Mal nommer les choses, c’est ajouter au malheur du monde.
Le passé est encore là – simplement, il est inégalement réparti. D’après William Gibson
Aussi loin qu’il se souvienne, il s’est toujours perçu comme le prince de la maison et sa mère comme celle qui, de façon contestable, le mettait en valeur, était sa protectrice inquiète. J. M. Coetzee (Scènes de la vie d’un jeune garçon)
Quand j’avais sept ans, nous vivions dans une maison de verre. Un de nos voisins, un tailleur de talent, battait souvent sa femme. Le soir, on écoutait les pleurs, les cris, les insultes. Le matin, on vaquait à nos occupations habituelles. Tout le voisinage prétendait n’avoir rien entendu, n’avoir rien vu. Ce roman est dédié à ceux qui entendent et à ceux qui voient. Elif Shafak (Crime d’honneur, exergue)
Ma mère est morte deux fois. Je me suis promis de ne pas permettre qu’on oublie son histoire, mais je n’ai jamais trouvé le temps, la volonté ou le courage de la coucher par écrit. Jusqu’à récemment, je veux dire. (…) Il fallait pourtant que je raconte cette histoire, ne serait-ce qu’à une personne. Il fallait que je l’envoie dans un coin de l’univers où elle pourrait flotter librement, loin de nous. Je la devais à maman, cette liberté. (…) C’est ainsi que, dans le pays où naquirent Destinée-Rose et Assez-Belle, « honneur » était plus qu’un mot. C’était aussi un nom. On pouvait le donner à un enfant, à condition que ce soit un garçon. Les hommes avaient de l’honneur – les vieillards, ceux dans la force de l’âge, même les écoliers, si jeunes que, si on leur appuyait sur le nez, il en sortirait du lait. Les femmes n’avaient pas d’honneur. Elles étaient marquées par la honte. Comme tout le monde le savait, « Honte » était un bien mauvais nom à porter. (…) Son silence le déroutait. Et si elle n’était pas vierge ? Comment pourrait-il vivre avec cette interrogation le reste de sa vie ? Que penserait son frère Tariq quand il apprendrait qu’il s’était trouvé une femme souillée – la réplique exacte de leur mère ? (…) Ce serait une des nombreuses ironies de la vie de Pembe, que ce qu’elle détestait le plus dans la bouche de sa mère, elle allait le répéter à sa fille Esma, mot pour mot, des années plus tard, en Angleterre. Elif Shafak (Crime d’honneur, extrait)
Pourquoi Iskander Tobrak, seize ans, fils aîné et chef d’une famille mi-turque mi-kurde depuis le départ de son père, Adem, a-t-il, en 1978, poignardé à mort sa mère, Pembe ? C’est la question toujours aussi douloureuse que se pose, quatorze ans après les faits et alors qu’elle part chercher Iskander à sa sortie de prison, Esma, sa soeur. Pour tenter d’y répondre, elle doit remonter à leurs propres origines, dans un petit village des bords de l’Euphrate. Pembe et Jamila, son identique jumelle, y sont nées en 1945. Selon leur père, quel que soit le malheur infligé à l’une, elles étaient vouées à souffrir ensemble, et donc deux fois plus… Venu d’Istanbul, le jeune Adem Tobrak s’éprit follement de Jamila, mais celle-ci ayant été, quelques mois plus tôt, enlevée, et sa virginité étant, de ce fait, contestée, il ne put l’épouser et se rabattit sur Pembe. Cette dernière accepta et suivit son mari à Istanbul puis en Grande-Bretagne où, malgré la naissance de trois enfants, la vie du couple ne tarda pas à partir à vau-l’eau… Un roman superbe et bouleversant. L’Actualité littéraire
It’s usually the father, brother or first male cousin who is charged with the actual shooting or stabbing, (but not) the mother who lures the girl home. The religion has failed to address this as a problem and failed to seriously work to abolish it as un-Islamic. Phyllis Chesler
I think that as women we’re strong enough now to not only acknowledge our racism, our class bias and our homophobia but our sexism. The coming generation, and second-wave feminists as well, can acknowledge that women, like men, are aggressive and, like men, are as close to the apes as the angels. Our lived realities have never conformed to the feminist view that women are morally superior to men, are compassionate, nurturing, maternal and also very valiant under siege. This is a myth. (…) Women don’t have to be better than anyone else to deserve human rights. Our failure to look at our own sexism lost us a few inches in our ability to change history in our lifetime. The first thing we do is acknowledge what the truth is, and then we have to not have double standards. We have to try not to use gossip to get rid of a rival, we have to try not to slander the next woman because we’re jealous that she’s pretty or that she got a scholarship. I think we have to learn some of the rules of engagement that men are good at. Women coerce dreadful conformity from each other. I would like us to embrace diversity. Then we could have a more viable, serious feminist movement. (…) Because the stereotypes of women have been so used to justify our subordination and since it was a heady moment in history to suddenly come together with other women in quantum numbers around issues of women’s freedom and human rights, it took a while before each of us in turn started looking at how we treated each other. The unacknowledged aggression and cruelty and sexism among women in general — and that includes feminists — is what drove many an early activist out of what was a real movement. (…) I think it gets worse when it’s women only. Men are happy in a middle-distance ground toward all others. They don’t take anything too personally, and they don’t have to get right into your face, into your business, into your life. Women need to do that. Women, the minute they meet another woman, it’s: she’s going to be my fairy godmother, my best friend, the mother I never had. And when that’s not the case we say, »well, she’s the evil stepmother. » (…) I do have a chapter that says if you have a situation that is male-dominated with a few token women, women will not like each other, they will be particularly vicious in how they compete and keep other women down and out. We can’t say how women as a group would behave if overnight they had all the positions that men now have. (…) It helps to understand that in these non-Western countries where you have mothers-in-law dousing daughters-in-law with kerosene for their dowries and we say »how shocking, » we have a version here. You have here mothers who think their daughters have to be thin, their daughters have to be pretty and their daughters need to have plastic surgery and their daughters have to focus mainly on the outward appearance and not on inner strength or inner self. It’s not genital mutilation but it’s ultimately a concern with outward appearance for the sake of marriageability.(…) I’m thinking back to the civil rights era and the faces of white mothers who did not want little black children to integrate schools. What should we say about those women who joined the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazi party? You have a lot of women groaning under the yoke of oppression. Nevertheless, there are women who warm the beds and are the partners of men who create orphans. Women are best at collaborating with men who run the world because then we can buy pretty trinkets and have safe homes and nests for ourselves.(…) Women are silenced not because men beat up on us but because we don’t want to be shunned by our little cliques. That applies to all age groups. That’s one of the reasons that women are so conformist and so indirect: we end up sabotaging her rather than risking the loss of her intimate companionship. Women stealing each other’s lovers and spouses and jobs is pandemic. Phyllis Chesler
