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Honour Killings


The Global Persecution of Women

Human Rights


Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. ...

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 7.

All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. ...

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 26

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.


Article 5

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:

(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;


“Honour Killings” from UNIFEM, Violence Against Women – Facts and Figures. Downloaded from, 16 Feb. 2007.

In many societies, rape victims, women suspected of engaging in premarital sex, and women accused of adultery have been murdered by their male relatives because the violation of a woman’s chastity is viewed as an affront to the family’s honour.

According to a 2002 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, “honour killings” take place in Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Morocco and other Mediterranean and Gulf countries. It also takes place in countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom within the immigrant communities. It is not only in Islamic countries or communities that this act of violence is prevalent. Brazil is cited as a case in point, where killing is justified to defend the honour of the husband in the case of a wife’s adultery [25].

According to a government report, 4,000 women and men were killed in Pakistan in the name of honour between 1998 and 2003, the number of women being more than double the number of men [26]. In a study of female deaths in Alexandria, Egypt, 47 per cent of the women were killed by a relative after the woman had been raped [27]. In Jordan and Lebanon, 70 to 75 per cent of the perpetrators of these so-called “honour killings” are the women’s brothers [28]. — In Sudan, the UN Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women supported a project to combat “honour killings” in the Nuba Mountains region. The project trained local and religious leaders, women leaders and teachers to become advocates in their communities against “honour killings” and other forms of violence against women. They organized trainings and group discussions, as a result of which “honour killings” were for the first time discussed in public. The project led to positive changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices among community members who increasingly began to regard “honour killings” as a crime, rather than a legitimate means to defend a tribe’s honour.

(25) Radhika Coomaraswamy. Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women. Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Cultural practices in the family that are violent towards women. E/CN.4/2002/93. 31 January 2002. 12.
(26) General Assembly. In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General, 2006. A/61/122/Add.1. 6 July 2006. 40.
(27) Krug et al. 2002. World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva: WHO. 93.
(28) UNIFEM. 2002. Regional Scan, Arab Region.

Jan Strupczewski, “ Experts: Men Distort Religion to Justify ‘Honour’ Killings,” Reuters, 8 Dec. 2004. By

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Men all over the world distort the teachings of Islam and Christianity to justify abusing their wives and daughters, leading to thousands of “honor” killings a year for which courts provide virtual impunity, experts say.

U.N. estimates show that more than 5,000 women are murdered every year in “honor”-related violence, but the real number could be much higher, said experts at an international conference near Stockholm, which ended Wednesday.

Horror stories of women and even girls as young as seven being beheaded, burned to death, maimed, beaten, raped, forced into suicide or mentally abused underscored that patriarchal violence against women pays no heed to religion. In many cases it is rooted in cultural and tribal beliefs.

“Islam as a reason for the honor killings is rubbish,” Nilofar Bakhtiar, adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister on Women’s’ Development, told Reuters.

She blamed such violence in Pakistan on “the feudal tradition, the culture and the tribal system.” She said that men found it “very convenient to say that what they don’t want to do is against Islam and what they want to do is in the name of Islam.”

While most cases are reported in Muslim countries, “honor” violence also occurs among Christian families, delegates said.

“After we got married, Hell started,” a Christian woman from the Middle East, identified only as Maria, said in a video tape.

Beaten and raped for questioning her husband’s business practices, she fled to Sweden when he threatened to sell her into prostitution.

While traditional Islamic Sharia law does impose stricter dress codes on women and stresses their household duties, one Muslim cleric at the conference said the Koran condemned abuse of the weak but its teachings had been distorted over time.

“We must educate imams and young people,” said Imam Abdal Haqq of the Swedish Islamic Society. “We must free ourselves from these honor killings and the ‘Islamophobia’ they create.”


But some experts believe any male-dominated religion, in which God and his prophets or apostles are male figures, creates conditions for the subordination and abuse of women. Predominantly Catholic Poland, although free from “honor killings,” has a problem with violence against women, rooted in the strong influence of the Catholic church on public life,

Polish minister for gender equality Magdalena Sroda said. “Catholicism does not directly support or oppose violence against women. But there are indirect links through culture which is strongly based on religion,” Sroda told Reuters. “It is a structure based on patriarchal domination of God the Father and the less important role of women can be seen for example in the letters of Saint Paul,” she said.

Asma Jahangir, U.N. Special Rapporteur on religious freedom, said many courts condoned patriarchal violence by letting the perpetrators get away with “a slap on the wrist.”

“In 405 documented cases of honor killings in Afghanistan so far this year only 20 arrests were made,” she said.

Zorayha Rahim Sobrany, deputy minister for Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan, said the concept of women’s equality to men was slow to take root, but that progress was being made.

“We need time. We must move step by step. If you go too fast, the reaction is that people close themselves,” she said.

Case Study: "Honour" Killings of Women,”, downloaded from, 10 July 2006.


"Honour" killings of women can be defined as acts of murder in which "a woman is killed for her actual or perceived immoral behavior." (Yasmeen Hassan, "The Fate of Pakistani Women," International Herald Tribune, May 25, 1999.) Such "immoral behavior" may take the form of marital infidelity, refusing to submit to an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, flirting with or receiving phone calls from men, failing to serve a meal on time, or -- grotesquely -- "allowing herself" to be raped. In the Turkish province of Sanliurfa, one young woman's "throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio." (Pelin Turgut, "'Honour' Killings Still Plague Turkish Province," The Toronto Star, May 14, 1998.)

Most "honour" killings of women occur in Muslim countries, the focus of this case study; but it is worth noting that no sanction for such murders is granted in Islamic religion or law. And the phenomenon is in any case a global one. According to Stephanie Nebehay, such killings "have been reported in Bangladesh, Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey and Uganda." Afghanistan, where the practice is condoned under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban movement, can be added to the list, along with Iraq and Iran. (Nebehay, "'Honor Killings' of Women Said on Rise Worldwide," Reuters dispatch, April 7, 2000.)

Focus (1): Pakistan

Pakistan, where "honour" killings are known as karo-kari, is probably the country where such atrocities are most pervasive. Estimating the scale of the phenomenon there, as elsewhere, is made more difficult not only by the problems of data collection in predominantly rural countries, but by the extent to which community members and political authorities collaborate in covering up the atrocities. According to Yasmeen Hassan, author of The Haven Becomes Hell: A Study of Domestic Violence in Pakistan, "The concepts of women as property and honor are so deeply entrenched in the social, political and economic fabric of Pakistan that the government, for the most part, ignores the daily occurrences of women being killed and maimed by their families." (Hassan, "The Fate of Pakistani Women.") Frequently, women murdered in "honour" killings are recorded as having committed suicide or died in accidents.

One of the most notorious "honour" killings of recent years occurred in April 1999, when Samia Imran, a young married woman, "was shot in the office of a lawyer helping her to seek a divorce which her family could never countenance." According to Suzanne Goldenberg,

Samia, 28, arrived at the Lahore law offices of Hina Jilani and Asma Jahangir, who are sisters, on April 6. She had engaged Jilani a few days earlier, because she wanted a divorce from her violent husband. Samia settled on a chair across the desk from the lawyer. Sultana, Samia's mother, entered five minutes later with a male companion. Samia half-rose in greeting. The man, Habib-ur-Rhemna, grabbed Samia and put a pistol to her head. The first bullet entered near Samia's eye and she fell. "There was no scream. There was dead silence. I don't even think she knew what was happening," Jilani said. The killer stood over Samia's body, and fired again. Jilani reached for the alarm button as the gunman and Sultana left. "She never even bothered to look whether the girl was dead."

The aftermath of the murder was equally revealing: "Members of Pakistan's upper house demanded punishment for the two women [lawyers] and none of Pakistan's political leaders condemned the attack. ... The clergy in Peshawar want the lawyers to be put to death" for trying to help Imran. (Suzanne Goldenberg, "A Question of Honor," The Guardian (UK), May 27, 1999.)

According to Goldenberg, "Those who kill for honour [in Pakistan] are almost never punished. In the rare instances [that] cases reach the courts, the killers are sentenced to just two or three years. Hana Jilani [the Jahore lawyer who witnessed Samia Imran's murder] has collected 150 case studies and in only eight did the judges reject the argument that the women were killed for honour. All the other [perpetrators] were let off, or given reduced sentences." (Goldenberg, "A Question of Honour.")

A human-rights report published in March 1999 stated that "honour" killings took the lives of 888 women in the single province of Punjab in 1998 (Hassan, "The Fate of Pakistani Women"). Similar figures were recorded for 1999. In Sindh province, some 300 women died in 1997, according to Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission. (Goldenberg, "A Question of Honour.") It is unknown how many women are maimed or disfigured for life in attacks that fall short of murder. Pamela Constable describes one such case:

Zahida Perveen's head is shrouded in a white cotton veil, which she self-consciously tightens every few moments. But when she reaches down to her baby daughter, the veil falls away to reveal the face of one of Pakistan's most horrific social ills, broadly known as "honour" crimes. Perveen's eyes are empty sockets of unseeing flesh, her earlobes have been sliced off, and her nose is a gaping, reddened stump of bone. Sixteen months ago, her husband, in a fit of rage over her alleged affair with a brother-in-law, bound her hands and feet and slashed her with a razor and knife. She was three months pregnant at the time. "He came home from the mosque and accused me of having a bad character," the tiny, 32-year-old woman murmured as she awaited a court hearing ... "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." (Constable, "The Price of 'Honour'," The Gazette (Montreal), May 22, 2000.)

