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  Global Views
"Honor" Killing Or Gendercide?
Special Contribution
By Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui
American University
Farzana Ahmed,49, leaves Chester Crown Court.

The “honor” killing of Shafiea by her family in the UK has brought women’s victimization to the center stage, as this peculiar practice crossed its natural geographical borders and set foot in the Western world. Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed were sentenced to life imprisonment for killing their 17-year-old daughter in 2003, for the simple reason that she run away with her boyfriend — Mushtaq Bargas — against the wishes of her family.

This heinous crime wrongly labeled “honor” killing is sending shockwaves worldwide, and is calling for urgent plans to stop the slaughtering of these powerless females, who remain at the mercy of male prejudice and domination in closed societies which obstinately resist to embrace modernity, and refuse to grant women control over their lives.

The United Nations' latest world figure puts the number of victims to “honor” killing to 5,000 deaths a year; however, many women's organizations in the Middle East and South-west Asia suspect that number is four times higher the UN figures.

Most of the victims are young, many are defenseless teenagers who end up being slaughtered because of the existing chauvinistic cultural traits, which render women subservient, and glorify the killings of innocent girls without remorse or legal ramifications.

In Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Kurdistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh, women are stabbed, hanged, burned, mutilated for having an extra-marital affair, dating boys, refusing pre-arranged marriages, or simply because of what is considered “loose” behavior.

“Honor” killing occurs within Sikh, Hindu, and Christian communities. Although it is not sanctioned by Islam; this form of killing occurs predominantly in the aforementioned countries. This practice has been recorded among Turkish, Kurdish, Indian and Pakistani immigrants in Canada, Belgium, the UK, and Germany.

This medieval practice targets vulnerable females and associates emancipation with libertinism. Whereas, males are free to engage in any kind of behavior without having to answer to any norms or laws; females often end up in the guillotine for simply chatting with a cousin or neighborhood boy.

The death sentence is often carried out immediately by close family-members. There are no real standards of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, as “honor” rules are often formulated, and executions are carried out based on volatile circumstances and families’ status. Basically, a female could get killed for anything that is perceived offensive and considered to tarnish the family’s “name” and “honor".

According to an independent Turkish report, 480 women were murdered between 2000 and 2006, — among them there were 98 girls between the ages of 19 to 25 — in the name of family honor. Network Against Violence reported that between 1991 and 2007, 12,500 women were murdered for reasons of "honor" in the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq. Pakistan's Human Rights Commission puts the average number of "honor" killings at the rate of more than one thousand a year.

The existing culture of male-dominated societies, and the secrecy on the process of executing females makes it hard for local authorities to prevent such crimes, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Males responsible for these atrocities are often glorified, and their actions are legitimized as being an act of “purification” and “cleanness” from the shame caused by the female’s act. These sadistic and vengeful forms of behavior are thought to restore honor and respect to the males from their peers, and wipes the “sins” from the family that was “dishonored,”and reestablish its status within the community again.

A closer look at how these societies operate indicate that women are powerless, voiceless, and that their subjugation in this male dominant culture is the root-cause of these abominable crimes.

Education, empowerment of women and a swift punishment of the perpetrators are measures that can help reduce this form of barbarism. Women groups and international organizations should be given the lead and the necessary support to become proactive in regions where such crimes occur. It is unconceivable in today’s world to remain silent, while hundreds of female are executed to appease the testosterones of some delusional males, who see in the other sex an enemy rather than a partner in life.



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Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui is an adjunct professor of sociology at American University in Washington DC, where he received his MA and PhD in sociology. Prof. Zerougui’s writings have appeared on many respected media including the Washington Times and The Seoul Times.

 

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