Les crimes d’honneur sont des actes de violence, le plus souvent des meurtres, commis par les membres masculins d’une famille à l’encontre de ses membres féminins, lorsqu’ils sont perçus comme cause de déshonneur pour la famille tout entière. Une femme peut être la cible d’individus au sein de sa propre famille pour des motifs divers, comprenant : le refus de participer à un mariage arrangé, le refus des faveurs sexuelles, la tentative de divorce — que ce soit dans le cadre de la violence conjugale exercée par son mari ou dans un contexte avéré d’adultère. La simple interprétation selon laquelle son comportement a « déshonoré » sa famille est suffisante pour enclencher une représaille. Human Rights Watch
En général, en Occident, le crime d’honneur varie en fonction de la géographie. Peu coutumier de nos jours dans les régions du Nord, il devient plus intense en descendant vers le Sud (sociétés méditerranéennes et/ou musulmanes, etc..) où les codes d’honneur propres à telle ou telle société traditionnelle ont conservé plus d’importance. C’est ainsi que la vengeance par la justice privée, plus connue sous le nom de vendetta fait partie de la culture de certains groupes ethniques qui se situent dans les Balkans (notamment les régions peuplées d’albanophones), en Turquie (Anatolie, Kurdistan, etc..), le sud de l’Italie et les îles de la Méditerranée (Corse, Sardaigne, Sicile, Crète). Avec l’immigration musulmane (notamment pakistanaise, turque/kurde et arabe), les crimes d’honneur sont réapparus en Europe. En Italie, en 2006, Hina Saleem (it), une jeune pakistanaise de 21 ans, est assassinée à Sarezzo (Lombardie) par ses parents et des membres de sa famille qui n’acceptaient pas sa relation avec un Italien et sa vie jugée « trop occidentale »10. Hina s’était également opposée à un mariage arrangé. Toujours en Italie, en 2009, Sanaa Dafani, une jeune marocaine de 18 ans résidant avec sa famille à Pordenone (N.-E.), est égorgée par son père qui lui reprochait d’être « trop occidentale » et d’avoir une relation avec un Italien11. Il sera condamné définitivement à 30 ans de prison en 201212. En 2010 à Modène (Italie), un pakistanais, aidé de son fils, « punit » à coups de barre d’acier et de pierre son épouse et sa fille qui refusaient un mariage arrangé. La mère succombera à ses blessures13. En Allemagne, en 2005, Hatun Sürücü, une jeune Allemande d’origine turque, est tuée à Berlin par son frère pour « s’être comportée comme une Allemande »14. En Belgique, en 2007, Sadia Sheikh, une pakistanaise de 20 ans, est assassinée à Charleroi (Région wallonne) par des membres de sa famille pour avoir refusé un mariage arrangé15. Aux Pays-Bas, la police estime que treize meurtres ont été commis en 2009 au nom de l’honneur16. En Grande-Bretagne, l’association IKWRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation)) a recensé 2823 agressions (séquestrations, coups, brûlures, homicides) commises en 2010 contre des femmes sous prétexte de « venger l’honneur d’une famille ». Wikipedia
Les crimes d’honneur ne sont pas réservés aux provinces reculées du Pakistan, de la Turquie ou de l’Inde. En Europe occidentale aussi, des jeunes femmes sont torturées et tuées par des membres de leur famille à cause de leurs fréquentations, de leur façon de s’habiller ou de leur refus de se soumettre à un mariage forcé. En clair, parce que leur attitude laisse planer un doute sur leur virginité. C’est le constat de la fondation suisse Surgir, spécialisée dans la lutte contre les violences faites aux femmes. Très prudent dans sa volonté de ne « stigmatiser » aucune communauté, le rapport publié par Surgir établit un lien direct entre ces assassinats et l’immigration, tout en soulignant que, « majoritairement pratiqué au sein des communautés musulmanes, le crime d’honneur l’est aussi par les communautés sikhs, hindoues et chrétiennes ». Entre 15 000 et 20 000 femmes sont tuées chaque année dans le monde, selon les estimations des organisations non gouvernementales, par un cousin, un frère ou un père craignant l’opprobre de la communauté. « Plus qu’un permis de tuer, c’est un devoir de tuer », écrit Surgir, qui note que « le déshonneur [d’une fille] est une menace d’exclusion sociale pour toute la famille élargie ». Dans le cas de communautés immigrées, la crainte de l’assimilation peut renforcer ce besoin de protéger le groupe, alors que le mariage mixte et l’émancipation des jeunes générations sont perçus comme des menaces. Aucune statistique précise n’existe sur le sujet et la loi du silence est de mise dans les familles. Les chiffres avancés par la fondation reposent sur des estimations policières, quand celles-ci distinguent violences domestiques et violences liées à l’honneur, et sur l’étude de coupures de presse. Aux Pays-Bas, la police estime que treize meurtres ont été commis en 2009 au nom de l’honneur ; au Royaume-Uni, une douzaine de cas sont recensés chaque année ; en Allemagne, soixante-douze jeunes filles ont été tuées en dix ans ; en France, depuis 1993, une dizaine de cas ont été évoqués dans les médias, en grande majorité dans les communautés indiennes, pakistanaises, sri-lankaises, kurdes et turques. (…) La fondation Surgir appelle les autres Etats européens à prendre des mesures – le code pénal italien prévoit notamment une réduction de la peine pour les crimes commis sur fond de « traditions culturelles » – tout en soulignant qu’un durcissement des législations entraîne systématiquement une hausse des suicides maquillés et pousse les familles à désigner un meurtrier mineur qui sera moins sévèrement jugé. Le Monde
Attention: un crime peut en cacher un autre !
