Wednesday, April 08, 2009

World’s Women For Life against Honor Killing; a brutal reality of the culture of death

"Honor killing" generally refers to acts of violence, usually murder, committed by family members and/or acquaintances of a female, who has allegedly brought dishonor upon the family.

A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family and/or her tribe, village, and kinsmen for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of sexual assault , seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband — or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

Honor crimes happen more often in transitional systems, such as regions, which are facing war, revolution, globalization, and/or political changes. Rape is often used as weapon of war; subjecting women to threats on all sides; that of dishonor and the brutality of sexual exploitation. They are violated against from both the authorities and their own families, especially in Islamic countries and/or cultures that have been dominated by Islam. In these cultures shame takes on a more predominant role.

Women are killed simply for being in love, having an “illegitimate” relationship with someone, or being suspected of having a relationship. Women’s emotions and sexuality is directly linked to shame in these cultures, resulting in the need for retaliation by the dominant powers.

A case that brought “honor killing”, especially by way of stoning to the International public arena, was that of Du’a Khalil Aswad and a video taken by an eyewitness and subsequently published online. The brutal images forced the world to look at this act of violence and begin a dialogue about crimes, which are systematically ignored and hidden.

On April 2007, after speaking to several Women’s rights organization in Northern Iraq, there seemed to be a clear consensus regarding Du’a’s murder. They all agreed that the killing of Du'a was one single case in a larger context of societal issues, but exceptional in the way it was prosecuted. The way she was murdered was not just absolutely terrifying, but it was also public. In the sense that it was suddenly not just a secret of a remote culture anymore; rather brought into our homes through the medium of internet. We were forced to face the violence and not turn away.

The murder of Du’a does not follow the classical form of stoning, as practiced and legalized by certain Islamic sects. It forces us to ask if we can consider her murder, an act of stoning, or a truly terrible act of mob violence. This question is asked not as a way to diminish the incident. Some may argue that, how she was killed does not make a difference. It is however significant for one reason. It is important to note the procedure, because it leads to a better understanding of cultural motive and etiology.

Watching the video can tell the story better. It is hard to watch the video even years after the incident, but in order to analyzing it, I had to.

In the grainy low-quality video, a dozen men surround a woman curled into a fetal position on the ground, and they kick and punch her.(it is not part of Stoning procedure) Hundreds of onlookers fill the village square in Bashika. The beating continues as Du'a Khalil, tries to protect her head from the blows. After several minutes, a cinder block is passed through the crowd and a man uses it to smash her head.

Kurdistan regional government (KRG) officials are trying to understand and stop a rise in honor killings. The Kurdish government has overturned Iraqi laws that allow relatives to kill women who were perceived to have dishonored their families.

It is crucial that the KRG(Kurdish Regional Government) legally protect women and their right to life. The Kurdish Parliament must push to implement the law, which regards “Honor killing” as a murder, rather than an excusable case.

Women Organizations around the world must not only encourage regimes and government entities to ban this practice. Women and human right activist must force these bodies of law to implement an end to such a horrifying act of violence.

The world must also consider the social, political, cultural, and economical situations of these regions, which lead to a rise in these acts of violence.

At the time of this horrible incident, Amnesty International wrote a request to the KRG, asking for details of these cases, including the names of all those who have been tried for alleged "honour crimes" since the law was changed, how many were convicted and the sentences imposed in each case. The organization has also written to the Iraqi government to seek information about investigations into the stoning to death of Du'a Khalil Aswad and the subsequent murder of 23 Yezidi workers, and calling for the perpetrators of these crimes to be brought to justice promptly and fairly and without recourse to the death penalty. Amnesty International is also urging the Iraqi authorities to amend the law to ensure that "honour killings" are made a serious criminal offence and to take concrete measures to protect all those at risk of becoming victims of "honour crimes".

World’s Women For Life hopes that the public will understand that crime in the name of “honor” or any kind of violence and killing against women cannot remain the sole issue of the families involved, it is a concern for the entire society.

We are also urging pro-women organizations and human rights organizations to stand up for those women who silently suffer in the hands of those they are supposed to trust the most.

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