to Part 1
Part One of this series, I
described a few British honor killing cases. In fact, the
phenomenon of killing for "honor" has become a problem wherever
large concentrations of migrant Muslims have settled in ghettoes
within Western cultures. Families choose to live in the West, but
insist on following narrow cultural traditions. Their children
are trapped between two cultures.
Germany, there is a community of 3 million Muslims, most of whom
are migrant workers from Turkey. In Berlin, there are 200,000
Turks living in run down suburbs. Hatun Surucu was a young woman
of Turkish Kurdish origins. On February 7, 2005, when she was
aged 23, Hatun was waiting at a bus stop in the Tempelhof district
of Berlin. Her 18-year old brother Ayhan approached her and shot
her three times in the head. Hatun's death was certainly not the
first case of honor killing in Germany, but the media were shocked
by the reactions of her family and members of the local community.
At a nearby school, filled with children of immigrant families,
14-year old Turkish boys
Hatun's killing. One boy said: "She only
had herself to blame". Another argued: "She deserved what she
got. The whore lived like a German". The media would have
sidelined Hatun's case, were it not for the school's director, who
sent letters to parents, and copied these to other teachers across
Germany. TV and newspapers expressed the public shock. For the
first time, the issue of honor killing was being discussed
throughout the nation.
Hatun's murder was the
sixth honor killing
to have happened in Berlin
within four months. Two of the women victims had been stabbed in
front of their small children, one was shot, another strangled,
and the other had been drowned. A Turkish women's group called
noted at the time of Hatun's death that 40 honor
killings had taken place in Germany since 1996.
Three of Hatun's five brothers were charged with her murder. Ayhan,
the eighteen-year old who fired the shots, had bragged of his deed
to his girlfriend. Two older brothers, Mutlu aged 25 and 24-year
old Alpaslan, were suspected of providing the gun that killed
Hatun. With media interest leading up to the trial, the details
of Hatun's life emerged. In 1998 when she was only 15, she had
been sent to Turkey by the family to marry a cousin. She left him
and returned to Berlin in May 1999, pregnant. She gave birth to a
son called Can and left the family apartment. She refused to wear
the hijab or Muslim headscarf, and raised Can on her own.
Hatun took up a course to train to be an electrician. She was
nearing completion of her training when she was murdered.
April 13, 2006
, Ayhan Surucu was sentenced to nine
years and three months' imprisonment for Hatun's murder. When
Judge Michael Degrief read out the sentence, the young man
laughed. The court could not establish beyond reasonable doubt
that the two other accused brothers were guilty, and they were
freed. The other members of the family cheered. Within days,
they announced they were to hold a party. Five members of the
family were photographed walking through a park in Kreuzberg with
smiles on their faces. Hatun's sister, who was close to the
family, announced her intentions to legally adopt Hatun's child.
Denmark, there have been nine known honor killings. One of these
captured media interest because it had taken place in broad
daylight, and had been captured on camera. Eighteen-year old
Ghazala Khan came from an immigrant Pakistani family. On
September 23, 2005, she was with her 27-year old Afghan husband
Emal Khan outside the Slaglese train station in Westen Zealand.
Because she had married someone not of the family choosing,
Ghazala was thought to have offended her family's "honor". The
marriage had taken place only two days before. They were
intending to flee by train.
Ghazala's 29-year old brother Akthar Abbas was in hiding near the
station, armed with a loaded gun. He shot his sister twice
through the heart, killing her. He also shot her husband twice in
the stomach. Emal Khan survived, and would later give evidence at
the trial, which commenced on
May 15, 2006
. What was unusual about this murder
trial is that although one person had carried out the shooting,
five other members of the family and three family friends within
the Pakistani community were also placed on trial.
the trial, Akthar Abbas claimed that he had murdered only in "self
defense" because Emal Khan had
the nine members of the family entourage were found guilty, and
the following day their sentences were set.