Perveen's husband stated in court that "What I did was wrong, but I am satisfied. I did it for my honour and prestige." Often burning or scarring with acid are the preferred weapons of the men committing such crimes. "The Progressive Women's Association, which assists attack victims, tracked 3,560 women who were hospitalized after being attacked at home with fire, gasoline or acid between 1994 and 1999," according to Constable. About half the victims died. Lawyer and women's activist Nahida Mahbooba Elahi states that "We deal with these cases every day, but I have seen very few convictions. The men say the wife didn't obey their orders, or was having relations with someone else. The police often say it is a domestic matter and refuse to pursue the case. Some judges even justify it and do not consider it murder." (Constable, "The Price of 'Honour.'") Such crimes are also rife in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, where some 2,200 women are disfigured every year in acid attacks by jealous or estranged men. (Ellen Goodman, "How Long Before We Take the Honor out of Killing?," The Washington Post [in the Guardian Weekly, April 6-12, 2000.)

In August 1999, an international furore erupted when the Pakistani Senate rejected a resolution by former Prime Minister Benazhir Butto to condemn "honour" killings in the country. (See Zaffer Abbas, "Pakistan Fails to Condemn 'Honour' Killings", BBC Online, August 3, 1999.) In April 2000, the head of the Pakistani military regime, General Pervez Musharraf, pledged that his government would take strong measures to curb "honour" killings. "Such acts do not find a place in our religion or law," Musharraf stated. "Killing in the name of honour is murder, and it will be treated as such." Most observers were skeptical, however, that Musharraf's words would be followed up by committed actions. (See "Honour Killings Now Seen As Murder", The Sydney Morning Herald [from The Telegraph (UK)], April 24, 2000.)

While the victims of Pakistani "honour" killings are overwhelmingly female, tradition dictates that males involved in the "crimes" should face death as well. But the accused women are standardly killed first, giving men a chance to flee retribution. Moreover, targeted men can escape death by paying compensation to the family of the female victim, leading to an "'honour killing industry' involving tribespeople, police and tribal mediators," which "provides many opportunities to make money, [or] obtain a woman in compensation," according to Amnesty International. The organization also states: "Reports abound about men who have killed other men in murders not connected with honour issues who then kill a woman of their own family ... to camouflage the initial murder as an honour killing." (Amnesty International, "Pakistan: Honour Killings of Girls and Women", September 1999.)

[Note: For more information on "honour" killings in Pakistan, contact the International Network for the Rights of Female Victims in Pakistan, P.O. Box 17202, Louisville, KY 40217, USA; e-mail:]

Focus (2): Jordan

In Jordan, "honour" killings are sanctioned by law. According to Article 340 of the criminal code, "A husband or a close blood relative who kills a woman caught in a situation highly suspicious of adultery will be totally exempt from sentence." Article 98, meanwhile, guarantees a lighter sentence for male killers of female relatives who have committed an "act which is illicit in the eyes of the perpetrator." Julian Borger notes that "in practice, once a murder has been judged an 'honour killing,' the usual sentence is from three months to one year." (Julian Borger, "In Cold Blood," Manchester Guardian Weekly, November 16, 1997. See also "Four Men Sentenced to Year or Less for Brutal Jordan Honour Killings," Agence France-Presse dispatch, July 31, 1999; the perpetrators included a 19-year-old man, Hussein Suleiman, who "was accused of driving three times over his six-month-pregnant unmarried sister in a pick-up truck, despite her denials of immoral behaviour and pleas for help.") Ironically, as Borger notes, this legislation is "the result of Western influence in the Middle East," having arisen "out of a fusion between Egyptian tribal custom and the Napoleonic Code in 1810, after the French legions took Cairo." (Borger, "In Cold Blood.")

In a particularly tragic case in 1994, a handicapped 18-year-old girl, who had already served six months in jail (!) for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, was killed by her 17-year-old brother. A neighbour was quoted as saying the family "seemed relaxed, happy and satisfied after announcing the news that she was killed ..." (Rana Husseini, "18-year-old killed for 'family honor,'" The Jordan Times, September 19, 1994.) Manchester Guardian Weekly reporter Julian Borger described another typical case in 1997:

One morning this summer, Rania Arafat's two aunts came to take her for a walk. They told their 21-year-old niece they had arranged a secret meeting with her boyfriend. She strolled with them through Gwiesmeh, a poor suburb where Amman's concrete sprawl peters out into desert. When the three women reached a patch of open land, the aunts suddenly stepped aside, leaving Arafat standing alone. She was shot four times in the back of the head at close range and once in the forehead. The gunman was her 17-year-old brother, Rami. ... Arafat's crime was to refuse an arranged marriage and elope with her Iraqi boyfriend. Rami is in jail, but is unlikely to be sentenced to more than a few months, especially as he is a minor, which is almost certainly why he was given the role of executioner. (Borger, "In Cold Blood.")

The Jordan Times estimated in 1994 that between 28 and 60 Jordanian women -- the difference between official police figures and commonly-cited estimates of the actual number -- die in "honour" killings every year (Rana Husseini, "Murder in the Name of Honour," October 6-7, 1994.) The death-toll may even run into the hundreds, with hundreds more women in perpetual hiding, fearful for their lives.

One positive sign is the staunch opposition to the practice displayed by the regime of King Abdullah II, who took power after the death of his father King Hussein in 1999. "The king has backed legislation to put honor killings on a par with other murders and has encouraged public support to change the law. ... The fact that the royal palace has taken such a stance has translated into tougher sentencing and investigations of honor killings by the courts and police. The king's support has also encouraged activist groups to speak out more strongly against honor killings." (Stephen Franklin, "Jordan Begins to Punish Practice of 'Honor Killings'", The Chicago Tribune, September 1, 2000.)

Such efforts continue to encounter staunch resistance from conservative elements, however. In early February 2000, the Jordanian parliament "took only three minutes to reject a draft law calling for the cancellation of Article 340." The country's leading political party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), denounced the draft law as an effort to "destroy our Islamic, social and family values, by stripping the man from his humanity, [and] not allowing him to get angry when he is surprised by [i.e., surprises] his wife committing adultery." Ten days later, in an unprecedented action, some 5,000 protesters flooded the streets of Amman demanding the repeal of the penal code provision allowing "honour" killings. The protesters included "Prince Ali, who is King Abdullah's brother and his personal guard, as well as Prince Gazi, the king's advisor for tribal affairs."

Focus (3): Palestine/Israel

"Honour" killings are also regularly reported in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the Canadian women's magazine Chatelaine, Sally Armstrong described the fate of one victim:

Flirting was a costly mistake for Samera. She was only 15 years old when her neighbours in Salfeet, a small Palestinian town on the West Bank, saw her chatting with a young man without a male chaperone. Her family's honour was at stake; a marriage was quickly arranged. By 16, she had a child. Five years later, when she could stand the bogus marriage no longer, she bolted. In a place where gossip is traded like hard currency, and a girl's chastity is as public as her name, Samera's actions were considered akin to making a date with the devil. According to the gossips, she went from man to man as she moved from place to place. Finally, last July [1999], her family caught up with her. A few days later she was found stuffed down a well. Her neck had been broken. Her father told the coroner she'd committed suicide. But everyone on the grapevine knew that Samera was a victim of honour killing, murdered by her own family because her actions brought dishonour to their name. ... Here in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority law allows honour killing. Samera's parents are walking the streets of their neighbourhood with their heads held high, relieved that the family honour has been restored. (Armstrong, "Honour's Victims", Chatelaine, March 2000.)

Twenty-two other women died in the Palestinian territories in the same year as Samera. The killings often spill over into neighbouring Israel, as with the killing of "40-year-old Ittihaj Hassoon" near Haifa in 1995:

On Oct. 16, 1995, ... Hassoon got out of a car with her younger brother on a main street of Daliat al Carmel, a small Israeli Druze village ... Over 10 years before, Ittihaj had committed the unpardonable sin of marrying a non-Druze man. Now, after luring her back to her home village with promises that all was forgiven and her safety assured, her brother finally had the chance to publicly cleanse the blot on the family name with the spilling of her blood. In broad daylight in front of witnesses, he pulled out a knife and began to stab her. The witnesses quickly swelled to a crowd of more than 100 villagers who -- approving, urging him on -- chanted, ululated, danced in the street. Within minutes, Hassoon lay dead on the ground while the crowd cheered her killer, "Hero, hero! You are a real man!" (Suzanne Zima, "When Brothers Kill Sisters," The Gazette [Montreal], April 17, 1999. See also Walter Rodgers, "Honor Killings: A Brutal Tribal Custom", CNN World News, December 7, 1995.)

According to Zima, "Ibrahim had agonized over his decision: 'She is my sister -- my flesh and blood -- I am a human being. I didn't want to kill her. I didn't want to be in this situation. They [community members] push[ed] me to make this decision. I know what they expect from me. If I do this, they look at me like a hero, a clean guy, a real man. If I don't kill my sister, the people would look at me like I am a small person.'"

Who is responsible?

"Honour" killings of women (and occasionally their male "partners in crime") reflect longstanding patriarchal-tribal traditions. In a "bizarre duality," women are viewed "on the one hand as fragile creatures who need protection and on the other as evil Jezebels from whom society needs protection." Patriarchal tradition "casts the male as the sole protector of the female so he must have total control of her. If his protection is violated, he loses honour because either he failed to protect her or he failed to bring her up correctly." (Armstrong, "Honour's Victims.") Clearly, the vulnerability of women around the world to this type of violence will only be reduced when these patriarchal mindsets are challenged and effectively confronted. As many of the examples cited in this case study indicate, state authorities frequently ignore their obligation to prosecute "honour" killings. They should be viewed as "co-conspirators" in such crimes, and held accountable by organizations such as the United Nations. The typical "honour" killer is a man, usually the father, husband, or brother of the victim. Frequently teenage brothers are selected by their family or community to be the executioners, because their sentences will generally be lighter than those handed down to adults (as was the case with the killing of Rania Arafat in Jordan, cited above). "Talking and writing about this atrocity is a good start," wrote Marina Sanchez-Rashid in a letter to The Jordan Times, "but I believe that action to start treating and judging the men who commit these crimes as the first degree murderers that they are, as well as to protect the victims as they deserve to be protected, is needed as soon as possible." (Quoted in Patrick Goodenough, "Middle East Women Campaign Against 'Family Honor' Killings," Conservative News Service, March 8, 1999.) As with witch-hunts, however, "honour" killings also need to be viewed from a broader societal perspective; they derive from expectations of female behaviour that are held and perpetuated by men and women alike. Women's role has often been underappreciated. Occasionally, they participate directly in the killings. More frequently, they play a leading role in preparing the ground. In Palestine, for example, the anthropologist Ilsa Glaser has noted that "women acted as instigators and collaborators in these murders, unleashing a torrent of gossip that spurred the accusations." (Quoted in The Calgary Herald, April 20, 2000.) Jordanian women running for parliament have also been "reluctant to break the taboo" on condemning and prosecuting "honour" killings; one told the Manchester Guardian Weekly that "This is our tradition. We do not want to encourage women who break up the family." (Borger, "In Cold Blood.") In the Ramle district of Israel, police commander Yifrach Duchovey lamented his inability to secure the cooperation of community members in investigating "honour" killings: "Even other women -- the mothers -- won't cooperate with us. Sometimes the women co-operate with the men who commit the murders. ... A woman may think it is OK -- maybe she thinks the victim deserves it." (Quoted in Zima, "When Brothers Kill Sisters.")