Alors qu’après la prestigieuse Oxford Union (assimilée à un vulgaire bureau des étudiants) l’an dernier …
Et sous couvert de la neutralité du titre anglais et le refus de toute identification nationale de la romancière ou de ses personnages …
Réduisant à de simples sorties-cinéma les rencontres, nécessairement clandestines dans les cinémas les plus excentrés du Londres des années 70 et d’ailleurs payées au prix fort du matricide, d »une héroïne kurde abandonnée par son mari et d’un restaurateur multiculturel d’origine grecque …
C’est la tragique héroïne d’un roman anglo-turc que la cuvée du bac d’anglais 2014 assassine à nouveau …
Pendant qu’avec le retour des djihadistes en Irak suite au départ précipité du Munichois en chef de la Maison Blanche, les belles âmes qui avaient hurlé contre Bush et regretté Saddam nous ressortent leurs arguments les plus éculés contre la démocratisation d’une des régions les plus arriérées de la planète …
Comment ne pas voir cet étrange aveuglement, politiquement correct oblige, d’une Europe et d’un Occident d’ordinaire si prompts à dénoncer les moindres manquements aux droits de ces nouveaux damnés de la terre que sont devenus les immigrés …
Sur ces crimes dits d’honneur qui, avec l’afflux d’immigrants et comme le rappelait il y a quelques années Le Monde, ne sont plus « réservés aux provinces reculées du Pakistan, de la Turquie ou de l’Inde » …
Et qui, devant le durcissement des législations, se voient même maquillés en suicides ou attribués à des meurtriers mineurs susceptibles d’être jugés moins sévèrement ?
Et comment ne pas saluer, par contraste, la véritable plongée que nous offre la romancière turque fille d’un philosophe et d’une diplomate Elif Shafak dans ce passé encore « là mais inégalement réparti » …
Ce monde qui nous était devenu inconnu …
Où, via l’éducation qu’elles prodiguent à leurs fils et filles, les victimes elles-mêmes font partie de la reproduction de leur propre victimisation …
Et qui, avec l’immigration et à l’instar de certaines maladies que l’on croyait disparues, fait pourtant son retour en force chez nous ?
Q & A With Elif Shafak
Penguin Q & A with Elif Safak, author of Honour
What is your new book about?
Honour is about a family, mother-son relationship and how we, knowingly or unknowingly, hurt the people we love most. This is the story of a half-Turkish, half-Kurdish family in London in the late 1970s.
What or who inspired it?
What was the biggest challenge, writing it?
The central character, Iskender, is a young man obsessed with the notion of honour to the extent that he becomes a murderer. It was a challenge for me to put myself in his shoes, to build empathy for this extremely macho character, but it was important. Without understanding boys/men like Iskender we cannot discuss, let alone solve, honour killings.
What did you want to achieve with your book?
I wanted to tell a story, that has always been my primary aim, whatever the subject. I love giving a voice to characters who are kept in the margins, left unheard in life.
What do you hope for your book?
I hope it will connect readers from different backgrounds and lifestyles, I hope it will speak to their hearts and transcend cultural ghettoes.
Are there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you?
My novels are not autobiographical. In other words, my starting point is not myself. I find writing about myself rather boring. What I am more interested in is being other people, discovering other world and universes.
Do you have a favourite character or one you really enjoyed writing?
I don’t have a favourite character, as I feel and love each and every character along the way, even the side characters, even the ones who look troubled. However I must say Yunus, the family’s younger son has a special place in my heart. Imagining him, being him, was an inspiring journey.
What do you see as the major themes in your book?
Love and freedom. There cannot be love without freedom. And there is no honour in murder.
What made you set it in London?
My novel travels to different cities and locations, like all of my novels do. There are scenes in a Kurdish village, Istanbul, but London has been central. I love this city. I love the multicultural blending here, which is different than anywhere else. But I also wanted to say if honour-related attacks are happening even here, and they are, then that means they can happen anywhere.
Did the title come instantly to you or did you labour over it?
The title had a journey of its own. In Turkey the novel is called Iskender, which means Alexander. However I could not name it Alexander in English as people would have thought it was a novel about Alexander the Great. So instead of focusing on a character I focused on the theme and chose Honour. It is being translated into many languages and as it travels from one country to another book jackets change. In Italy they also changed the name because the word Honour in Italian recalls the mafia, and the novel has nothing to do with the mafia. So my Italian publisher Rizzoli and I chose another title: The House of Four Winds, which is the name of the Kurdish village in the novel.
To whom have you dedicated the book and why?
This book is dedicated to people who see, people who hear, people who care. And why I did that? Well the answer is in this little story I wrote at the opening page…
Who do you think will enjoy your book?
I don’t have a specific audience. Very different people read my work and I cherish that. I sincerely hope people who love stories and the art of storytelling will enjoy it, that’s what matters.
Do you have a special spot for writing at home? (If so, describe it)
I don’t have writing rituals or specific places for that. I write at home but I also write in crowded cafes, restaurants, trains stations, airports, always on the move.
Do you like silence or music playing while you’re writing?
I don’t like silence at all. I cannot write in silence. There has to be the sounds of life, music, the sounds coming from the street, rain cars and all of that. Istanbul is a very noisy city. I am used to writing in chaos and noise.
When did you start writing?
At the age of eight, but that’s not because I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t even know there was such a possibility. I fell in love with words and stories. I was a lonely kid and on my own most of the time. Books were my best friends, they were the gates unto other worlds, and they still are.
Did you always want to become an author?
The desire to become an author came to me later, when I was 17 or 18, and it was crystallised in my early twenties. So first there was the love of writing, the love of stories and only much later the desire to become an author. I have a writer inside me and an author inside me. They are different personalities. Most of the time they get along but sometimes they quarrel and disagree.
Tell us a bit about your childhood?
I was raised by a single mother, an independent minded, feminist divorcee. That was a bit unusual in 1970s Turkey. I was also raised by my Grandma for a while and she was a very different woman, she was a healer and an oral storyteller. To this day I love combining the two worlds, the two women.
If you’ve had other jobs outside of writing, what were they?
I contribute regularly to a major newspaper in Turkey, I write twice a week and I also write op-ed pieces for papers around the world. I am a political scientist by training, I teach creative writing too.
Describe yourself in three words?
Storyteller, nomad, freethinker.
What star sign are you and are you typical of it?
I am a Scorpio and like many Scorpio’s I am inward-looking and love to sabotage myself.
What three things do you dislike?
Hate speech, xenophobia, gender discrimination.
What three things do you like?
Connections, creativity, compassion.
Have you a family, partner or are you single?
I am a mother of two and a terrible wife in addition to being a writer.
