. Then they got married and the problems began," said journalist Hanadi Issa.