“Man asks for lighter sentence for ‘honour’ murder,” STOP! Honour Killings, posted 10 Nov. 2006.

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada declined an invitation on Thursday to consider whether Muslim cultural and religious beliefs in ''family honour'' should be taken into account as justification for receiving a lighter sentence for killing an unfaithful wife.

The court refused to hear the appeal of Adi Abdul Humaid, a devout Muslim from the United Arab Emirates, who admitted to stabbing Aysar Abbas to death with a steak knife on a visit to Ottawa in 1999.

In an application filed in the Supreme Court, Humaid's lawyer, Richard Bosada, argued Humaid was provoked by his wife's claim she cheated on him, an insult so severe in the Muslim faith it deprived him of self-control.

The concept of ''family honour'' in the Muslim culture means a man is disgraced if his wife has an affair, said the application.

Humaid was convicted of first-degree murder and lost his appeal at the Ontario Court of Appeal, which concluded his defence lacked an ''air of reality.''

The Supreme Court, by convention, did not give reasons for refusing to consider the case, but it normally only takes on appeals it considers to be of national importance.

Under Canadian law, a rarely used, controversial defence called provocation can allow intentional killings to be reduced to the lesser crime of manslaughter if the accused proves the crime was committed in the heat of passion arising from a ''wrongful act or insult'' that would cause an ordinary person to lose control.

Bosada said the high court should take on the case to provide guidance to lower courts ''in this multi-cultural Canadian society.''

Humaid contends his Muslim beliefs should be a factor because he killed his wife after she hinted she was having an affair with a business associate.

Abbas was 46 years old when she died of 23 stab wounds to the throat in the fall of 1999, while she and her husband were visiting their son at the University of Ottawa.

Humaid testified at his trial he blacked out after hearing his wife's confession and he lost all self-control.

The Ontario Crown, in a Supreme Court court submission, maintains the murder was pre-meditated and Humaid, who had an affair with the family maid, wanted out of his marriage. Humaid also stood to gain financially from the death of his wife, a successful engineer who controlled most of the family wealth.

After having an affair himself, Humaid's argument that he deserves a lighter sentence because he was provoked by his wife's insult ''is irreconcilable with the principal of gender equality'' enshrined in the Charter of Rights, says the Crown's submission.

An American scholar, Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, testified at Humaid's trial that many Islamic societies permit men to punish wives suspected of adultery and sometimes even kill them. Under Islamic law, punishment for adultery is usually flogging or stoning, Ayoub said. In some Muslim cultures and rural areas, unfaithful women can be killed.

But Ayoub acknowledged under cross-examination that Muslims in Canada should not be able to take the law into their own hands when they suspect their wives of infidelity.

Humaid and Abbas were Canadian citizens who lived in Dubai in 1999.

Joanne Payton, “Honour Killing Suspected in Ottawa,” Stop! Honour Killings! 7 Oct. 2006.

Hasilbullah Sadiqi turned himself in to police on September 23, after the fatal shooting of his sister Khatera and the wounding of her fiancé Feroz Mangal on September 19, as they sat together in a car parked at an Ottawa shopping center. Khatera had been living with her fiancé and his family, and the speculation is that her murder was an honor killing.

Honor killings among immigrant families in Canada occur, but they are rare. The most notorious recent case was that of a Sikh family in British Columbia. The father was convicted of murdering his 17-year-old daughter because of her relationship with a boy of European origin.

While much is made of the Middle Eastern and South Asian connection to honor killing in the present-day world, many purely Western domestic murders and murder-suicides can also be described as honor killings where female infidelity is either actual or suspected.

Honor killings need to be seen as an instrument to control women, who become the property of the family. When a woman violates the code, it casts a shadow on the reputation of the family which is removed by the murder. While relatively rare in immigrant families in Canada, other ways of controlling women are employed. According to Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, in too many cases families are sending daughters back to their homelands, into forced marriages, as a way of countering liberal Western behavior.

”Film probes death in an arranged Sikh marriage,” The Star, 23 Aug. 2001.

VANCOUVER (CP) - She was a stunning young woman from Canada whose marriage to the man of her dreams thousands of miles away led to her murder.

The plight of Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu from Maple Ridge, B.C., made headlines across the country and in India's northern state of Punjab, where her body was dumped in a canal after her throat was slit.

Sidhu's death and the taboo of marrying outside accepted norms is explored in the documentary To Love, Honour and Obey, airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on CTV.

The tragic end to her life has also publicized the centuries-old Indian tradition of arranged marriages that pits women raised in Canada against their parents' old-world views of honour, prestige and the caste system.

Sidhu's murder and the documentary will also respark discussion at a gathering next week of young Canadian-born Sikhs who say the woman's demise wrongly points a finger at Sikhism.

Jagdeep Gupta, director of the West Coast Sikh Youth Alliance, said he will bring up the topic of Sidhu's death at the week-long camp of 100 youths aged 10 to 24 to teach that Sikhism denounces the caste system.

''There's a distinct difference between Punjabi culture and what Sikhism actually says,'' said Gupta, 23, who will enter medical school at the University of British Columbia next month.

Sidhu, 25, went to India with her mother soon after graduating from high school because the family wanted to find her a suitable mate.

While there, Sidhu, known as Jassi to her friends, met a poor auto rickshaw driver well below the wealthy means of her family in Canada.

She later returned to India and secretly married the man of her choice, a decision she would pay for with her life.

Indian police say Sidhu was murdered last June 8 by hired thugs because she refused to abide by her family's wishes to annul the marriage.

There was also another reason for her family's disapproval: Sidhu had defied ancient ritual by marrying a man who was from her mother's village.

Punjabis believe that's akin to marrying a relative because people who live in the same village are considered family members.

Police in India are working to have Sidhu's mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and the mother's brother, Surjit Singh Badesha, both from Maple Ridge, extradited to face conspiracy-related charges in India. The family denies any involvement in the killing.

Audrey Mehler, who directed the documentary, said its aim is to shed light on arranged marriages in Punjabi culture, which is in the throes of a revolution between women conforming to tradition and having a say in who they will marry.

The film includes interviews with Indian police and Sidhu's husband, who was left for dead by a gang of men who kidnapped his wife before she was killed.

Canadian and Indian women involved in the cultural clash of old versus new values are also interviewed.

Gupta, a director of the Sikh youth alliance, said stories like Sidhu's highlight the difference between practising Sikhs and cultural Sikhs, Punjabis who call themselves Sikhs but don't follow the tenets of the religion.

Sikhism was born in Punjab, the so-called bread basket of India, from where a large influx of people, including Sidhu's parents, immigrated to Canada in the 1970s.

However, the Punjabi community isolated itself from the mainstream and retained its rigid beliefs about caste in their adopted homeland while such beliefs began to erode in India as people became more educated, Gupta said.

He said the caste system had an iron-clad grip on India for hundreds of years and that its attempted abolition was a founding principle of Sikhism five centuries ago.

The gurus of the religion even went so far as to eliminate people's last names so no one would be discriminated against because of their family background, he said.

Surnames were replaced with Kaur for women, which means princess, and Singh for men, meaning lion, a practice that remains to this day. Last names returned to usage in the late 1800s, Gupta said. Sikhism's teachings of karma and a good work ethic have stuck with Punjabis, but the belief in a caste system has also crept back into the culture over the years, he said.

Although most Punjabi families in Canada are now more apt to introduce a potential mate to their daughter and give her the choice to marry that person, others abide by old standards.

There's nothing in Sikh scriptures about not marrying someone from one's mother's village, something Sidhu's family disapproved of, Gupta said.

Sidhu was actually following the tenets of Sikhism by choosing to marry a man regardless of caste or class, he added.

University students across North America have formed groups such as the

Sikh youth alliance to educate young Punjabis about Sikhism because neither their parents nor the temples are passing on teachings or translating scriptures, Gupta said.


"Denmark: Jail for 'honour' killing," Women in the Middle East, Vol. 44, July to August 2006.

A court in Denmark has jailed a Pakistani man for life for ordering the murder of his 18-year-old daughter. Ghazala Khan was shot dead two days after her wedding, because the family opposed her choice of husband. She died and her husband was wounded last September at a train station in Slagelse, a village west of Copenhagen.

The court also set 16-year jail terms for Mr Abbas' older son Akhtar Khan - who admitted shooting his sister - and two uncles. The life sentence on the father, Ghulum Abbas, is commuted automatically to 16 years under Danish law.

Five other relatives and friends from the Pakistani community in Denmark who had helped track down the bride and her new husband received sentences of between eight and 14 years. Two of them, an aunt and another uncle who are still Pakistani nationals, face deportation after their sentences.


"Europe Tackles ‘Honour Killings,’” BBC News, 22 June 2204.

A taskforce to examine "honour killings" was launched last year

European police are meeting in The Hague to look at ways of tackling the rising phenomenon of "honour killings".