Honour by Elif Shafak – review
A fierce tale of tradition in Muslim culture
20 April 2012
Elif Shafak begins her new novel with a dedication containing a dark and portentous anecdote: when she was seven years old, she lived next door to a tailor who was in the habit of beating his wife. « In the evenings, we listened to the shouts, the cries, the swearing. In the morning, we went on with our lives as usual. The entire neighbourhood pretended not to have heard, not to have seen. »
by Elif Shafak
Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book
Having dedicated her book to « those who hear, those who see », Shafak hands over to Esma Toprak, a London-bred Turkish Kurd, as she prepares to set off for Shrewsbury Prison to collect her brother, who has just served a 14-year term for murder. It is implied, but not confirmed, that his victim was their mother. Esma admits to having thought often about killing her brother in revenge. And yet she plans to welcome him back into the house she now shares with her husband and two daughters.
This is the cloud that hangs over the next 300-odd pages, as Esma offers up fragments of family history, beginning with her mother’s birth in a village near the Euphrates. She describes a world where women as well as men enforce an honour code that results in the social death of men who fail to act like men, and the actual death of several female relatives. When her family migrates to Istanbul, and then to London in the early 1970s, they take that code with them, but as they grow accustomed to life in the west it becomes less a system of social regulation than a compulsion they can neither control nor understand.
Adem, the father, falls in love with an exotic dancer. Disgraced, he drifts away. Iskender, the eldest son, is left unprotected and is brutally bullied before forming his own gang and doing much worse to others. His views on masculinity are further sharpened by the neighbourhood’s fledgling radicals and he has one rule for his English girlfriend and another for Pembe, his mother. Tradition dictates that he is now the head of the household, and even though she does not like him controlling her, she nevertheless defers to him, going out of her way to convey her approval for her « sultan ».
Running in parallel with this all-too-familiar tragedy is another story. Even in that village near the Euphrates, where mothers grieve at the birth of each new daughter, women wield considerable social powers, although they are inclined to express them through dreams, premonitions, and potions. They also impart a gentler Islamic tradition of mercy and compassion, encouraging an imaginative engagement with both tradition and the modern world. Pembe longs to travel, and she has her wish. Her twin sister Jamila stays behind to become the region’s fabled Virgin Midwife, travelling fearlessly through territories controlled by bandits, trusting her fate to God’s hands. When a dream signals that her twin is in danger, Jamila has no trouble finding the people who can get her to London without proper documentation. The two younger Toprak children show a similar independence of thought as they struggle to resolve the contradictions that have brought their family down.
Shafak is an extremely popular novelist in Turkey, particularly loved by young, educated and newly independent women who appreciate her fusion of feminism and Sufism, her disarmingly quirky characters and the artful twists and turns of her epic romances. Born in Strasbourg to a diplomat mother, educated in Europe, the United States and Turkey, she writes some books in her native Turkish and others (like this one) in English. In everything she writes, she sets out to dissolve what she regards as false narratives. In this one, it’s the story of the « honour killing » as we know it from those shock headlines. The book calls to mind The Color Purple in the fierceness of its engagement with male violence and its determination to see its characters to a better place. But Shafak is closer to Isabel Allende in spirit, confidence and charm. Her portrayal of Muslim cultures, both traditional and globalising, is as hopeful as it is politically sophisticated. This alone should gain her the world audience she has long deserved.
• Maureen Freely’s Enlightenment is published by Marion Boyars.
Les crimes d’honneur, une réalité européenne
Les crimes d’honneur ne sont pas réservés aux provinces reculées du Pakistan, de la Turquie ou de l’Inde. En Europe occidentale aussi, des jeunes femmes sont torturées et tuées par des membres de leur famille à cause de leurs fréquentations, de leur façon de s’habiller ou de leur refus de se soumettre à un mariage forcé. En clair, parce que leur attitude laisse planer un doute sur leur virginité.
C’est le constat de la fondation suisse Surgir, spécialisée dans la lutte contre les violences faites aux femmes. Très prudent dans sa volonté de ne « stigmatiser » aucune communauté, le rapport publié par Surgir établit un lien direct entre ces assassinats et l’immigration, tout en soulignant que, « majoritairement pratiqué au sein des communautés musulmanes, le crime d’honneur l’est aussi par les communautés sikhs, hindoues et chrétiennes ».
Entre 15 000 et 20 000 femmes sont tuées chaque année dans le monde, selon les estimations des organisations non gouvernementales, par un cousin, un frère ou un père craignant l’opprobre de la communauté. « Plus qu’un permis de tuer, c’est un devoir de tuer », écrit Surgir, qui note que « le déshonneur [d’une fille] est une menace d’exclusion sociale pour toute la famille élargie ». Dans le cas de communautés immigrées, la crainte de l’assimilation peut renforcer ce besoin de protéger le groupe, alors que le mariage mixte et l’émancipation des jeunes générations sont perçus comme des menaces.
Aucune statistique précise n’existe sur le sujet et la loi du silence est de mise dans les familles. Les chiffres avancés par la fondation reposent sur des estimations policières, quand celles-ci distinguent violences domestiques et violences liées à l’honneur, et sur l’étude de coupures de presse. Aux Pays-Bas, la police estime que treize meurtres ont été commis en 2009 au nom de l’honneur ; au Royaume-Uni, une douzaine de cas sont recensés chaque année ; en Allemagne, soixante-douze jeunes filles ont été tuées en dix ans ; en France, depuis 1993, une dizaine de cas ont été évoqués dans les médias, en grande majorité dans les communautés indiennes, pakistanaises, sri-lankaises, kurdes et turques.
« PRÉTENDU » HONNEUR
Le rapport évoque plusieurs cas enregistrés chaque année en Suède, en Suisse ou en Italie. En octobre 2010, par exemple, à Modène, une Pakistanaise de 20 ans et sa mère de 46 ans se sont opposées au mariage arrangé prévu pour la jeune femme : le père et le fils ont tué la mère à coups de barre de fer et blessé grièvement la jeune fille.
Le Parlement européen et le Conseil de l’Europe ont avancé pour la première fois en 2003 des recommandations d’ordre général. Mais seuls les Pays-Bas et le Royaume-Uni ont adopté un dispositif complet, alliant prévention auprès des associations d’immigrés, protection des témoins, formation des policiers et création d’unités spéciales. Dans les textes britanniques, le mot « honneur » est, à la demande explicite du gouvernement, précédé de la mention « so called » (« prétendu »).
La fondation Surgir appelle les autres Etats européens à prendre des mesures – le code pénal italien prévoit notamment une réduction de la peine pour les crimes commis sur fond de « traditions culturelles » – tout en soulignant qu’un durcissement des législations entraîne systématiquement une hausse des suicides maquillés et pousse les familles à désigner un meurtrier mineur qui sera moins sévèrement jugé.
