Honor killings, which occur with shocking regularity in certain parts of the Middle East and South Asia, target women whose actions – actual or suspected – violate the honor of their family, an honor which is thought to depend on the sexual purity of its female members. Victims are always being killed/slaughtered mercilessly by her own family members. Honor killing is a manifestation of global phenomenon in general and Muslim nations in particular. Since this terrible inhumane practice does exists only among the Muslims of the world—very often civilized people do blame Islam as the precursor of this dreadful act. Most others do not agree with this notion at all; and they try to put the blame on the tribal/cultural practice, and do not consider Islam is anyway responsible for it. In this essay I shall analyze the real issues, cause and origin, and pattern of this heinous act amongst the Muslims of the world to postulate if there is any link, or incitements that originates from the very core of Islam.
What is honor killing?
Honor killing is the bone chilling horrific cruelty committed by the family members—father, mother, brothers, brother-in-laws, even in some cases own sisters also. In this terrible episode the victim is always the daughter/sister or other blood related young women who get killed. Perpetrators are always the family members stated above. Family honor is one of the core values of Arab society. Anything from speaking with an unrelated man, to rumored pre-marital loss of virginity, to an extra-marital affair, refuses forced marriages; marry according to their will; or even women and girls who have been raped—can stain or destroy the family honor. Therefore, family members (parents, brothers, or sisters) kill the victim in order to remove the stain or maintain, and protect the honor of the family. Killers are given light sentences, sometimes with little or no jail time at all. The killers mainly defend their act of murder by referring to the Koran and Islam. Family guardian will say that they are merely following the directives set down in their Islamic ethical beliefs.
These barbaric killings occur only to save the honor of the family, and not for any animosity or for wealth or gold. In 100% of cases—the killers have no animosity, rather they love the girl as their own daughter or sister, but they kill the girl anyway upon their ethical compulsion to save their family honor, or to erase family stigmas. The victims cry, beg for their life but the family members become merciless (out of their ethical prejudices and also religious burden of fear) and kill the victim. After killing family members usually mourn and cry for the victim (usually loving daughter or sister) but feel solace that they have done the right thing to save their family honor.
And this kind of cruel killings to save family honor had happened, still happening, and will remain to happen—only to a Muslim family. Honor killings happen only to some designated Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, the Gaza strip and the West Bank (Palestine), Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Somalia, Turkey, Iran and some other south and central Asian countries. Bangladesh though a Muslim majority country—regular pattern of honor killings never happened as of today. But it is not unknown or impossible to record some stray incidences in Bangladeshi rural Muslim family (only) in which girl was poisoned by family members, or asked to commit suicide after being impregnated by unwed sexual intercourse. However, this same kind of case history was never heard, or recorded in the non-Muslim family of Bangladesh.
Honor killing is different from other killings.
Honor killing should never be confused with wife beating, or wife killings by husbands or other relatives. Since pre-historic ancient time people assassinated, killed, or poisoned their wives or husbands, or other family members for either adultery, love affairs (Poro-keya prem) with other man besides her husband, or for property disputes—and these are simple homicide in English terminology. They are never called honor killing. This kind of homicides did occur, still occurs, and will occur in any nations, or race throughout the human history and these are not any race, or religion related happenings by any standard. Honor killings also should never be confused, or mixed up with killings for dowry, acid throwing by unsuccessful/disappointed love stalkers (as frequently happened in the Indian sub-continent), or any other violence against women. These are simply not honor killings, which is the topic of this essay.
Some sample cases of horrific honor killing:
Case-1: ” Two months ago, when she tried to run away yet again, Kina (father of the girl) grabbed a kitchen knife and an ax and stabbed and beat the girl [his daughter] until she lay dead in the blood-smeared bathroom of the family’s Istanbul apartment. He then commanded one of his daughters-in-law to clean up the mess. When his two sons came home from work 14 hours later, he ordered them to dispose of the 5-foot-3 corpse, which had been wrapped in a carpet and a blanket. The girl’s head had been so mutilated, police said, it was held together by a knotted cloth.”
Case-2: “Kifaya Husayn, a 16-year-old Jordanian girl, was lashed to a chair by her 32-year-old brother. He gave her a drink of water and told her to recite an Islamic prayer. Then he slashed her throat. Immediately afterward, he ran out into the street, waving the bloody knife and crying, ‘I have killed my sister to cleanse my honor.’ Kifaya’s crime? She was raped by another brother, a 21-year-old man. Her judge and jury? Her own uncles, who convinced her eldest brother that Kifaya was too much of a disgrace to the family’s honor to be allowed to live. The murderer was sentenced to fifteen years, but the sentence was subsequently reduced to seven and a half years, an extremely severe penalty by Jordanian standards.”
Case-3: “A 25-year-old Palestinian who hanged his sister with a rope: “I did not kill her, but rather helped her to commit suicide and to carry out the death penalty she sentenced herself to. I did it to wash with her blood the family honor that was violated because of her and in response to the will of society that would not have had any mercy on me if I didn’t . . . Society taught us from childhood that blood is the only solution to wash the honor.”
Case-4: “Samia Sarwar, 29, mother of two boys aged 4 and 8, was shot dead today in lawyer Hina Jillani’s office by a bearded man accompanying her mother and uncle. `He’s my helper, I can’t walk,’ said the mother, when Hina told the two men to get out. As the mother went to sit down in front of Hina’s desk, and Saima stood up from her chair, the bearded man whipped out a pistol from his waistcoat and shot Saima in the head, killing her instantly.”
Case-5: ABU QASH, Palestine: Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud (mother of 9 children) killed her daughter ‘Rofayda Qaoud’ who had been raped by her brothers and was impregnated. Armed with a plastic bag, razor and wooden stick, Qaoud entered her sleeping daughter’s room last Jan. 27, 2003. “Tonight you die, Rofayda,” she told the girl, before wrapping the bag tightly around her head. Next, Qaoud sliced Rofayda’s wrists, ignoring her muffled pleas of “No, mother, no!” After her daughter went limp, Qaoud struck her in the head with the stick. The 43-year-old mother of nine said. “I had to protect my children. This is the only way I could protect my family’s honor.”
Case-6: A 23 year old Rania Arafat, whose plight was broadcast live on national TV in Jordan. Rania was promised to her cousin as a very young child. Rania repeatedly told that she doesn’t love him and she is in love with someone else. She pled with her family to allow her to marry her lover, instead. She ran away twice, including two weeks before her forced marriage. She wrote to her mother and pled for forgiveness and understanding. Her parents promised that she would not be harmed and she could return home. On August 19, 1997, Rania returned home. The same night, her younger brother, Rami, shot her five times in the head and chest, killing her immediately. Her youngest brother was chosen to commit the murder not only to allow his defense to find protection under the laws protecting so-called honour crimes, but also because he was a juvenile. Rami served six months in jail for his crime.
Case-7: Amal, another Arab woman and victim of honour killing was run away because she insisted on her independence. Her family said that they were ashamed because of that and the gossip of neighbors. One night, when she returned home and went sleep, her brother accompanied by Amal’s father, strangled her. He said: “I strangled her. She didn’t fight back. I recited the “Holly Koran” as she was dying… it took a few minutes and she was dead.” He and his father both given light sentences.