They aim to set up a pan-European unit to combat the killings and crack down on related issues such as trafficking.

Police are re-opening murder files related to families of Turkish, Middle Eastern, Asian, Arabic and Eastern European origin over the past 10 years.

Many victims of "honour killings" are women involved in relationships their family felt brought dishonour on them.

Experts say such killings are on the rise in Europe, but as the issue remains largely hidden from public view, exact numbers are unknown.

As the conference continues at The Hague, a Swedish representative is expected to highlight the case of a young woman called Fadime.

A 26-year-old Kurd, Fadime was shot dead two years ago near Stockholm, allegedly by her father because of her relationship with a Swedish man.

The murder triggered calls for urgent action to protect young immigrants who fall out with their families.

Contract killers

In England and Wales police are reinvestigating more than 100 murders they suspect could be honour killings.

Detectives from London's Metropolitan police are examining murder files going back 10 years - 52 in the capital and 65 in other parts of England and Wales.

Many of the female victims were from South Asian communities.

Police say some of the murders were carried out by contract killers hired by the families.

They also believe that so-called "bounty hunters" were involved - people, including women, who make a business out of tracking down victims.

The Metropolitan police also say that two women a week are reporting to them in circumstances in which they may be in danger.

Last September the UK police announced new research into the culture surrounding honour killings.

The undertaking followed the conviction of Abdalla Yones, a Kurdish Muslim, for the murder of his 16-year-old daughter Heshu after she formed a relationship with a man of whom he disapproved.

Fighting loopholes

At the time, Commander Andy Baker, head of the Metropolitan Police's Serious Crime Directorate and the chair of the new strategic taskforce, said the force needed to understand why the killings took place.

He said police had been "unaware" and "ignorant" of crimes that were going on.

The police are concerned about the high proportion of honour killings which end in convictions for manslaughter rather than murder, the BBC's crime correspondent Neil Bennett reports from The Hague.

The police have urged the government to investigate possible loopholes in the law - and the move has been widely supported by crime experts.

"There has to be real commitment to bring to justice those who perpetrate such heinous crimes," said Dr Asia Gill, who advises Scotland Yard on the issue.


” Germany: ‘Honour killing’ brother jailed ,” Women in the Middle East, No. 43, May and June 2006.

Dozens of women have died in "honour killings" in recent years. A 19-year-old Turkish man has been jailed for nine years and three months by a German court for shooting his sister in a so-called "honour killing".

Ayhan Surucu had confessed to shooting his sister Hatun Surucu, 23, at a bus stop in a Berlin suburb last year. Two other brothers were cleared of charges of conspiring to murder her.

Prosecutors said the brothers felt dishonoured by their sister, who lived on her own with her son after leaving a cousin she had been forced to marry. The death of the 23-year-old shocked Germany and led to street protests by Turkish women.

Her killer, Ayhan Surucu, had told the court he shot his sister because he disapproved of her lifestyle and her morals, but added that he regretted his actions. Hatun Surucu was the sixth victim of honour killings among Berlin's 200,000-strong Turkish community in as many months. The German police listed 45 cases between 1996 and 2004 - with 13 in Berlin.

She had been married to her cousin eight years before in an arranged marriage, but had then run away - taking her five-year-old son with her. The killing led to a wide debate in Germany about honour killings.

Great Britain

“Honour killing claims life of six-year-old,” Daily Mail, 5 October 2006.

A six-year-old girl was killed in an arson attack on her family home by men who disapproved of a relationship her older brother was having with a teenager, a court heard today.

Alisha Begum, the youngest of 12 children in her Bangladeshi family, became the innocent victim of an attempt to warn her sibling off seeing the 15-year-old when a blaze swept through her Birmingham home earlier this year, prosecutors said.

Two men went on trial today at Birmingham Crown Court accused of her murder and the attempted murder of nine of her relatives who escaped from the property in Bayswater Road, Aston, during the fire.

Hussain Ahmed, a 26-year-old dentist, and Daryll Tuzzio, 18, both from Birmingham, deny all the charges, including an additional count of arson with intent to endanger life.

Opening the case, Adrian Redgrave, prosecuting, said: "One hears of so-called honour killings though one may wonder how by any stretch of the imagination there can be any honour in what happened here, resulting in the death of a six-year-old child."

The jury heard that Alisha's brother Abdul Hamid, 21, started a relationship with Ahmed's 15-year-old sister Meherun Khanum towards the end of last year.

Mr Redgrave said their relationship was discovered by her family, who disapproved. Twenty-four hours before the fatal fire, the prosecution said Mr Hamid received a threatening phone call from a man who warned him: "Don't f*** with my sister or I'll break your b******s."

Shortly before midnight on March 10, Mr Redgrave said a masked figure burst through the front door of the family home and sprayed petrol in the hallway before lighting a match.

The blaze spread up the stairs and took hold so quickly that family members, some of whom had been asleep, were forced to jump out of an upstairs window, he said.

Alisha, who was in her bunk bed at the time, did not escape. She was discovered by firefighters who searched the property and died at Birmingham Children's Hospital the following day. Mr Redgrave described the attack as "an act of pure wickedness".

He said: "The reason for the setting fire to this house containing that family was clearly, we submit, to get at Abdul Hamid because he had formed this unauthorised relationship with the sister of the first accused (Ahmed)."

Mr Redgrave said two further men - Ahmed's brother Mohammed Foaz Ahmed and a close friend Jabed Ali - were wanted in connection with the incident but had subsequently disappeared. He said: "The first defendant (Ahmed) directed this attack.

"There is no evidence to put him at the scene of the attack but the person who organises, directs others to commit a crime, is as responsible for and guilty of that crime as those who carry it out. Those who carried it out were Mohammed Foaz Ahmed, Daryll Tuzzio and Jabed Ali."

Members of Alisha's family, including her father and some of her sisters, were in court to hear CCTV, mobile phone, fingerprint and eye-witness evidence put before the jury.

Ahmed, of Quinton Road West, Harborne, and Tuzzio, of Sandringham Road, Perry Barr, sat quietly throughout the opening. The trial, which is being heard before Mr Justice Field, is due to last two weeks.

"U.K: Two jailed for life over brutal honour killing," Women in the Middle East, Vol 44, July to August 2006.

A man and a 17-year-old youth were given life sentences today for the "brutal" honour killing of a female relative who had enraged her Pakistani family over her marriage plans. Samaira Nazir, a 25-year-old graduate and recruitment consultant, tried to escape her family home after rowing with her family over her plans to wed Salman Mohammed, an Afghan asylum seeker.

The Old Bailey heard that as she tried to run away, her brother Azhar Nazir, 30, dragged her back into the house and she met a "horrific death". Nazir and Mohammed were convicted by a jury last month. Nazir, a greengrocer, received a minimum term of 20 years. Mohammed was given a minimum tariff of 10 years.

Judge Christopher Moss told the pair: "This was a barbaric crime. She suffered a brutal, gruesome and horrific death ... Samaira Nazir was an accomplished young woman who was murdered by members of her family because she insisted on marrying someone deemed unsuitable." The court heard the victim's businessman father, who had also been arrested and bailed over the killing, fled to Pakistan and was claimed by the family to have died there.

During the trial, the jury heard that her brother had claimed her boyfriend was after the "family's money". In one telephone call to Salman Mohammed he had told him: "We can get you anywhere if you get married, even if you are not in this country."

The couple had last seen each other about an hour before Ms Nazir was killed when they tried to talk to her mother at a relative's home.

Outside court today, Nazir Afzal, area director of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Samaira was murdered because she loved the wrong person, in her family's eyes. In that sense, it was an 'honour killing' to protect the perceived status of the family, to mark their disapproval."

Sawson Salim, "UK: Banaz was another victim of honour killings," Women in the Middle East, No. 43, May & June 2006.

[The] remains of the body of Banaz, a missing 20-year-old Kurdish woman, was discovered in a suitcase during a search of a property in Birmingham. Ari Babkir Aga is appearing before magistrates in London charged with murdering his niece, Banaz Mahmod Babakir Agha. Sixteen other people were arrested and released on police bail while inquiries continue.

Banaz, Mahmoud Babakir Agha, disappeared on January 23, 2006. A woman of Kurdish origin, she walked out of her arranged marriage of three years last June when she returned to live with her family in Mitcham, south London. Banaz was last seen alive on Cricket Green in Mitcham. She had not withdrawn any money from her bank account and was not carrying any spare clothes or even her passport.

All the signs led us to honour killing but there was no proof. Her body was found after three months.

Honour killing is one of the most horrific crimes that have spread in the Middle East and Europe in the last few decades. In many countries, namely Iraq, they legally justify killing of women under the pretext of defending family “honour”. Everyday these laws and resolutions are advocated in media, schools, mosques and the state’s institutions. Once a crime is justified [as a] killing crime, the perpetrators are normally allowed to go free. In this way they create the climate where the most ruthless and inhumane crimes against women are accepted by society. These incidents are repeated in Europe! We should stop honour killings every where, we should stop honour killings in the UK.

We urge any one who has information on possible honour killings and disappearance of young women in Middle Eastern communities to step forward. We should stop honour killings before another victim disappears. We need the support of all women’s rights and human rights organisations and authorities to end this crime.

Sawsan Salim, Co-ordinator of Kurdistan Refugee Women’s Organisation

Theodore Dalrymple, “Reader, She Married Him – Alas,” Oh, to be in England, Spring 1995, Vol. 5, No. 2.

A pleasant and intelligent Sikh girl, aged 18, was asked by her family to accompany her aged grandmother back home in a taxi, in which she was then to return. The taxi firm was run by Sikhs, who not only acted as transporters of the public but as vigilantes and guardians of their community's honor. The driver in this case reported to the girl's brother on her arrival home that, during the return journey through a neighborhood inhabited mainly by Muslims, she had waved to a Muslim boy. The brother, fearing the worst, called her into his room and asked whether she had in fact done so. She denied it, but he did not believe her. He took out a baseball bat (practically no baseball is played in Britain, but plenty of bats are sold as weapons and lie detectors) and tried to beat what he considered the truth out of her. She later appeared in my hospital with a badly fractured skull, but maintained to the police on her recovery that she had been assaulted on her doorstep by person or persons unknown.

