Friday, January 04, 2008

"Honor" Killings

We had a tragic double murder in our area this week. Two teenaged girls were believe to be killed by their father, a native of Egypt. He was upset that they were becoming "too American", that they wanted to date American boys and their bullet riddled bodies were found in his taxi at DFW airport. A candlelight vigil was held last night, which the girls' mother and brother attended. They are in hiding because the man who did this is running from the police. What was an area wide manhunt has now gone nationwide and will probably extend past our borders. And in our diverse upscale suburban community, this isn't the first recognized death of a woman by her husband based upon what amounts to tribal beliefs. A few years ago, a woman from Pakistan was burned to death and her husband caught trying to leave the country. We like to encourage diversity and support those who peacefully reside here. But there has been a change. Suddenly people don't want to assimilate, they simply want to export their brand of living here-never mind that that was the roadblock to success "back home" Why is this happening? Because within a small backward segment of humanity, there are people who think that women and children are owned and that the patriarchal legend of controlling every member of the family holds true in the 21st century. I have no doubt that he is being harbored by relatives or friends that hold similar sympathetic views. That is what is common in this situation. The murderer is a member of the family, the family will not turn him over to police. In a recent honor killing in Canada, there were a great number of public statements from the mosques of that area saying that this was NOT a feature of Islam. I agree in as far as that goes. But tribal beliefs, now being exported to other countries, is being tacitly supported by the silence of these religious communities. We are not privy to their worship, nor do they welcome us in any way that seems open or aboveboard. How long are we going to continue to allow these barbarians to exact what amounts to sharia law within our own nation. If executing a criminal who has done serious harm to others is wrong according to the ACLU and other groups, why is the silence so deafening in regards to the untimely deaths of women at the hands of their husbands?

I am not a huge supporter of Amnesty International or the UN. However, there is one area in which I believe they are right. Honor killings, bride burnings and other types of attacks largely against women are a serious side effect of illiteracy and ignorance. The reason that I am bringing this up is that I believe the tragic murder of two young women is directly related to patriarchal belief that women and children are chattel to be bartered and should be restricted and treated as such. When this type of cultural overlay runs up against modern freedom as practiced in the western world, there are going to be those who resist. This isn’t the first time we have had such an instance. There was a bride burning in Carrollton not so many years ago. And there is speculation that retaliation against women in arranged marriages is largely underreported due to fear or retaliation, lack of trust for authorities and little means of escape from what should be labeled as an abusive situation. Please note, this isn’t a byproduct of Islam, although many like to put it in those terms. Instead it’s a cultural phenomenon that has been perpetuated by tribal beliefs that supersede the structure of national laws. Although widely condemned, such honor killings as well as forced suicides are not unheard of in many parts of the world, most notably Asia and India. The movement of people to new lands has exported this barbaric system around the world. I wonder if police departments would look further into some disappearances, some redacted accusations and some “accidents” resulting in the death of a woman or child, if they wouldn’t find suspicious circumstances anticipating such a sad end. Here’s what I found in a short research. You can find more detailed and still sadder stories. I just wonder if we witnessed another such instance in Lewisville this past week.

As of 2004, honor killings have occurred within parts of various countries, such as Albania, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel (within the Arab, Druze and Bedouin communities)[8], Italy, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Uganda, and the United States.[citation needed]

According to the UN:

"The report of the Special Rapporteur ... concerning cultural practices in the family that are violent towards women (E/CN.4/2002/83), indicated that honour killings had been reported in Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Yemen, and other Mediterranean and Persian Gulf countries, and that they had also taken place in such countries as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, within migrant communities." [9]

Sharif Kanaana, professor of anthropology at Birzeit University states that honor killing is:

“A complicated issue that cuts deep into the history of Arab society. .. What the men of the family, clan, or tribe seek control of in a patrilineal society is reproductive power. Women for the tribe were considered a factory for making men. The honor killing is not a means to control sexual power or behavior. What's behind it is the issue of fertility, or reproductive power.[2]

An Amnesty International statement adds:

“The regime of honour is unforgiving: women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honour by attacking the woman.[13]

Islamic religious authorities prohibit extra-legal punishments such as honor killings, since they consider the practice to be a cultural issue.[15] They believe that since certain pre-Islamic cultures have influence over a number of Muslims, murderers of females use Islam to justify honor killing, but claim there is no support for the act in the religion itself. The death penalty cannot always be applied in the Sharia as murders are a type of "qisas" ("retaliation") crime 2-178. This means that the deceased's family should be offered the choice of capital punishment or "diyya" ("blood money") and no execution can take place without them opting for death. Because a relative(s) is usually responsible for the honor killing, it is unlikely that the deceased's family will punish one of their own for the crime.[16] However other punishments can be legislated and the murderer cannot pardon himself.[17]"

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ERS said...

Fellow Ellen, thank you for blogging about this subject. . .and so well!

Dishonor killings are believed to have their origins in misinterpretations of pre-Islamic Arab tribal codes. They pre-date Islam by centuries and, in fact, are un-Islamic.

Nonetheless, to one with experience in these matters, it is obvious the murders of the beautiful Said sisters in suburban Dallas were dishonor killings.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

Roger W. Gardner said...

Nice blog. Keep up the good work. It's appreciated.

Ellen K said...

Thanks. I don't think people realize, and especially policing agencies don't realize, that within the closed nature of these cultures, women can still be victimized even in a free society. I hope they find this villain. I cannot imagine what he would use for an excuse. I hope those young girls rest in peace or as one of their classmates said "I wish you the most beautiful of heavens." Sad to say that about a young person which should have had a bright future.