About honor killings, crimes of the community

Honor killings of daughters.  Ubiquitous in many (not all) nations with Islamic majorities.  A growing problem in Europe.  Now appearing in the USA. 

There are precedents in western civilization (e.g., Héloïse and Abelard), esp killing of unfaithful wives and their partners.   But the form found in some Islamic societies is far more serious.  Here are two articles about this problem.  The first provides a solid base of fact and analysis.  The second provides intense and gripping real-life examples — far more than just the superficial facts.

  1. Crimes of the Community – Honour-based violence in the UK“, James Brandon and Salam Hafez, Centre for Social Cohesion, 2008 (PDF, 169 pages)
  2. A Piece of White Silk“, Jacqueline Rose, London Review of Books, 5 November 2009

The London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books are among the most valuable magazines I’ve found, providing a great breadth of view — summaries of books I’ll never get to read.

This problem is coming to America.  The first small wave has already arrived.


(1)  Crimes of the Community – Honour-based violence in the UK“, James Brandon and Salam Hafez, Centre for Social Cohesion, 2008 (PDF, 169 pages) — Introduction:

In recent years, honour crimes have received an increasing amount of interest from the media, the police and politicians. This has been fuelled by the extensive coverage of the murder of several young Kurdish and Pakistani women by their families. This growing public concern has been largely welcomed by women’s groups and has prompted the government to take steps to tackle these crimes. However the media’s focus on honour killings and, to a lesser extent, forced marriages and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has obscured the true scale of honour-based crime. Honour killings represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of violence and abuse perpetrated against women in the name of honour.

This study shows that honour killings, domestic violence, forced marriage and FGM are not isolated practices but are instead part of a self-sustaining social system built on ideas of honour and cultural, ethnic and religious superiority. As a result of these ideas, every day around the UK women are being threatened with physical violence, rape, death, mutilation, abduction, drugging, false imprisonment, withdrawal from education and forced marriage by their own families. This is not a one-time problem of first-generation immigrants bringing practices from ‘back home’ to the UK. Instead honour violence is now, to all intents and purposes, an indigenous and self-perpetuating phenomenon which is carried out by third and fourth generation immigrants who have been raised and educated in the UK. This report focuses on four aspects of honour-based violence:

  • Forced marriage
  • Domestic violence
  • Honour killings

Many of these problems are common to all societies. Domestic violence and ‘crimes of passion’ exist worldwide. However, honour crimes differ significantly from other outwardly similar crimes. While typical incidents of domestic violence involve men using force against their wives, honour-based abuses regularly involve a woman’s own sons, brothers and sisters, as well as members of their extended family and in-laws. Similarly, the pre-planned and ritualised nature of much of this violence (particularly in the case of honour-killings and FGM) makes such behaviour distinct from other ad-hoc forms of violence against women.

This study explains how and why many British women, and indeed many men, are told that they are not allowed the right to be independent, to have control over their own bodies and who are being denied, often through force, an opportunity to choose their own destiny. The report concludes with recommendations on what the government can do to prevent these abuses.

(2)  A Piece of White Silk“, Jacqueline Rose, London Review of Books, 5 November 2009 — Excerpt:

Murder in the Name of Honour by Rana Husseini, Oneworld, 250 pp, May 2009

In Honour of Fadime: Murder and Shame by Unni Wikan, translated by Anna Paterson, Chicago, 305 pp, June 2008

Honour Killing: Stories of Men Who Killed by Ayse Onal Saqi, 256 pp, May 2008

According to Rana Husseini in Murder in the Name of Honour, in interviews before the trial, Abdullah first denied having anything to do with his daughter’s murder, then claimed she had committed suicide and that he had tried to kill himself out of grief. His £125,000 bail was raised by the local community. Threats were made against those planning to give evidence against him. In court, Abdullah pleaded guilty and asked for the death sentence, but was given life. Unni Wikan, too, tells this story, in her case-study of Fadime Sahindal, a Swedish-Kurdish woman killed at the age of 25 by her father in 2002. ‘Heshu’s case shows the terrible price the community exacts of a man who feels bound to kill his daughter,’ she writes. Wikan is an anthropologist who has made it her brief to extend the boundaries of cross-cultural understanding. ‘There have been times when I faltered,’ she writes in the opening pages, ‘because I came to feel too much sympathy for people I didn’t want to sympathise with.’

If Heshu Yones’s case makes history as the first legally recognised ‘honour killing’ in Britain, it is also remarkable for the testimony left by Heshu herself. ‘Hey, for an older man you have a good strong punch and kick,’ she writes in a farewell note to her father before trying to leave home. ‘I hope you enjoyed testing your strength on me; it was fun being on the receiving end. Well done.’

The fact that Abdullah had often beaten his daughter was somehow never picked up at her school. But Heshu’s tone is also resigned, self-blaming and philosophical, the voice, we might be tempted to say, of a ‘modern’ child:

‘It is evident that I shouldn’t be a part of you. I take all the blame openly – I’m not the child you wanted or expected me to be. disappointments are born of expectations. Maybe you expected a different me and I expected a different you.’