A young Sikh boy formed a liaison with a Muslim girl. He was an outgoing lad, a good student and fine athlete, who represented his school and his city at several different sports. He used to meet his girlfriend clandestinely, in the flat of a young Muslim friend of his—or someone whom he had considered his friend. The friend, however, telephoned the girl's brothers and asked how long they were going to allow their family to be dishonored.

On his way to his evening work, the Sikh boy was attacked with machetes by the girl's three brothers. They knocked him to the ground, threatened to cut his throat next time, and hacked repeatedly at both his arms. This took place within a hundred yards of my hospital's main entrance. He had a compound fracture of his humerus, and so many of his tendons were cut that he will never recover full use of his hands and arms.

The three brothers were duly caught and tried. Unfortunately, they were granted bail, and when it was clear that the trial was certain to result in a verdict of guilty, they failed to attend the court and were sentenced in absentia to long terms of imprisonment. My patient went into hiding in a city 400 miles away, fearing to leave his flat there and sleeping always with a knife under his pillow. He had received information from a reliable source that the three brothers were still looking for him and would kill him if they found him. Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the story is that the three brothers were not regarded as delinquents by other members of their community but as having behaved in a thoroughly honorable and decent way. That they had broken the law in pursuing their vendetta, thus risking imprisonment, only added to their honor: they were spirited boys to be proud of.


During the year, honor killings continued to be a problem, especially in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana. Human rights organizations estimated that up to 10 percent of all killings in those two states were honor killings; however, the true number may be much higher. In August Delhi police arrested Jai Singh and four others for the alleged honor killing of his daughter, Sunita. Singh was accused of hiring the four to kill his daughter for living separately from her husband. At year's end, the five were in jail awaiting trial.


Azam Kamguian, ”Crimes of Honour: Women’s Tragedy under Islam and Tribal Customs,” Committee to Defend Women’s Rights in the Middle East,” downloaded from, 8 Oct. 2006.

Every year, in countries in the Arab world, Turkey, Iran and some south and central Asian countries, many hundreds of women who do not accept the tribal and Islamic traditions; refuse forced marriages; marry according to their will; or live independently, are murdered by their family members, to save the 'honour' of the family. The practice is widespread in countries under the influence of Islam, and is known as honour killing. Women, who have brought 'shame' to family's 'honour', are sentenced to death by family courts and the sentence is usually carried out by male members of the family. Under special laws, the 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. They say that they are merely following the directives set down in their Islamic beliefs.

The tragedy of women living under Islam and tribal customs is documented in news, reports, articles and documentary films in recent years. "Crimes of Honour", is a recent documentary which was broadcast on Cinemax in honour of the International Women's Day. This documentary exposes some of the hideous truth of honour killings in Jordan.

In "Crime of Honour", the narrator walks viewers through the tragic lives of three Jordanian women, brutally murdered by their own family members. It also includes interviews with three women activists who try to enlighten the society about honour killings and protect women's rights. These women are Rania Husseini, Asma Kheder and Nadera Shalhoub - Kevorkian who are campaigning by writing, helping and protecting women in different ways.

One of the most tragic stories is that of 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 him, 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.

This documentary is heart- wrenching. It includes video clips of scenes of stoning of two victims in Tehran, Iran by the Islamic Republic, the Islamic State of Iran. The two people, presumably a young woman and her lover, huddle in the middle of a street covered only in a white sheet and stoned until death.

Life of Amal, another Arab woman and victim of honour killing is also documented in this film. Amal 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."

Cases of rape is also described where women are punished even when they are the victims of rape, not only by strangers, but also by their own fathers and brothers. In the case documented in this film, the family believed that Kefaya, their daughter, the victim, who was raped by her own brother, deserved to die, because of the intense humiliation they experienced as a result of neighbors' gossip.

"Crimes of Honour" walks viewers to the deeper layers of the tragedy of women's lives. It goes to the darkness of the minds of killers, and to the society that condones this cruelty against women. It is powerful and emotional and exposes some of the realities of women's tragedy in Jordan. However, despite the killers' outright reference to Islam and the Koran, it denies that this inhumane practice has anything to do with religions and Islam. While the Koran is full of guidelines on how to control women's sexuality, and Islamic Law; Sharia, rules harsh punishments including lashing and stoning to death for women's voluntary sexual activities, this denial is nothing but an apology for Islamic misogynism.

In Jordan, the "plea of honour" is recognized as a legitimate defense. After failed efforts, and active campaigns launched against honour killings by women rights activists and progressive forces; as a result of a legislative amendment to Article 340 of the Penal Code, perpetrators of honour crimes are not exempt from the death penalty, anymore. Although, judges are still allowed to commute the sentences of the convicted. Article 97 and 98, which reduce the sentence of crimes committed in a fit of fury and are frequently referenced in honour crimes cases, were unaffected by the amendments.

Death penalty is not the solution to honour killings, and it doesn't stop women killings and practicing misogyny. The only effective strategy to abolish this rotten anti - woman practice is to safeguard and advance women's rights and status; by fighting against Islamic, patriarchal and tribal traditions; by separating religion from the state; and by forming secular and egalitarian governments in the region.

”Jordanian Parliament Supports Impunity For Honor Killings,” Human Rights Watch, 27 Jan. 2000.

Human Rights Watch today condemned the failure of the Jordanian Lower House to end impunity for men who murder female family members in the name of preserving the "honor" of the family.

"For too long, men in Jordan have been getting away with murder," said Regan Ralph, executive director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. "This vote is a slap in the face of Jordanian women who have been organizing to stop the killings." Since August 1999, women's and human rights activists have gathered over 13,000 signatures calling for an end to honor killings. An estimated 25-30 women are killed in Jordan every year to protect family "honor."

This is the second time in two months that the Jordanian Lower House has failed to abolish Article 340 of the Penal Code, which provides for lenient sentences when men kill their female relatives in the name of "honor." Parliamentarians justified their defense of honor killings as protection of Jordan's traditional and moral values against western influences. The Upper House last month had agreed to abolish Article 340. The Upper and Lower Houses will meet for a final vote before the end of the parliamentary session in March.

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 criticized yesterday Jordan's performance on "honor" crimes.

Human Rights Watch further called on the Jordanian parliament to provide protection for women threatened by their family members on the basis of "honor," and to abolish other laws that discriminate against women, including the rape law, citizenship law, passport law, and social security law.

”Jordanian Law Excuses Murder: Jordanian Government Must End Impunity and Improve Protection for Women,” Human Rights Watch, 8 November 1999.

(08/11/99) -- In a letter to Jordanian Prime Minister Abdur-Ra'uf Rawabdeh released today, Human Rights Watch condemned the "honor killings" which continue to take place in Jordan. The international monitoring group cited the killing of eleven women thus far in 1999 in the name of "family honor" in Jordan and criticized Jordan's government for policies that minimize the gravity of such crimes--and allow the perpetrators to go free.

"Women are being killed by family members who find their behavior improper. Jordanian law excuses these murders as somehow justified--which completely devalues women's lives," said Regan E. Ralph, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights division.

An average of twenty-five to thirty women are killed in Jordan each year in the name of honor. In most cases, a girl or woman is murdered by a family member for the perceived or alleged violation of notions of family honor.

The government has to date failed to abolish laws allowing for the lenient treatment of honor crimes. Nor has it taken any steps to punish appropriately those who commit them. This inaction contributes to a climate of impunity for this form of violence against women.

Although the Jordanian government does attempt to protect women threatened by their families on the basis of honor, it attempts to do so by locking up the women in corrections facilities. In effect, a female victim is imprisoned while her attacker goes free. Official statistics indicate that every year, fifty to sixty women threatened by their families on the basis of honor are placed in administrative detention for periods ranging from a few months to more than three years. In addition, corrections officials treat such detainees as minors and refuse to allow them to leave the facility at their own discretion.

In March 1999, the Jordanian criminal court sentenced Fayez Mohammed to nine months in prison. Mr. Mohammed had arranged the release of his seventeen-year-old daughter Lamis from the detention center where she was staying for her protection. Once she was released into his custody, he slit her throat.

Human Rights Watch called on the Jordanian Prime Minister to work with the legislature and relevant government ministries to end its tolerance of honor killings by eliminating the articles of the Jordanian Penal Code which exempt or reduce the punishment of those convicted of honor crimes, as well as requiring police officers to conduct serious investigations pertaining to such crimes.


”Two killed over Karo-Kari [i.e., in an Honour Killing],” International News, 8 October 2006.

JACOBABAD: A man allegedly killed his wife and a man in the name of Karo-Kari in the Dera Murad Jamali area of the Naseerabad district on Thursday. The Dera Murad Jamali police told The News that Abdul Razzaq gunned down his wife, Kareema, and Mohammad Nawaz in the village of Sabz Ali on suspicion they had illicit relations. The police took the bodies to the District Headquarters Hospital for autopsies, and started an investigation.

”Man kills stepbrother and niece,” Dawn [Pakistan], 3 Oct. 2006.

KHAIRPUR, Oct 3: A man shot dead his stepbrother and an 18-year-old niece after declaring them karo-kari on Tuesday evening in Shambhani village near Faiz Wah in the jurisdiction of Tando Masti Khan police station.

Reports reaching here said that Akram Shambhani gunned down his niece, Ms Zadi, daughter of Ameer Bux Shambhani, when she was in her home and then went to kill his 32-year-old stepbrother Barocho, son of Bahawal Din Shambhani.

The bodies were handed over to the relatives after post mortem carried out at the civil hospital. Police have so far filed no case of the double murder.

”Pakistani man charged in 'honour killings' of 4 daughters,” CBC News, 29 Dec. 2005.