Les «crimes d’honneur» augmentent au Royaume-Uni
Banaz Mahmod, 20 ans, a été violée, torturée, étranglée puis brûlée sur ordre de son père et de son oncle en 2006 car elle fréquentait un garçon. Son meurtre avait choqué le Royaume-Uni.
Une association a recensé près de 3000 victimes de «crimes d’honneur» dans le pays en 2010. Les plaintes déposées à la police ont doublé en un an dans certaines zones, dont Londres.
Battues, séquestrées, mutilées, aspergées à l’acide ou tuées pour avoir porté atteinte à l’honneur de leur famille. Cette réalité a été vécue en 2010 par près de 3000 jeunes femmes résidant en Grande-Bretagne, selon une étude parue par l’Organisation pour le droit des femmes iraniennes et kurdes (Ikwro). Dans la seule capitale de Londres, ces «crimes d’honneur» ont doublé en un an, avec près de 500 cas.
Les données, collectées pour la première fois dans le pays, ont été obtenues par l’association grâce au Freedom of Information Act, une loi promulguée en 2000 par le gouvernement de Tony Blair qui permet à tout citoyen d’avoir accès à un très grand nombre de documents administratifs. Ikwro a ainsi envoyé une demande à l’ensemble des forces de police afin de connaître le nombre de violences qui ont été perpétrées l’an passé au nom de «l’honneur».
Le total, estimé à 2823 incidents, peut selon l’association être augmenté d’au moins 500 cas, 13 unités de police sur 52 n’ayant pas répondu à la demande. Dans certaines zones, les cas recensés ont doublé en un an. Ikwro estime également que ces chiffres sont sous-estimés, de nombreuses victimes n’osant pas porter plainte par peur de représailles.
«Un problème sérieux qui touche des milliers de personnes»
Pour l’association, la très grande majorité des femmes victimes de ces violences proviennent de familles originaires du sous-continent indien, d’Europe de l’Est et du Moyen-Orient. «Elles résistent de plus en plus aux atteintes à leur liberté, comme un mariage forcé décidé par leur famille. De fait, elles sont plus exposées aux violences», explique au Guardian Fionnuala Ni Mhurchu, responsable de la campagne d’Ikwro. «Ces chiffres sont importants car ils prouvent qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un phénomène isolé. C’est au contraire un problème sérieux qui touche des milliers de personnes chaque année, dont un certain nombre subit de très importantes violences avant de porter plainte.»
Ces femmes subissent le courroux de leur famille parce qu’elles ont un petit ami, ont refusé un mariage arrangé, ont été violées, ou parlent simplement à des hommes. D’autres sont victimes de violences car elles sont homosexuelles, se maquillent, ou s’habillent à l’occidentale. «Les coupables de ces crimes sont considérés comme des héros dans leur communauté parce qu’ils ont défendu l’honneur de leur famille et la réputation de la communauté»,a expliqué la directrice de l’Ikwro, Dina Nammi, sur la BBC.
L’association, forte de ces données, réclame que les autorités britanniques se donnent les moyens de lutter contre les «crimes d’honneur». Un porte-parole du ministère britannique de l’Intérieur a assuré que le gouvernement était «déterminé à mettre fin» à ces pratiques. Le Royaume-Uni est en effet avec les Pays-Bas le seul pays d’Europe à avoir élaboré une politique complète en la matière selon un rapport de la fondation suisse Surgir. La police britannique s’est ainsi dotée d’unités spéciales, tandis que tous les policiers du pays sont formés depuis 2009 à reconnaître les signes de violence liées à l’honneur. Des sites d’informations destinées aux jeunes filles ont également été mis en ligne pour inciter les victimes à porter plainte contre leur famille. Il n’existe pas de politique similaire en France.
Voir de même:
Meurtre de Banaz Mahmod en Grande-Bretagne : de nouvelles révélations ajoutent à l’horreur de ce « crime d’honneur »
4 septembre 2007
De nouveaux détails concernant l’affaire Banaz Mahmod viennent d’être révélés sur les dernières heures de la jeune femme kurde assassinée par sa famille pour être tombée amoureuse du mauvais garçon. Ces détails ajoutent encore un peu plus dans le pathétique d’une affaire qui émeut toute l’Angleterre. Banaz Mahmod, 20 ans, a été violée et frappée à coups de pieds pendant deux heures avant d’être étranglée par une cordelette. Mohamad Hama, âgé de 30 ans avait été reconnu coupable du meurtre. Il avait été recruté par le père de Banaz (52 ans), et par Ari, le frère de celui-ci (51 ans), eux aussi reconnus coupables du meurtre. Les détails terrifiants du meurtre sont parvenus au public après que Hama ait été secrètement enregistré en train de parler à un de ses compagnons de cellule. Il a admis avoir « frappé » et « baisé » Banaz, qui a été soumise à des actes sexuels dégradant. Dans cet enregistrement, on peut entendre Hama et son ami rire de bon coeur pendant qu’il décrit comme il l’a tuée chez elle à Mitcham, dans le sud de Londres, avec Ari Mahmod pour « superviseur » des opérations. Les meurtriers, puisque deux autres suspects se sont enfuis en Irak, pensaient que Banaz serait seule chez elle. Hama déclare : « Ari (l’oncle) avait dit qu’il n’y avait personne d’autre. Mais il y avait quelqu’un d’autre : sa soeur (Biza). Le bâtard nous avait menti ». Au sujet du meurtre, il déclare « Je jure sur Allah que ça a pris plus de deux heures. Son âme et sa vie ne voulaient pas partir. Selon le meurtrier, Banaz avait été garottée pendant cinq minutes, mais il a fallu encore une demi-heure avant qu’elle ne meure. « Le cordon était fin et l’âme ne voulait pas partir comme ça. Nous ne pouvions pas l’enlever, ça a pris en tout et pour tout cinq minutes pour l’étrangler. Je l’ai frappé à coups de pieds sur le cou pour faire sortir son âme. Elle était complètement à poil, sans rien sur elle » Le corps de Banaz a été mis dans une valise et enterrée dans un jardin à Birmingham, où on l’a retrouvée trois mois plus tard.
Voir par ailleurs:
‘Honor killings’ in USA raise concerns
Muslim immigrant men have been accused of six « honor killings » in the United States in the past two years, prompting concerns that the Muslim community and police need to do more to stop such crimes.
