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Opinion: The men of honor who kill at least 5,000 women each year

By R. C. Camphausen

9/12/2010 Middle East (Digital Journal) – 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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