The alleged honour killing of four sisters in Pakistan has outraged human rights groups in the conservative Islamic country, where such deaths are common.

Nazir Ahmed, a 40-year-old impoverished labourer from a small town in eastern Punjab province, has been charged following the death of his three young daughters aged four, seven, and eight, as well as their 25-year old stepsister. Police believe he slit their throats last Friday to salvage the family's "honour."

The husband of the eldest daughter, Muqadas, had accused her of adultery. However, rights groups that have intervened in the case said Muqadas had fled an abusive relationship.

She was reportedly killed because of the adultery allegations, and the younger children were killed because of fears they would follow in her footsteps.

Ahmed was arrested the day after the deaths and charged with murder. He faces the death penalty if convicted. Police expected to complete their investigation in the next two weeks.

"I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated," Ahmed told the Associated Press as he was led away in handcuffs. "We are poor people and we have nothing else to protect but our honour."

Every year, hundreds of Pakistani girls and women are murdered by male relatives. Last year, a new law beefed up the sentences for convictions in so-called honour killings. The minimum sentence is now 10 years and the maximum is death by hanging.

The Ministry of Women's Development said it had no reliable figures because honour killings are difficult to track. However, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, there were 267 in the first 11 months of this year, down from 579 in 2004.

"Women are treated as property and those committing crimes against them do not get punished," said Kamla Hyat, the director of the commission. "The steps taken by our government have made no real difference."

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a self-styled moderate Muslim, has been accused of holding back from reforming outdated religious laws that make it difficult to secure convictions in rape cases, acid attacks and other cases of violence against women.

Activists said police were often reluctant to prosecute crimes considered to have stemmed from a family dispute. More than half of the cases that make it to court end with cash settlements paid by relatives to victims' families.

"Pakistan," DOS Report 2005.

Honor killings and mutilations occurred during the year (see section 1.a.). Women were often the victims at the hands of their husbands or male relatives. No accurate statistics exist on the number of honor crimes committed during the year. However, human rights groups believed that such incidents were fairly common, with the majority occurring in Sindh. The practice was also common in Punjab and among tribes in Baluchistan, NWFP, and FATA. On January 4, President Musharraf signed a bill into law that provides for additional penalties for all crimes involving honor and restricts the right of victims or heirs to pardon perpetrators in exchange for restitution.

For example, on January 22, in Lahore, Riaz shot and killed his niece Aysha Javed after accusing her of having sexual relations with her neighbor, Mahboob Khan. Riaz also attacked Mahboob Khan's residence, killing his father Yaqoob Khan and seriously injuring his two brothers. Police arrested Riaz and two accomplices, all of whom remained in detention at year's end. On March 21, in Pathan Wah Village, Shikarpur District, Sindh, Yousif shot and killed his new bride Arbeli two hours after their wedding ceremony. He accused his wife of having had sexual relations with her cousin, Abdul Sattar Mirbahar. Yousif and six alleged accomplices remained at large at year's end.

”Violence against Women Rampant in Asia,” Associated Press, 25 May 2005.

In Pakistan, "honor crimes" against women - punishments meted out ostensibly for sullying a family's reputation - took bizarre forms with a tribal council directing in June that a 7-year-old girl, Mouti, be killed for an alleged illicit relation with an 8-year old boy.

Her father refused to accept the verdict and authorities provided the girl protection.

"Pakistan rejects pro-women bill," BBC News, 2 March 2005.

The Pakistan government has allied with Islamists to reject a bill which sought to strengthen the law against the practice of "honour killing".

The parliament rejected the bill by a majority vote on Tuesday, declaring it to be un-Islamic.

Honour killing is the name given to murders where the offender claims the victim, usually a woman, had brought his family into disrepute.

The bill was rejected after being declared un-Islamic by a majority vote.

Law Minister Wasi Zafar told parliament that there was no need for further amendments in the country's penal code after an amendment bill was passed last December.

However, the opposition - along with several women members from the government benches - has continued to call for further amendments, arguing that the law remained riddled with many loopholes despite the amendment. Tuesday's bill was introduced by Ms Kashmala Tariq, a member of the ruling Muslim League.


Under the so-called Islamic legislation enacted by General Zia ul Haq, Pakistan's Islamist military ruler in the 1980s, proven killers could seek or buy pardon from the victim's family under the Islamic principles of compromise.

The law has remained essentially unchanged since then.

Observers say that it has been grossly misused and has contributed directly to an alarming increase in the practice of "karo-kari" or the so-called honour killings.

Karo-kari is a tradition whereby a man can kill a woman, claiming that she brought dishonour to the family, and still expect to be pardoned by her relatives.

Once such a pardon has been secured, the state has no further writ on the matter.

Women victims

Human rights agencies in Pakistan have repeatedly emphasised that most women falling prey to karo-kari were usually those wanting to marry of their own will.

In many cases, the victims held properties that the male members of their families did not wish to lose if the women chose to marry outside the family.

Government and independent researchers estimate that over 4,000 women have fallen victim to this practice in Pakistan over the last six years.

In December last year, the government passed a bill making karo-kari punishable under the same penal provisions as murder.

But it did not alter the provisions whereby the accused could negotiate pardon with the victim's family under the so-called Islamic provisions.

These provisions often in conflict with the Anglo-Saxon law inherited by Pakistan in 1947.

Observers in Pakistan say that the defeat of Ms Tariq's bill is a clear indication of the influence that the conservatives still wield on policy-making in Pakistan, despite President Musharraf's liberal outlook.

”Pakistani court orders arrest of 13 charged in gang rape of mother, daughter,” Canadian press, 3 Jan. 2003.

The human rights group [Amnesty International] said so-called honour killings of women who are accused of bringing dishonour to a family through extramarital affairs, or in some cases by merely talking to men, are common, while few men are ever convicted of the crime.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Paksiatn said last month that at least 461 women were killed by family members in “honour killings” in 2002, an increase from the 372 reported the year before.

Muddassir Rizvi, "Pakistan: Honor killings persist despite government claims," Inter Press Service, 20 June 2002.

The reasons for [honour] killings include alleged infidelity by a married woman, a woman's desire to marry a person of her choice or a woman simply being seen with a man in public in this Islamic country.

In truth however "it is just a control mechanism that men have been using to control women's sexuality," points out Hadia Nusrat, who works with a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Islamabad.

Arman Sabir, "Karo-kari claimed 393 lives in Sindh in 2000," Dawn, 21 June 2001.

The Karo-kari is a years-old custom in Sindh: Karo is a black man and Kari is a black woman; black in the sense that they are considered morally corrupt. …

The cruel custom [is that] the accusation was made in advance … when a couple was declared Karo-kari in a village. That was often done by men of the woman's family. Her grave was prepared in advance and there [was] no sympathy [for] the woman. There [were] no funeral prayers for her nor anyone was allowed to cry over her body. The village gave respect to the killer. There were separate graveyards for the Kari, [the village police] added.

They said the old custom has now changed as in many cases no advance accusation was made before the execution of the women. Any woman of the family could be accused of Kari immediately after her killing, they claimed.

A human rights activist from Larkana said [sometimes] a man killed a man of his enemy tribe to take revenge, he would come home and kill a woman of his own family and declare both the victims as Karo-kari. In such cases, the woman, who was killed for being kari, had not ever seen the man with whom she was accused. This declaration would help the killer get lesser punishment and on the other hand the village would pay him respect. …

A senior police official said as the policemen posted in rural areas had grown up in the same society where a woman was considered the property of a man, they had a lenient view to dealing with Karo-kari cases and they also had a soft corner for the killer as according to them he had done all to restore the honour of his family as well as of the village. This was one of the main reasons that the officials prepared a weak case file and the killer escaped major punishment from the court, he added.

"Human rights commissions: 80 'honor killings' this year in single Pakistan province," AP Worldstream, 29 May 2001.

Honor killings are becoming an increasing problem in Pakistan, where women are killed for issues ranging from conversing with a man who is not a relative to suspected adultery. ….

The annual figure [of honor killings] for 2000 was 1,410 cases, according to the human rights commission.

"Relatives slay three women, child in Pakistan 'honor killings,'" AP Worldstream, 21 May 2001.

Honor killings are rampant in Islamic Pakistan, where men kill women they say have tarnished their honor. The woman's crime may be to sit next to a man who is not a relative or to be suspected of extramarital sex.

Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission has documented hundreds of brutal attacks against women, some accused of simply looking in the direction of another man. …

Human rights activists say most perpetrators of honor killings go unpunished because police are reluctant to investigate domestic violence and often fail to press charges.

In male-dominated Pakistan, girls are generally married at puberty to men chosen by their parents. …

Successive governments, including the present military-led regime, have condemned honor killings but so far failed to stop them.

"Father kills daughter, man over karo-kari," Dawn, 12 March 2001.

A 14-year-old girl and a man were axed to death by the father of the girl in a village near Daharki on the pretext of karo-kari on Friday evening.

PAK34695.E, "Pakistan: The treatment of young Muslim women who have gained the reputation of being "ghatia" ("impure") or flirtatious, especially in Islamabad and Gujranwala (Punjab); the reactions of their family should they learn of this reputation; the possibilities of such women to live without the support of family/friends (January 1998-June 2000)," 13 June 2000. Ottawa: IRB, 2000.

Every year in Pakistan hundreds of women, of all ages and in all parts of the country, are reported killed in the name of honour [ghairat]. Many more cases go unreported. Almost all go unpunished. The lives of millions of women in Pakistan are circumscribed by traditions which enforce extreme seclusion and submission to men, many of whom impose their virtually proprietorial control over women with violence. For the most part, women bear traditional male control over every aspect of their bodies, speech and behaviour with stoicism, as part of their qismat [fate], but exposure to media, the work of women's rights groups and a greater degree of mobility have seen the beginnings of women's rights awareness seep into the secluded world of women. But if women begin to assert these rights, however tentatively, they often face more repression and punishment: the curve of honour killings has risen parallel to the rise in awareness of rights. State indifference, discriminatory laws and the gender bias of much of the country's police force and judiciary have ensured virtual impunity for perpetrators of honour killings.