Ghulam Abbas, Ghazala's father, was found
guilty of incitement to murder
and plotting the
murder. Akthar Abbas was found guilty of murder. The pair were
given life sentences, commuted to 16 years' jail. Two uncles
received 16 years' jail. An aunt, who had helped to lure Ghazala
to the station, and a cousin were both jailed for 14 years. As
these were still not full Danish citizens and still had Pakistani
nationality, the court ordered that the aunt and cousin should be
expelled after serving their jail terms. Three other individuals,
whose involvement had mainly been confined to telephone liaisons,
were given sentences from eight to ten years.
In other European countries where Muslim immigration has taken
place at an alarming rate, honor killings also occur. The
Netherlands has a population of 16 million, with a million of
these being Muslim. In the
at least 20 such killings have
happened, mainly amongst Turkish Muslims. In
the Netherlands introduced a draft proposal on
honor killings to the UN General Assembly to spur action against
such crimes. In
the Dutch Cabinet decided to crack down on
January 21, 2002
Fadime Sahindal, a 26 year old
woman of Turkish Kurdish origins, was shot in the head by her
father, Rahmi Sahindal. Fadime had been preparing to make a visit
to Kenya. She was killed in front of her mother and sisters after
she had had said goodbye to them.
For four years Rahmi and other men in the family had threatened
to kill Fadime. She had "dishonored" the family by starting a
relationship with Patrik, a Swedish boy, in 1996. Her father had
beaten up the couple, and disowned her. Patrik's parents had
tried to get Fadime's father to allow them to marry, but he
refused. When they moved to another town, Fadime’s brother Masud
beat her up. Her father spat in her face, saying: "Bloody whore.
I will beat you to pieces." In May 1998, her father and 17-year
old brother were found guilty of threatening behavior after she
had taken them to court for their threats of "rape, murder and
In June 1998, Patrik died in a mysterious car crash, and after
that Fadime became a public spokeswoman on honor crime. Her
father continued to threaten her. When he was in court in 2002,
charged with Fadime's killing, he confessed to the murder. He
said his daughter was a "whore" and claimed he had to kill her for
family "honor". After Fadime's death,
Swedes held torchlight vigils, and
the integration minister praised her as a "fantastic woman and a
model for young women."
in Högsby, southern Sweden, a family of Afghan immigrants was
suspected of murdering another Afghan, 20-year old Abbas Rezai.
This young man was said to have been secretly engaged to the
family's 16-year old daughter. Rezai had been beaten with an iron
bar and a baseball bat, doused in hot oil, and stabbed 23 times.
April 26, 2006
the girl's brother was found guilty
and sentenced to only four years' jail. He had been 17 at the
time of the killing. The prosecution had wanted the killer's
parents to get life sentences, but it appears only the brother was
In Italy in August
, Hina Saleem, a Pakistani woman had her throat
slit and she was buried in the garden of her family's home in
Sarezzo. There are 40,000 Pakistanis living in Italy. Hina's
father, who had applied for citizenship only two months
previously, was arrested, along with his brother. Hina's
had been to have a relationship with a
33-year old Italian carpenter. Hina had registered police
complaints about her father's violence before she was killed, but
withdrew the charges. She would wear Western clothes away from
the home, but around her father she would wear the hijab
or Muslim headscarf. Hina's mother had protected Hina from some
of her father's attacks, but she had herself fled back to Pakistan
before the murder took place.
Home Sweet Home
In the countries from which perpetrators of such "honor killings"
originally came, the custom of "honor" killing is rife. Turkey,
particularly in the southeastern Kurdish regions, has a culture
where honor killings were common. Under Turkey's penal code, a
legitimate defense for such a killer was to claim "honor killing"
and receive a reduced sentence. When Turkey moved to make itself
ready to join the European Union, such a defense was removed in
2004. During that year, there were 47 recorded honor killings in
, a poll carried out in the south-eastern
(Kurdish) city of Diyarbakir found that nearly 40% of people
questioned thought that a woman who committed adultery should be
killed. Twenty-one percent thought that an adulterous woman should
have her nose or ears cut off.
