Killing in the name of honor; thousands of women in the Middle East are murdered each year for crimes such as being raped or having premarital sex, or getting divorced, crimes that bring dishonor to their families. Slowly, people are fighting back, but the murders continue.
In 1995 a young Muslim Jordanian woman named Dalia, met an older, very masculine man named Michael. Michael, a Roman Catholic, was an enlisted man in the Jordanian National Army. Dalia and Michael, who met in a beauty parlor, subsequently began to visit each other frequently. After a short time of courting, Dalia’s brother caught wind of the news that his young daughter, an unwed virgin, was courting with a non-Muslim.
Immediately, the brother (whose name has been withheld) informed his father of the rumors. Having assumed that Dalia had begun sexual relations with this man, it was Dalia’s father who decided that she had brought dishonor to the family.
He waited one evening, callously, for his daughter to come home. When she opened the door to her home, he surprised her with the tip of a six inch steel blade. Her brother watched as his father silently pressed the cold metal into the soft bare skin of his daughter’s chest. In mere seconds he applied enough pressure that the blade slowly became completely buried within the girl’s fragile body.
The murder of his daughter has restored honor to his family. The father was convicted of killing his daughter for honor and received a sentence of three months in jail. The brother who watched and did nothing was not even arrested.
In 2000, a thirteen year old girl was murdered in Jordan by her older brother, Anas. Word got out that his youngest brother had raped her. “I could not stand how people looked at me when I walked on the street,” Anas said. “People were saying that my sister was not pure.”
Less than one week after the rape of his sister took place, Anas confronted his tortured sister. He choked her with a rope, immobilizing her. The younger brother, the one who raped the rapist, then struck his sister repeatedly with an ax while their father observed.
“Our sister’s impurity brought great dishonor to the family,” Anas told me, “She had to die. Now I can walk down the street a proud man knowing that honor has been restored to my family.”
Anas and his brother were sentenced to only five months in jail each for the brutal and premeditated murder of their innocent sister who was only barely a teenager.
To this day, Anas is proud of his deed. During this interview he was in a state of excited bragging, and offered details too awful to print. It speaks great volumes to the level at which this type of action is tolerated in the Islamic world, even in Jordan, a progressive Muslim state.
In Jordan alone, nearly two dozen children are heartlessly slain each year in the name of honor. Out of one hundred annually reported murders in the country, two thirds of them are crimes of honor against women. That’s only the ones that are reported and prosecuted. In addition, there are over one hundred accidental deaths and suicides of both women and girls that are reported each year and are not investigated.
It is embedded in Jordanian society that women are the property of men. Honor killings have been prevalent in the region since the beginning of history, and even a few isolated religious leaders condone the practice of these murders and reinforce the idea that women are indeed property. Changes in such cultural behavior patterns cannot come over night, but they have already begun in Jordan, and the orders come from the highest offices of government in the country.
The nation of Jordan is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which proscribe discrimination based on sex.
The UN Committee on Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination Against Women have repeatedly criticized Jordan for failing to curve honor murders within their borders.
Representatives of the Jordanian government have reluctantly responded positively to international criticism. Before his death in 1999, King Hussein’s mentioning of the problem to his parliament, warning of a, “…dangerous phenomena that remain a source of women's suffering, and which, unfortunately, constitute an inhumane violation of their basic rights.”
His wife, the American-born Islamic-convert Queen Noor, has repeatedly and publicly spoken out against honor killings herself, saying, “This type of violence against women is not consistent with Islam or with our constitution … this area is being reviewed and amendments are being proposed to make these laws more consistent with Islamic law and the constitution.” She added that she has, “Very strong personal feelings as a Muslim, as a woman, as a wife and as a mother about this form of violence and every form of violence against women.”