In part B, this report describes the different facets of the phenomenon of honour killings in Pakistan. It looks at the traditions that form the framework of such killings, particularly the commodification of women and the notion of honour. It asserts that the notions of what defiles honour have continually widened beyond defiance of sexual norms to include other forms of perceived defiance of social norms by women. These include the desire of women to choose a marriage partner and to seek divorce. In a curious twist, women victims of rape are also seen to have defiled their male relatives' honour and some have been killed on that account. The report then describes how the lure of compensation and the lenient treatment of honour killings by courts have led to abuses of the system in which women are killed supposedly on grounds of honour but really for an ulterior purpose. It describes the limited options which are open to women who apprehend being killed for reasons of honour.

Abuses by private actors such as honour killings and physical injury of women are crimes under a country's criminal law. However, systematic failure by the state to prevent and to investigate them and to punish the perpetrators leads to international responsibility of the state. … Honour killings take place at an alarming rate in Pakistan and with virtual impunity.

The report points to the various areas in which the Pakistan government's failure to exercise due diligence is manifest, including the government's failure to respond to reports of honour killings and to amend overlapping and often contradictory legal regimes and discriminatory laws which prevent redress. It also looks at the gender bias shown by police and parts of the judiciary when dealing with crimes of honour. The report describes the limited reform moves undertaken by tribal leaders and ends in part D with a set of recommendations.

... 'Tradition' may have emphasised certain norms in the past, but this does not preclude tradition being shaped by new realities. This report shows how even the traditions of 'honour' in Pakistan, which are used to justify violence against women, have themselves undergone change, have broadened in concept and been debased and distorted by more generalized corruption and violence in society. It also highlights how the honour system derives from tribal traditions in Pakistan, which are often in conflict with other traditions in national life, such as Islam and liberal democracy; as a result women find themselves caught between competing and conflicting 'traditions' in Pakistan.

Both men and women have become victims of honour killings and of other forms of honour related violence -- but as the report indicates, girls and women have less chance to physically escape such killings and to socially redeem themselves by payment of compensation than men. Significantly, the men who are killed for reasons of honour are invariably targeted by the male relatives of the women whose alleged breach of the code of honour constitutes the rationale for such acts. This report therefore focuses on the violence suffered by women and girls while recognizing that men are sometimes its targets as well (AI-USA Sept. 1999 (a)).

Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2000.

Several hundred girls and women, as well as a large number of men, were killed for allegedly dishonouring their male relatives. Often a mere allegation was sufficient to lead to honour killings. Women’s behaviour which was perceived as bringing dishonour included alleged or real sexual relations outside marriage, choosing a marriage partner against parental wishes, or seeking a divorce. Some women were also considered to have dishonoured their community because they had been raped. Defenders of women’s rights were sometimes targeted for their work.

Jameela Mandokhel, a 16-year-old mentally retarded girl, was raped in March. Upon her return to her community in the Kurram Agency, a tribal council decided that she had defiled tribal honour and shot her dead. The government took no action.

In April Samia Sarwar, a 29-year-old woman who sought a divorce after years of domestic violence, was shot dead in the office of her lawyer in Lahore by a family employee. Her action was perceived as shaming the family. Subsequently, her lawyer was charged with her murder and publicly threatened with death for “misguiding” Samia Sarwar.

Amnesty International, Honour killings of girls and women. 1 September 1999, at p. 4.

Expressing a desire to choose a spouse and marrying a partner of one's choice are seen as major acts of defiance in a society where most marriages are arranged by fathers. They are seen to damage the honour of the man who negotiates the marriage and who can expect a bride price in return for handing her over to a spouse.

Crime Or Custom? Violence Against Women in Pakistan. Human Rights Watch. August 1999.

Honor killings are another recurrent form of familial violence against women, and again the perpetrators continue to find vindication in the eyes of both the law and society. The practice of summary killing of a woman suspected of an illicit liaison, known as karo kari in Sindh and Balochistan, is known to occur in all parts of the country. The Sindh government has reported an annual figure of 300 for such killings. HRCP's own findings reveal that in 1997 there were eighty-six karo kari killings in Larkana, Sindh, alone, with fifty-three of the victims being women.


“Turkish Government Taking Unprecedented Steps Against "Honor" Killings of Women,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 11 January 2007.

Facing pressure from women's groups and the European Union, the Turkish government has begun a major media campaign condemning all violence towards women, especially so-called "honor" killings. They will also set up hotlines, rescue teams, and town hall meetings in the Kurdish southeastern area of the country, where the rate of honor killings is particularly high. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a conservative, has spoken out against the archaic practice, telling the Organization of the Islamic Conference that honor killings need to be abolished from all Islamic societies.

Honor killings are murders performed by male relatives who feel that a female family member has tarnished the family honor with "unchaste" or "disobedient" behavior ranging from expressing the desire to work outside of the home to speaking up about abuse or rape. Last year, Turkish women's groups told Time magazine that approximately 70 women die each year in honor killings in Turkey, though many more go unrecorded. The Los Angeles Times estimates that "thousands of women have died, been attacked, or compelled to commit suicide in so-called honor killings."

Turkey has previously been denied integration into the European Union in part because of its poor treatment of women, Time reports. In response, the government opened the first legitimate women's shelter in southeastern Turkey in 2005 and now houses about 50 women, many in their early 20s and victims of rape. Last year, jail sentences for men who commit honor killings were stiffened, and it is now harder for those sentences to be reduced.

"Turkey: Honour suicides: death by a bullet in the back,” Women in the Middle East, No. 45, Nov.-Dec. 2006.

Zulfinan Baycinar died from a bullet in her back. Her husband’s family went into mourning for the 27-year-old’s “tragic suicide”. She was very happy, they said, they can’t imagine what got into her.

But now Baycinar’s husband is on trial for murder. Prosecutors say she was killed because she dared to oppose against her husband’s wish to take a second wife, refusing to bow to tradition and know her place.

Such mysterious “suicides” have always been treated with suspicion in southeast Turkey. The increase in suicides follows a change in Turkish law a year ago to sentence to life imprisonment family members who carry out so-called “honour killings”. This year 36 women are said to have attempted suicide in the region, more than all of last year. Until the laws changed, men who killed their female kin for reasons of honour or tradition were treated leniently. Often, a young brother, a minor, would own up to the murder and be let off with little more than a slap on the wrist. The killings, and what was effectively legal collusion, figured large in EU reports on the progress of its latest candidate country.

Now that the stakes are higher, women’s groups believe that the errant women are being told: “Here’s a gun or here’s some poison, go and kill yourself so I don’t have to go to prison for it.” If they don’t comply, they are killed anyway and declared to have committed suicide after a bout of depression.

“This law is a real improvement, but we did worry that tougher punishments would lead to this and were watching out for increased cases of suicide,” said Zelal Ozgokce, founder member of Va-Kad, a new women’s association in Van, near the Iranian border. “There have been around 20 suicides that we know of just in the Van region this year. Last year there were 45 the whole year and around 80 in the years between 2000 and 2003. There are many cases of overdoses and several like Zulfinan’s, where women are said to have shot themselves in physically impossible ways.”


Amberin Zaman, “Where Girls Marry Rapists for Honor,” Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2005.

Turkey is working with agencies to combat widespread abuse of women. Education and tougher laws are part of the reform effort.

Diyarbakir, Turkey - Rojda was 13 when she was raped two years ago by a neighbor in this hardscrabble Kurdish province. In order to "cleanse" her honor, she was forced to marry her attacker in an unofficial Islamic-style ceremony. He later was convicted of raping a 7-year-old boy and has been imprisoned.

But Rojda's troubles were far from over, according to an account of her ordeal provided by her family and attorneys. She allegedly was raped again in March by her father-in-law, who she said demanded she prostitute herself to earn her keep. When Rojda refused, the relatives and attorneys charge, a group of men held her down and sliced off her nose.

Police raided their home after being tipped off by neighbors, who heard her cries. The men were briefly detained, then set free - though they have since been rearrested.

Rojda's story is not unusual: Human rights groups and Turkish officials say violence against women is widespread in Turkey, though statistics are hard to come by because so many attacks go unreported. They blame the violence on poverty, a lack of education and the patriarchal structure prevalent in much of Turkish society.

As this nation seeks to become the European Union's first predominantly Muslim member, its Islam-rooted government has teamed up with the EU and other international groups to combat abuses through a series of nationwide projects and campaigns.

Their efforts are evident here in Diyarbakir, where the bar association is training local administrators to understand and implement new laws that, among other things, broaden women's rights and stiffen penalties for their abusers. The $500,000 project is being funded by the EU.

"We have trained 700 officials over the past year; awareness is growing," association President Sezgin Tanrikulu said last week. One such trainee learned of Rojda's plight soon after her alleged attackers were initially freed. He took her to Tanrikulu, complaining that justice had not been served.

Rojda, a childlike figure with enormous dark eyes set above her disfigured nose, looked terrified, recalled Tanrikulu. "We pressed fresh charges on her behalf, and the men were rearrested," he said.

Her mother, Serife, who lives in a muddy tent on the outskirts of the nearby town of Cinar, said that Rojda "was my prettiest girl" before the attack. Serife, who carried a sickly child - her 10th - from a pouch strapped to her back, said she would "not find peace" until her daughter was avenged.

Their attorneys requested that Serife and her daughter be identified only by their first names.

If found guilty on separate counts of rape and assault, the men could face up to 22 years in prison, said Meral Bestas, an attorney at the bar association's women's advisory center, which is handling Rojda's case.

Staffed by six female lawyers, the center offers free legal advice to women. Bestas said her clients are often illiterate and in polygamous and abusive marriages. Many are afraid to seek help.

"Their men view us as a subversive, corrupting influence and order them to stay away," Bestas said.