« There is broad support and acceptance of this idea in Islam, and we’re going to see it more and more in the United States, » says Robert Spencer, who has trained FBI and military authorities on Islam and founded Jihad Watch, which monitors radical Islam.
Honor killings are generally defined as murders of women by relatives who claim the victim brought shame to the family. Thousands of such killings have occurred in Muslim countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Palestinian territories, according to the World Health Organization.
Some clerics and even lawmakers in these countries have said families have the right to commit honor killings as a way of maintaining values, according to an analysis by Yotam Feldner in the journal Middle East Quarterly.
In the USA, police allege the latest « honor killing » was that of Noor Almaleki, 20, who died Nov. 2 after she and her boyfriend’s mother were run over in a Peoria, Ariz., parking lot. Prosecutors charged Almaleki’s father, Faleh Almaleki, with murder, saying the Iraqi immigrant was upset that his daughter rejected a husband she married in Iraq and moved in with an American.
« By his own admission, this was an intentional act, and the reason was that his daughter had brought shame on him and his family, » says Maricopa County prosecutor Stephanie Low, according to The Arizona Republic.
Many Muslim leaders in the USA say that Islam does not promote honor killings and that the practice stems from sexism and tribal behavior that predates the religion.
« You’re always going to get problems with chauvinism and suppressing vulnerable populations and gender discrimination, » says Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Not all agree. Zuhdi Jasser says some Muslim communities have failed to spell out how Islam deals with issues that can lead to violence.
« How should young adult women be treated who want to assimilate more than their parents want them to assimilate? » asks Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which advocates a separation of mosque and state. « How does an imam treat a woman who comes in and says she wants a divorce … or how to deal with your daughter that got pregnant, and she’s in high school? »
Phyllis Chesler, who wrote about honor killings in her book Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman, says police need to focus on the crimes’ co-conspirators if they wish to reverse the trend. Before 2008, there were six honor killings in the USA in the previous 18 years, according to her research.
« It’s usually the father, brother or first male cousin who is charged with the actual shooting or stabbing, (but not) the mother who lures the girl home, » Chesler says. « The religion has failed to address this as a problem and failed to seriously work to abolish it as un-Islamic. »
Jasser says his community needs to address how to treat young women who want to assimilate. « Until we have women’s liberation … we’re going to see these things increase. »
Q&A; Women Are Nurturing? How About Cruel, Especially to One Another
The New York Times
August 24, 2002
Phyllis Chesler is a feminist psychotherapist, author of several books about women and the founder of the Association for Women in Psychology. In her latest book, »Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman » (Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002) she explores the often cruel relationships between women. Felicia R. Lee spoke with her.
There have been several books in the past year about how women and girls treat one another badly. Why is this topic receiving so much attention now?
I began working on this 20 years ago so I think I anticipated the curve. Had I published it sooner I would not have been able to back it up with the extraordinary research that has only begun to gather steam in the last 10 to 15 years.
The media are now willing, for whatever reason, to pay attention to the subject. I think that as women we’re strong enough now to not only acknowledge our racism, our class bias and our homophobia but our sexism. The coming generation, and second-wave feminists as well, can acknowledge that women, like men, are aggressive and, like men, are as close to the apes as the angels. Our lived realities have never conformed to the feminist view that women are morally superior to men, are compassionate, nurturing, maternal and also very valiant under siege. This is a myth.
You are known as a radical feminist who has written extensively about how the courts and the medical system mistreat women. Are you afraid that this book will be used against women?
Women don’t have to be better than anyone else to deserve human rights. Our failure to look at our own sexism lost us a few inches in our ability to change history in our lifetime. The first thing we do is acknowledge what the truth is, and then we have to not have double standards. We have to try not to use gossip to get rid of a rival, we have to try not to slander the next woman because we’re jealous that she’s pretty or that she got a scholarship. I think we have to learn some of the rules of engagement that men are good at.
Women coerce dreadful conformity from each other. I would like us to embrace diversity. Then we could have a more viable, serious feminist movement.
Why did so many feminists make the mistake of believing in what you call the myth of female superiority?
Because the stereotypes of women have been so used to justify our subordination and since it was a heady moment in history to suddenly come together with other women in quantum numbers around issues of women’s freedom and human rights, it took a while before each of us in turn started looking at how we treated each other. The unacknowledged aggression and cruelty and sexism among women in general — and that includes feminists — is what drove many an early activist out of what was a real movement.
Isn’t there conflict and psychological warfare in any social justice movement or workplace?
I think it gets worse when it’s women only. Men are happy in a middle-distance ground toward all others. They don’t take anything too personally, and they don’t have to get right into your face, into your business, into your life. Women need to do that. Women, the minute they meet another woman, it’s: she’s going to be my fairy godmother, my best friend, the mother I never had. And when that’s not the case we say, »well, she’s the evil stepmother. »
We don’t serve ourselves so well with our depth-charged levels of capacity for intimacy because then we can only be close to a small group. We can’t command a nation-state.
Isn’t that just an extension of arguments that have created glass-ceilings in workplaces?
No. I think the conclusion is not that women should be kept barefoot and pregnant and at home because they have no executive capacity. The conclusion is that there is something about the workplace that is deadly to all living things and men adapt more.
I do have a chapter that says if you have a situation that is male-dominated with a few token women, women will not like each other, they will be particularly vicious in how they compete and keep other women down and out. We can’t say how women as a group would behave if overnight they had all the positions that men now have.
The cruelty you document ranges from mothers-in-law burning their daughters-in-law because of dowry disagreements to women stealing each other’s boyfriends. Can it all really be lumped together?
It helps to understand that in these non-Western countries where you have mothers-in-law dousing daughters-in-law with kerosene for their dowries and we say »how shocking, » we have a version here. You have here mothers who think their daughters have to be thin, their daughters have to be pretty and their daughters need to have plastic surgery and their daughters have to focus mainly on the outward appearance and not on inner strength or inner self. It’s not genital mutilation but it’s ultimately a concern with outward appearance for the sake of marriageability.
Although you note that women don’t have as much power as men, you view them as equally culpable for many of society’s ills.
I’m thinking back to the civil rights era and the faces of white mothers who did not want little black children to integrate schools. What should we say about those women who joined the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazi party? You have a lot of women groaning under the yoke of oppression. Nevertheless, there are women who warm the beds and are the partners of men who create orphans. Women are best at collaborating with men who run the world because then we can buy pretty trinkets and have safe homes and nests for ourselves.
You say that women are the ones who police and monitor one another and silence dissent.