As a result of longer jail terms for perpetrators of Turkish
"honor" killers, a disturbing phenomenon began. At the start of
2006, an increasing amount of girls and young women in the east of
Turkey started to commit suicide. In many cases, they were
pressured to do this by relatives who wished to maintain family
"honor". Yakin Erturk, the UN special rapporteur on violence
against women, traveled to the region in
May to June
, and claimed: "The majority of women in
the provinces visited live lives that are not their own but are
instead determined by a patriarchal normative order that draws its
strength from reference to tradition, culture and tribal
affiliation and often articulates itself on the basis of distorted
notions of honour... Diverse forms of violence are deliberately
used against women who are seen to transgress this order. Suicides
of women in the region occur within such a context."
In Afghanistan, honor killings have been increasing in numbers,
to the high level they were during the time of the Taliban. A
from September 2006 claimed that from
January to September there had been 185 honor killings. In 2005
there had been only 47 confirmed cases.
Soraya Sobrang, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights
(AIHRC) said: "Unfortunately, many women and girls
continue to lose their lives due to this brutal crime. Sadly,
it's totally ingrained in [Afghan] culture, particularly in rural
areas of the country." On
Radio Free Europe
, Sobrang said: "I can tell you
that they happen all over Afghanistan. Most of them get buried
within the family, and no one is ever informed about them. But
today, some cases are made public and are disseminated - so we are
able to get some figures. They take places in faraway villages in
In Pakistan, the situation is dire. In 2006, the Pakistan Human
Rights Commission (HCRP) claimed that about 1,000 women are killed
every year in "honor" killings. In January 2005, honor killing
was officially made illegal. However, a clause in the law called
"compoundability" allowed a killer to walk free if relatives
accepted "blood money", in alignment with Islamic law. As most
"honor" killers are themselves the relatives, it easy for those
who schemed to have someone killed for "honor" to be compensated,
and for killers to escape punishment. I. A. Rehman, director of
the HRCP, said: "The element of compoundability makes the law a
in Dir, which lies near the border of
Afghanistan, a jirga
or "council of elders" convened in
one village, with 4,000 people attending. This council declared
honor killing to be permissible, and ordered that anyone who
reported such an act to the police should be killed.
Along with the tragic stories of honor killings, many of which
are never reported, are also found tales of "honor
in Punjab province in the east of Pakistan, Shamin Mai was
attacked by six individuals, including her uncle Bilal and her
brother Bashir. Shamin Mai had committed no crime other than to
engage in a marriage contract, on her own initiative. As a
result, she had both her legs hacked off.
, a young woman was mutilated by her
husband and his brother in Dera Ghazi Khan district, Punjab
province. Eisa Khan Khosa married his 18-year old wife Ayesha
only a month and a half before. Khan suspected his new bride was
having an affair with her cousin. They argued, and Ayesha went to
live at her brother's home. On May 20, with his brother, Khan
visited the house and persuaded Ayesha to come back. She agreed.
On the way back to the family home, Khan and his brother cut off
Ayesha's nose and her lips, and abandoned her. Ayesha was taken
to the Dera Ghazi Khan district hospital, and her husband and
brother-in-law were arrested. In addition to mutilating her face,
her husband had also tried to
cut off her
. The two men were in custody, but Ayesha
: "They are powerful people with money, and
will get out on bail."
form of "honor mutilation" which has become increasingly common in
recent years is "acid attack". Pakistan's Human Rights Commission
in Pakistan, 400 women are subjected to
acid attacks. In Bangladesh in 2005, there were 268 incidents of
acid attacks, mainly upon women, according to the Acid
. The scale of such attacks may be
higher. The victims of such attacks are permanently disfigured.
Their chances of finding a partner are taken away, and often they
Zahida Perveen was one Pakistani victim of a razor attack. The
assault blinded her, and also her ears and nose were sliced off.
She had been tied up by her husband as he attacked her. He
suspected that Zahida had been involved in a relationship with his
"He came home from the mosque and accused me of having a bad
character. I told him it was not true, but he didn't believe me.
He caught me and tied me up, and then he started cutting my face.
He never said a word except ‘This is your last night’.”
There are many Muslims who claim that honor violence and honor
killings have nothing to do with Islam, and it is only a
"cultural" tradition. As Islam aims to be a guide for all aspects
of life, the predominance of honor killings in Muslim countries
and societies gives the lie to such claims.
In Part Three, I will show that in the Middle East, the heartland
of Islam, the custom of honor killings is also endemic in local