Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Murder in the name of Honor by Rana Husseini

Murder in the Name of Honor deals with the controversial subject of honor killings which are common throughout the Muslim world and are becoming increasingly common in the West.

Rana Husseini, an investigative journalist, has devoted her professional life to the eradication of this evil practice and to the promotion of women's rights in the Middle East. Her main focus has been on the abuse of women in Middle Eastern Muslim cultures, specifically the crime of honor killings.

Husseini, who is an Arab Muslim, looks in depth, at the culture and practice of honor killings in Jordan as well as in numerous other Middle East countries. In Murder in the Name of Honor, she tells the horrific stories of women from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Israel. Husseini discusses how honor killing has moved into Western society as Middle Eastern Muslims have immigrated and taken this practice with them and how Western law enforcement does not understand this crime and how to deal with it. The recent case of Rifqa Bary in the United States, is one such situation.
Husseini includes

"as many human examples as possible in this book, to show that this is a very real tragedy, that every day, all across the world, bright young women are being slaughtered for no good reason."
Many of the stories are terribly heartrending. Women killed for talking to men, falling in love with men their families don't approve of, or of dressing differently. Many of these women are not just simply killed. Many are tortured and raped - by family members BEFORE being murdered. Husseini's stories show that their suffering is unspeakable; their terror, palatable.

Some of the most heartbreaking stories are those of women who have survived attempted honor killings only to languish for years in prison. Rana Husseini visited Jweideh Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre for Women, one such prison in Jordan. Victims of honor killings are imprisoned to protect them from being killed by their families. For many of these women, their only hope to get out of prison, is to marry - usually a much older man who comes seeking the companionship of a younger woman. The other option available is to have a male relative post a guarantee worth $7000, that no harm will come to the woman. Many women have such guarantees posted only to learn this has been a ruse used to get them out of prison, to be killed.

What became very apparent in reading this book, is that many of the families are very conflicted about this crime. Family members feel compelled to kill sisters, wives, daughters to cleanse their "honor". Often all traces of the victim are expunged from the family. The murderers, who are brothers, fathers, husbands, uncles and grandfathers, sometimes feel intense conflict over having killed a beloved sister, wife or daughter. Other times there is no remorse at all, simply deep hatred towards the woman for "dishonoring" the family and placing the men in the position of having to reclaim their honour.

Husseini points out that laws do little to protect women. Often laws are passed with loopholes that still allow men to kill. Most Muslim governments simply will not pass laws protecting women. Pressure from extremist Muslims is often enough to change the minds of those in power who might be otherwise predisposed to change.And the women themselves often have no where to run - no safe place to go.

The problem is so large that it remains to be seen whether these societies will ever change. Views about women must change and the distorted notion of honor much be changed. This book is a start in helping publicize the plight of our sisters in the Middle East. We must be their voices. Husseini is one such voice.

I'm not a Jane Fonda fan, but her words in the books foreword are worth quoting:

"As I write this foreword, CNN is broadcasting the footage of a young woman being publicly stoned to death by a lynch mob, while the police just stand by watching. It pains me deeply to live in a world where a Kurdish woman has been killed for falling in love with a man from a different faith. Murders like this, which happen around the world, destroy the honour they are intended to restore. Honour is respect for life. Honour is respect for love. There is no honour in murder."

And from Rana herself these fine words:

"...Beliefs relating to women as the bearers of family honour are still embedded in many people's minds, making so-called crimes of honour acceptable. But these beliefs are about control, not honour. Women are placed in fear, knowing that one false move or one malicious piece of gossip could end their lives in a moment. A killing made in the name of honour is a murder, plain and simple, and must be punished as such."

This is heartwrenching, well-written book dealing with a very sensitive topic. A must read for all who care about women.

Update: Jordanian jailed for sister's "honour killing".

Book details:
Murder in the Name of Honor
The true story of one woman's heroic fight against an unbelievable crime.
by Rana Husseini

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