Women are silenced not because men beat up on us but because we don’t want to be shunned by our little cliques. That applies to all age groups. That’s one of the reasons that women are so conformist and so indirect: we end up sabotaging her rather than risking the loss of her intimate companionship. Women stealing each other’s lovers and spouses and jobs is pandemic.
Banaz: An ‘honour’ killing
November 3, 2012 « Honour » based violence (HBV), Blog 1
Artist and activist Deeyah explains the motivation behind her documentary film Banaz: A love story which features IKWRO. A shortened version of this documentary was shown on ITV on 31st October.
I grew up in a community where honour is a form of social currency which is a source of concern from the moment we are born. ‘Honour’ can be the most sought after, protected and prized asset that defines the status and reputation of a family within their community. This burden weighs most heavily upon women’s behaviour. This collective sense of honour and shame has for centuries confined our movement, freedom of choice and restricted our autonomy. You cannot be who you are, you cannot express your needs, hopes and opinions as an individual if they are in conflict with the greater good and reputation of the family, the community, the collective. If you grow up in a community defined by these patriarchal concepts of honour and social structures these are the parameters you are expected to live by. This is true for my own life and experiences.
Autonomy, is not acceptable and can be punished by a variety of consequences from abuse, threats, intimidation, exclusion by the group, violence of which the most extreme manifestation is taking someone’s life; murdering someone in the name of ‘honour’. This is something that has interested me through much of my life especially because of my own experiences of meeting resistance and opposition for my expression and life choices which at the time strayed from the acceptable moral norms afforded to women of my background and I understand what it is like when people want to silence your voice. I have addressed these honour concepts in various forms through the years but I have always wanted to do more, especially about the most extreme form of guarding this “honour” known as honour killings. The medium I felt would allow me the room to explore this topic most in-depth is the documentary film format.
This is why I set out, almost 4 years ago, to make a documentary film about honour killings. My intent was to shed light on this topic and to learn about through reviewing an extensive list of cases across Europe that could help us to understand the extent of this issue and its existence within the European and American diaspora. The purpose of this project being to create a film that would serve primarily to educate and inform, and to help us understand the issue better and to consider what can be done to prevent or reduce these crimes. As I started researching and delving further into various cases, I came across the story of Banaz Mahmod. I realized that this case would best illustrate the constructs of honour, the lack of understanding around this topic in the Western world, and the severe need to do more across social, political and community lines. As a result, Banaz’ story has become the anchor for the topic in the film and shows the lessons needed to be learned from her tragic death.
Banaz Mahmod’s life was marked by betrayal. As a child she underwent FGM at the hands of her grandmother. At age 17 she was married off to a man she had met only once in order to strengthen family alliances. In her marriage she was abused, beaten, raped and forced to endure isolation. At age 19, she left her husband and returned to her family home hoping for safety and security, only to be betrayed again: first by the British authorities who didn’t take her pleas for help seriously when she suspected she was in danger, then by her family, who took her disobedience as an unforgivable act. At age 20 she disappeared and was never heard from again until she was discovered buried under a patio, wedged in a fetal position inside a muddy suitcase— a victim of so-called ‘Honour’ Killing.
After her death, Banaz found another family in the unlikeliest of places: the Metropolitan Police. It took Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode and her team five years to find and prosecute the perpetrators of this brutal crime, which included her father, uncle and a male cousin. This case spanned two continents and resulted in the only extradition from Iraq by Britain in modern history. In death, Banaz found a family willing to do whatever it took to protect her memory.
Banaz’s life and murder is just one among thousands of stories around the world where families chose to obey their community and peer pressure instead of honouring their duty to love and protect their children. Through Banaz’s story, which covers many of the classic patterns of Honour Crimes and oppression, we explore the broader topic of honour killings that is becoming particularly prevalent within diaspora communities in Europe and the US. 3000 honour crimes were reported in the UK alone in 2010. Despite these staggering figures being considered the “tip of the iceberg”, many young women, like Banaz, are let down by officials in the West because of their lack of understanding and training in identifying the signs of an honour crime as well as for fear of upsetting cultural sensitivities—and at times from a sense of a general apathy surrounding violence against minority community women. Honour Killings are an ongoing genocide where the murders of women and girls are considered ‘justified’ for the protection of a a family’s reputation. Although , for Banaz, justice did eventually prevail, she was still found dead in a suitcase.
Caroline’s extraordinary dedication shows that effective action can be taken, and that a new benchmark for detection can be set.
During the process of making this film, there were two points that stood out as particular needs that I could concretely do something about. The first, was to create a place where people interested in the subject and in need of information about honour violence could go to find out more. The second, was to create a place where the victims, whose families intended to erase them from the world, could be remembered. So I created The Honour-Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA) and the Memini Memorial initiatives in collaboration with volunteers and experts from around the world.
During the process of making the film I found that after exhaustively searching the web for information on the subject, my need for research and data was unfulfilled. I continued interviewing experts in the field, ranging from policy makers to NGOs, activists, police officers and legal professionals and realised that they also shared my frustration at the lack of accessible and comprehensive information about Honour Based Violence. During these interviews, I quickly became aware that Honour Based Violence is little understood in the West–with alarming consequences. We know that Honour Based Violence is far more widespread than current figures indicate because it is under-reported, under-researched and under-documented; and therefore, easily misunderstood, overlooked and mis-recognised. I found this absolutely unacceptable. As a result I developed the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA).
In collaboration with international experts, HBVA is an international digital resource centre working to advance understanding and awareness of Honour Killings and Honour Based Violence through research, training and information for professionals; teachers, health workers, social services, police, politicians, and others who may encounter individuals at risk. HBVA builds and promotes a network of experts, activists, and NGOs from around the world, establishing international partnerships to facilitate greater collaboration and education. HBVA draws on the expertise of its international partners, collaborators and experts from Pakistan, Iraq, UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, India, Norway, Denmark, Bangladesh, Jordan, Palestine, France. Some of the esteemed HBVA experts are Unni Wikan, Asma Jahangir, Yakin Erturk, Rana Husseini, Serap Cileli, Ayse Onal, Yanar Mohammad, Dr. Shahrzad Mojab, Aruna Papp, Hina Jilani, Dr. Tahira S. Khan, Sara Hossain. WWW.HBV-AWARENESS.COM
Additionally, born as a result of this film project, is WWW.MEMINI.CO. Memini is an online remembrance initiative set up to ensure that the stories of victims of honour killings are told, defying the intent of those who wanted to erase them. Our personal and community silence allows these violent expressions of honour to survive and is what makes these murders possible in the first place. Memini is a small and humble step towards ending that silence.
