Op-Ed: The men of honor who kill at least 5,000 women each year

Posted Sep 12, 2010 by R. C. Camphausen
At least 5,000 women a year are killed or driven to suicide by fathers or brothers who think that, according to tribal tradition, the inferior female has shamed the family. It is most worrying that the custom has migrated to Europe and the Americas.
Aqsa Parvez  1991-2007
Aqsa Parvez, murdered in an 'honor killing'
In a series of articles in the UK-based Independent, concerning the practice of so-called honor killings and written by well-known Middle-East journalist Robert Fisk, the repeated appearance of the mobile phone is very striking, showing how medieval and modern are now intermingled. Daughters are told to commit suicide by mobile, sisters are phoned and asked to meet brothers – only to be shot when they arrive – others again are killed merely their mobile has stored an unfamiliar number that could be from a secret admirer.
It is staggering to imagine a young woman being killed merely because the family finds a new number on the daughter's mobile. The killing itself, most readers will agree, is the most terrible aspect of such an ancient, tribal tradition – yet one also needs to pause for a moment and imagine the kind of total social control that's in place if a father or brother has the right, and the desire, to check the mobile phone of daughter, sister or wife for the numbers it has stored.
Women who are killed this way die for a variety of reasons – if the latter term can be applied at all: not wanting to enter into a marriage arranged by her family without her consent, being disobedient, talking to or meeting a man outside her own family, being suspected of adultery, having an actual love affair, having been raped, having become pregnant by way of incestuous rape by her own father, wanting to adapt to the culture in the new country the family migrated to, not following traditional dress-code, wanting a divorce from an abusive husband, having had a gynaecological exam.
It is difficult to imagine, but all of the 'dishonorable' actions, situations or experiences listed above have been documented as reasons why fathers and brothers, sometimes with the consent of the mother, have felt that the only way out of the situation was murder: slashing a throat, 33 stabs with a knife, a few gunshots, wringing a neck, burying a girl alive or drowning her. Last not least, the accused may simply be ordered to commit suicide – and that's what the frightened women sometimes actually do.
If the above is hard to believe, an in-depth investigation by the Independent enabled Robert Fisk to provide us with names of victims and places, each time citing the so-called offense and the manner of punishment. Here is a very abbreviated list of what has been collected:
Du'a Khalil Aswad. Aged 17, she was stoned to death in Nineveh, Iraq, by a mob of 2,000 men for falling in love with a man outside her tribe.
Rand Abdel-Qader The Iraqi 17-year-old was stabbed to death by her father two years ago after falling in love with a British soldier in Basra.
Heshu Yones The 16-year-old was stabbed to death by her Muslim father Abdullah, in west London in 2002, because he disapproved of her Christian boyfriend.
Tasleem Solangi The Pakistani village girl, 17, was falsely accused of immorality and had dogs set on her as a punishment before she was shot dead by in-laws.
Shawbo Ali Rauf Aged 19, she was taken by her family to a picnic in Dokan, Iraq, and shot seven times after they had found an unfamiliar number on her phone.
Tulay Goren The 15-year-old Kurdish girl was killed in north London by her father because the family objected to her choice of husband.
If the estimate by the United Nations of 5,000 such killings per year is correct, it comes down to 13 dead women and girls every single day, yet if the estimate by aid-workers and women's shelters are true, who think in terms of 20,000 – it would mean that a woman is killed by this custom every 27 minutes on each day of the year. While some countries, like Jordan for example, have introduced laws intended to change the situation, it is on record that in many instances police and the judges allow the killers to go free.
In Pakistan, the country that has the most honor killings on the planet, the killer is not punished as long as his father or the rest of the family forgives the killer his deed. It seems to be similar among the Kurdish population in Iraq. where of 350 known honor killings, committed within a mere 7 months in 2007, only five of the killers were convicted, which is a mere 6 percent.
Honor killings, an apologetic name for simple murder, may occur in more places than given here, yet the countries and territories named are on record. Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Chechnya, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Lybia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, the occupied Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Yemen. From here, this brutal and misogynist custom has meanwhile spread to Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States by way of emigration.
It seems that the custom is not dependent on a person's faith, although it is clearly most widespread in male-dominated Arab-speaking nations. In Jordan for example, which is host to many Palestinian refugees who are Christian, such honor killings occur more in the Christian than in the Muslim community. An old Egyptian friend of Robert Fisk had this to say: "Two things will happen when you write your reports about 'honour' killing, Mr Robert. Firstly, they will say you are using Muslims as whipping boys – even though this has nothing to do with Islam. And then you will be accused of demeaning the Arab nation or Egypt or Jordan or Pakistan or Turkey."
In the same article, a Pakistani woman explains the basic premise of the system with these words: 'Honour' for men is connected with women's behaviour because they are seen as the property of the family – and of the community. They have no independent identities, they are not independent human beings. Men also think of women as an extension of themselves. When women violate these standards, this is a direct blow to the man's sense of identity.
The honour killing files by Robert Fisk in the Independent
The crime-wave that shames the world, Relatives with blood on their hands, One woman's nightmare, and a crime against humanity, The lie behind mass 'suicides' of Egypt's young women, The truth about 'honour' killings, and A place of refuge from fear and guilt
Related articles on DJ:
Honor Killing, Rape, Grows Worldwide, Surviving a Murder in the Name of Honor, 'Honor killing' gang killed wrong people in England
Other sources: Canada, USA, Europe
Rise in Canadian ‘honour killings’ should not be ignored, Family charged in possible honour killings of Montreal women, Brother gets life in honour killing, 'Honor killings' in USA raise concerns, Sullied by a gynecological exam, Honor Killings in Europe, Afghan Girl's Death Sparks National Debate (Germany), Honor Killings in the Netherlands, Historic Verdict on Family Honor Killing in Denmark