Across from the center, in the Hasirli slum area, social worker Handan Coskun goes about empowering women in subtler ways. She supervises a free laundry service, which attracts hundreds of women and their children every week.

The laundry doubles as a school where women are taught to read, write and use birth control. They are also informed of their legal rights.

"I felt stronger, safer after the courses," said Naile Gungor, a 49-year-old mother of seven, as she stuffed her wash into a machine.

Like many here, she is a refugee from one of thousands of villages that were razed by Turkish security forces during a 15-year separatist insurgency led by rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. Government plans to repatriate the villagers have been marred by a resurgence in violence after the PKK - which has renamed itself the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress, or KADEK - ended a five-year cease-fire last year.

With dozens of refugees crammed into tiny concrete shacks in shantytowns that have sprung up across the southeast, "abuse and incest have permeated people's genes," said Coskun, the social worker.

Another big part of tackling violence against women involves educating men, said Meltem Agduk, a consultant with the United Nations Population Fund.

The U.N. agency recently devised a program to discourage conscripts from engaging in domestic violence.

With all Turkish men older than 18 required to perform 15 months of military service, the campaign should have far-reaching effects, Agduk predicted during an interview in Ankara, the Turkish capital.

In a similar vein, the government last year instructed thousands of state-employed Muslim clerics to preach against "honor killings," slayings committed by male relatives of women and girls accused of staining their family's reputation.

Under Turkey's new penal code that will come into effect June 1, sentences for such crimes will be significantly increased. In the past, those convicted could get sentences reduced to as few as three years in prison because protecting the family's honor was seen as a mitigating circumstance. Now they will serve as much time as any other convicted murderer.

Despite such efforts, the killings continue.

This year in the province of Batman, east of Diyarbakir, an 18-year-old girl was shot to death by her brother for wearing blue jeans.

Sebneb Arsu, “Turks to Fight 'Honor Killings' of Women,” New York Times, 16 May 2005.

Istanbul - In a nondescript building in a remote part of Istanbul, a young woman sat in front of a television on a recent day watching a chilling scene unfold. Panning across the dank walls of a cave, the camera stopped on a primitive drawing of a female form, then dissolved into a modern crime scene showing the chalk outline of a woman's body on a road.

"Every year, dozens of women fall victim," said the menacing voice of Atilla Olgac, an actor who plays the most fearsome character on Turkey's most popular television drama. "Don't be a part of this shame; don't turn a blind eye to murders committed in the name of honor."

The video is part of a nationwide campaign in Turkey to bring an end to so-called honor killings, in which a woman is killed by her husband or a male relative for behavior that is perceived as a slight to the dignity and respectability of her family. Rights organizations in Turkey and abroad have long denounced the practice as brutal and unfair to women; men who engage in the same activities are not held accountable.

The 24-year-old woman was watching a preview of the television spot with officials from a women's shelter.

She had been staying there for three days, the latest stop in a series of moves intended to keep her at a safe distance from a family that had decided she must return to her abusive husband, or die.

Identified by shelter officials only as Nazan, she was married against her will when she was 15 and is now the mother of three children.

Nazan said she fled her home after years of physical abuse and returned to her family declaring that she wanted a divorce. She begged to stay with her father for safety, but she said he considered her actions an affront to the family honor, and in an effort to force her back to her husband became abusive himself, leaving knife scars on her arms, legs and back.

According to official records, 43 women in Turkey were victims of honor killings in 2004. But human rights activists say the number is far greater than that, with families reporting deaths as suicides or simply filing missing persons reports.

"Women's groups have been active in raising consciousness to prevent honor killings in the past few years but what they needed was a national campaign to support their work," said Nilufer Narli, a sociologist from Kadir Has University in Istanbul.

She praised the campaign, which also includes billboards and fliers. "Panels and conferences reach the elite, but you need television and movies to reach people in the street."

The promotional television spots are scheduled to be broadcast on donated time on at least 10 television stations and hundreds of radio stations nationally starting this week.

Honor killings are most common in the country's rural southeast, and among poorer and less educated Turks.

In Diyarbakir, the largest city in the region, there are no shelters, despite efforts by local groups.

"Women are deeply hesitant to come to us," said Reyhan Yalcindag, deputy director of the Diyarbakir Human Rights Association. "Even if they had the courage to file an official complaint, they still must go back to the home where they are targets, and live among the very people they have made charges against."

"There are only 14 shelters in Turkey, and none in the southeast," she said. "These are not acceptable figures." The media campaign in Turkey is the first combined effort on the issue of honor killings involving both governmental and nongovernmental organizations, as well as clerics, and it is being financed by a grant from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

At the same time Turkey, in hopes of being granted entry into the European Union, is working to bring its human rights standards in line with those of the West and to modernize its criminal justice system.

A new penal code, ratified in September 2004, eliminated "protection of family honor" as a mitigating circumstance in murder trials and introduced heavier penalties for honor killing convictions. Another law recently passed by Parliament calls for the creation of a women's shelter in every large municipality in the country.

But some critics say the changes are not enough. Despite the removal of the family honor provision, the commission making the legal changes left a loophole in the law, preserving "unjust provocation" as an available defense that could be invoked in honor killing cases.

And while Ms. Yalcindag welcomed the potential addition of hundreds of new shelters, she said she was skeptical about the support they would get. "Cities will be obliged to build more shelters, but it is the responsibility of the central government to ensure their security," she said, "and there has been no promise made on that."

Amnesty International, Turkey: Women confronting family violence, 2 June 2004.

Güldünya Tören named her new baby "Hope". She knew that the two of them might not have long to live. After she became pregnant, she had refused to marry her cousin and was sent to her uncle’s house in Istanbul. There, one of her brothers gave her a rope and told her to hang herself. She escaped and begged for police protection, but was assured that her uncle and brother promised not to kill her. In February 2004, weeks after the birth, her brothers reportedly shot and wounded her in the street. From her hospital bed, she pleaded for the police to save her. She was left to face her murderers alone. Late at night, her killers entered the unguarded hospital and shot her in the head. Her life support machine was later turned off.(1)

"Turkey: Father held for "honour killing" of raped teen daughter," Women in the Middle East, Vol. 24, 24 May 2004.

Turkish police have arrested a man and a dozen of his relatives on suspicion of murdering his 14-year-old daughter, a rape victim, to salvage the family's "honour", according to newspaper reports.

Nuran Halitogullari was taken captive and raped late last month by a man while she was going to a market in Istanbul. He kept her prisoner in his home for four days, the papers said. Police then arrested him and returned Nuran to her parents, but the family decided she must die for "soiling" their name. Her father and 17-year-old brother strangled her with a wire. They buried her body in a forest and also tried to kill her rapist but he was already in police custody.

Experts estimate up to 70 women are murdered annually in honour killings in Turkey, mostly in the conservative, mainly ethnic Kurdish southeast region. Scores of other women take their own lives under pressure or fear of attack.

Turkey's parliament is preparing to strike from the penal code clauses used to reduce sentences for murders committed in the name of honour. It is part of a wider drive to clean up Turkey's human rights record and promote its EU bid.

In another recent case which drew strong Turkish media interest, a 22-year-old woman was shot dead by her two brothers as she lay in a hospital bed in Istanbul recovering from an earlier assassination bid. Guldunya Toren was killed for having a child outside wedlock after being raped by a cousin in south eastern Turkey.


”Yemen: Honour crimes - injustice for women,” Women in the Middle East, No. 45, Nov.-Dec. 2006.

One of the more horrific cultural practices — and one proving difficult to eradicate is the murder of women by their family members who suspect them of adultery.

Such murders are called “honour killings,” as women are killed to preserve the honour of her family. Such murders have been committed in Yemen and other parts of the Middle East for hundreds of years. And they still occur today. More than 400 women were killed for reasons of “honour” in 1997, found a survey by the women’s studies department of Sana’a University. This is the only year for which estimates of the number of honour killings exist.

Only one other study of honour killings has been done, and it put forth no estimates on how many women are murdered each year. There is no official tally of the number of women who have died as a result of honour killings in Yemen, as most are committed without the knowledge of the government. Police officials in Sana’a say that such actions are rarely reported. United Nations Children’s Fund defines honour crimes as an ancient practice in which men kill female relatives in the name of family honour, for having any kind of sexual activity outside marriage, even when they have been victims of rape.

Locals believe that it would be almost impossible for such cases to be reported to the law. First, usually the female victim is killed by her own family members—the people closest to her. And the killers are not likely to report themselves. Also, outsiders do not interfere with other people’s family issues, which they see as being solved from within. Khalid al-Anesi, a prominent lawyer for human rights cases and executive director for HOOD organization, the largest human rights organization in Yemen, claims that if cases were reported to the police, they would not do anything to help, because they have the same mentality, and believe that the family is doing the right thing to preserve its pride.

It has been found that most honour crimes against women were committed merely because of suspicion of the women’s sexual behaviour. Any woman who draws suspicion, even if she is virtuous, could be at risk.

The study also disclosed that honour crimes are committed at all levels of society, said Nabil al-Mohamedi, a lawyer who participated in a public discussion on honour killings. He said that Yemeni law states that a man must be surprised and observed by four witnesses in the act of committing adultery with a woman, before accusations against the woman can be considered valid. Without four witnesses, a woman cannot be put to death. If relatives simply have suspicions about it happening, a woman should not be punished.

From the legal point of view, Article 232 of the Penal Code of Yemen states that “if a man kills his wife or her alleged lover in the act of committing adultery, or attacking them, causing disability, he may be fined or sentenced to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.”

Unfairly, women are the only ones singled out for punishment for sexual crimes, while the men, even rapists, may be treated with impunity. Most of honour crime victims are women and most of honour crime perpetrators are men. “Everything shameful in Yemen has to deal with women.

It is estimated by the United Nations Population Fund that as many as 5,000 women and girls are murdered by family members each year in so-called “honour killings” around the world. Yet if not for the crimes committed by men, many of these women would yet be alive.


The Global Persecution of Women