The letter could – almost – be a letter from any teenage daughter to her father: ‘life, being how it is, isn’t necessarily how it is. it is just simply how you choose to see it.’ But if her father had been able to agree on this principle, which gives equal validity to different ways of seeing the world, he would not have had – or rather would not have felt that he had – to kill her.

… Fadime’s successes in court gave her every reason to believe that her boldness was paying off. A month before her father and brother were due to be sentenced, she appeared with Patrik on television; they talked about their love and the threats against them. Fadime sought publicity in the belief that it would save her life: ‘Perhaps they won’t dare to kill me now that so many people know who I am!’

Two months before her death, in November 2001, she agreed, after first refusing, to address a seminar in the Swedish parliament organised by the Violence Against Women network. In front of an audience of 350, she described her turn to the mass media as her ‘last chance’. She had hoped to create a public debate about the problems of girls from immigrant families. But she also recognised that what she called the ‘media circus’ had got out of control. Fadime had become a ‘national celebrity’. For her sister Nebile, it was this that drove their father to violence, and made him sick (that he was sick would be the grounds for his defence).


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9 thoughts on “About honor killings, crimes of the community”

  1. Just another example of how the war on terror perverts every problem into an attack on Islam. Therefore ensuring that not only are the real problems ignored, but solutions cannot be found.
    One only need look at the catastrophic reduction in woman’s rights in Iraq under US occupation.

    The women of the world will pay a heavy price for being pawns in this ideological battle not only in the way the real issues are ignored but far more in the wars promoted with it. The couple thousand women killed in Islamic countries due to honor killings pales when you consider the hundreds of thousands killed to assuage western honor in Iraq and Afghanistan alone.

    I’d like to hear why not addressing the full scope of the problems isn’t a deliberate and cynical attempt to score ideological points at the expense of women.


  2. oblat: you’re conflating casualties of war with crimes against your progressive opinions about “sex rights”.

    the women killed by western invasion were not killed for silly things like honor, but serious things like money. we needs dat oil, and the defense industry needs ‘deirs, too. look towards the gunsmiths’ unslakable thirst for conflict and self-indicting corruption (“Danger Room What’s Next in National Security Lightning Gunners’ Revenue Zapped“, Danger Room, 10 November 2009) if you want to pin the murder of brown people on anyone.
    FM reply: Great comment. Nice to see that they are people around just as cynical as me.

  3. “There are precedents in western civilization (e.g., Héloïse and Abelard), esp killing of unfaithful wives and their partners”

    Not just wives. Medieval Danish folk songs show that daughters got their “just” punishment for dishonouring their fathers. Like being fed their lover’s heart.

    I doubt these cultural traits have a lot to do with religion. The Japanese have their peculiar love for suicide. The Indians have wife burnings.

    And if one reads old Assyrian law texts, one is strok by the similarities of the requirement of modern day Muslim and orthodox Jewish women to cover their hair with the prestige a veiled woman had in Assyrian law, as not all women were allowed to use a veil, Only the first wife.

    It’s definitely an unacceptable cultural practice which needs to be stamped out, but I sincerely doubt it’s religion.

    As for eliminating these practices it may actually be worth to consider the collective punishment of the family a more effective deterrent than just the punishment of the killer.

  4. Prince Carlo Gesualdo was one of the most important and profound musician ever. Listening to his madrigals is one of the most heartrending and breathtaking experiences which music can donate us. But…

    “In 1586 Gesualdo married his first cousin, Donna Maria d’Avalos, the daughter of the Marquis of Pescara. Two years later she began to have a love affair with Fabrizio Carafa, the Duke of Andria; evidently she was able to keep it secret from her husband for almost two years, even though the existence of the affair was well-known elsewhere. Finally, on October 16, 1590, at the Palazzo San Severo in Naples, when Gesualdo had allegedly gone away on a hunting trip, the two lovers took insufficient precaution at last (Gesualdo had arranged with his servants to have the locks of his palace copied in wood so that he could gain entrance if it were locked), and he returned to the palace, caught them in flagrante delicto and murdered them both in their bed; afterwards he left their mutilated bodies in front of the palace for all to see. Being a nobleman he was immune to prosecution, but not to revenge, so he fled to his castle at Gesualdo where he would be safe from any of the relatives of either his wife or her lover.”
    (From Wikipedia)

  5. In India they had the practice of Sati. Excerpt from Wikipedia:

    Satī (the feminine of sat “true”; also called suttee) is a funeral practice among some Hindu communities in which a recently widowed woman would either voluntarily or by use of force and coercion immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. …

    … British attitudes in their later history in India are usually given in the following much repeated quote, usually ascribed to General Napier:

    “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

    I’m not sure if the elites have the confidence to enforce our norms. We may find out how far this goes before things change.

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