Although the story of Banaz is filled with so much darkness, Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode shows us what can be achieved if we just simply care. Caroline went above and beyond the call of duty, going to the ends of the earth to find justice for Banaz–not just to fulfill her obligation as a police officer, but from feeling duty bound and seeing Banaz with a mother’s eyes and feeling with a mother’s heart.. I am grateful to have found Caroline and Banaz through this journey. For me, Caroline’s dedication and integrity, her compassion and her professionalism, represents the highest expression of truly honourable behaviour. The core lesson I have learned is that there is hope, but more has to be done – and I am committed to doing what I can, however small the action. I believe one thing we can do is to remember the victims. I believe if their own blood relatives discarded, betrayed, exterminated and forgot them, then we should adopt these girls as our own children, our own sisters, our own mothers and as fellow human beings. We will mourn, we will remember, we will honour their memory and we will not forget!
If we worry about offending communities by criticising honour killings, then we are complicit in the perpetuation of violence and abuse, in the restriction of women’s lives. Our silence provides the soil for this oppression and violence to thrive. It is not racist to protest against honour killings. We have a duty to stand up for individual human rights for all people, not for just men and not just for groups. We shall not sacrifice the lives of ethnic minority women for the sake of so-called political correctness.
I’d rather hurt feelings than see women die because of our fear, apathy and silence. We need to stand in solidarity. In order to create change we need to care. We need authorities, decision makers and politicians to provide the same protections and robust actions for women of ethnic minority communities affected by honour based violence and oppression as they would for any other crimes in any other part of society. It is not acceptable to shy away from abuses happening against women in some communities for fears of being labelled racist or insensitive– the very notion of turning a blind eye or walking on egg shells and avoiding to protect basic human rights of some women because they are of a certain ethnic background is not only fatal, but represents true racism.
We cannot continue to allow this slaughter of women in the name of culture, in the name of religion, in the name of tradition and in the name of political correctness. If we allow this to continue, we are betraying not only Banaz but thousands of other women and girls in her situation. Surely we should do all we can to protect all individuals in our societies regardless of skin colour, cultural heritage or gender, without fear?
We must challenge these paradigms in every way we can. Centuries old mindsets, entrenched gender roles and power relations will take time to change, but we can make a real and immediate difference in challenging the lack of awareness, the lack of political will, the lack of sufficient training and understanding when it comes to front line people who can help individuals at risk. This includes police, doctors, nurses, school teachers, social services and so on. At the very least the ignorance of authorities and lack of their understanding and training in European countries should not be a contributing factor in the continuing abuse of thousands of women (and men). We can not allow it to be the reason why these young people continue to suffer in silence because they fear they won’t be understood and won’t get the help they need.
Banaz is among the people who dared to ask for help; the majority of young people at risk of the various forms of honour based violence may not come forward at all.
All of the honour killings I researched are horrifying, heartbreaking and devastating, and no one case felt any less sad and tragic than any other. The reason I ended up choosing the story of Banaz was not because of the horror but because of the love. Banaz’s story was different in my eyes from most other stories because there was love in spite of the hatred she faced in her life, after death there were people who loved her and cared about her, one of whom was the most unexpected person I could have imagined, a police officer, of all people, DCI Caroline Goode. The other was Banaz’s sister Bekhal, who sacrificed her own safety and peace of mind for the sake of her love for her sister and her need to honour her memory through achieving justice. I have the greatest respect for Bekhal, her courage and determination defines true honour for me.
I was most saddened, from the very beginning of this project, to see how absent Banaz was from her own story. Normally a biographical film will feature family members, friends, and other people who knew the person sharing their love, their memories and thoughts about the person who has died, showing home videos and photographs and the other mementoes of loving relationships. In this film that was just not the case at all. The only person in the film speaking about Banaz and who had known Banaz when she was alive was her sister. Everyone else in the film came to know Banaz after she had passed away. We even put out calls in local newspapers and reached out through facebook and other social media to find anyone who would have known her and would be willing to share their memories of her, but no one came forward. This hurt my heart until I came across the footage of Banaz herself, showing us the suffocating reality of her life. Watching this tape for the first time was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I had spent three and a half years working on this documentary, learning everything I could about this young women’s life — and her death, and we were in the final editing process, and then suddenly here she was present on this tape. No one else would come forward to speak about her, but here she was herself in the final momemts of the process of making this film. It was a harrowing experience to finally be able to hear and see her tell her own story.
I found it excruciatingly sad to see her and at the same time I felt so glad and privileged to finally get a chance to see her and hear her. No one listened to her in her life, so the least we can do is listen to her now.
As a society we have let down Banaz, and as her community we have let her down, so the least we can now paying her the respect to listen to her and to learn from her experiences, and to honour Banaz we through addressing this issue with complete honesty and courage.
I deeply regret the fact that it took her death for people to start the process of learning more about this problem, although measures have been taken to improve the understanding around this, in my personal opinion, reflected in the research I have done, there is a very long way to go before we can adequately understand, protect and support women at risk. We don’t need empty slogans or lip service; we need real effective action on this issue. Living in Western societies, we need our lives as “brown” women to matter as much as any white British, Norwegian, French, German, Swedish, American, European or any other woman and fellow human being.
It feels surreal but deeply satisfying to finally stand at the point of completion. It has been a very long, hard and emotionally difficult process. It is my first film ever, and I feel proud to have had the opportunity to work on a project like this, and honoured to get to tell the story of such remarkable women such as Banaz, Bekhal and Caroline.
One of the things that has been very moving about this project is that, every single person who has been involved with the film has done so out of love for Banaz and for this project, and I have a deep feeling of gratitude for everyone who took part..Even though I did not have the budget to make a film like this, the time and commitment of my team made it possible — not only have people worked for significantly reduced rates, but often they have also worked for free. For example, the master musician Dr. Subramaniam contributed a soundtrack for the film because he believed in the project and wanted to contribute even though I was unable to pay him his usual fees. The entire process of this film has been like this and I have nothing but gratitude for the hard work, care and passion of everyone involved.
The tragic story of Banaz Mahmod: she fell in love at 19, so her family killed her
12 June 2007
As one of five daughters in a strictly-traditional Kurdish family, Banaz Mahmod’s future was ordained whether she liked it or not.
She was kept away from Western influences, entered an arranged marriage at the age of 16 with a member of her clan and was expected to fulfil the role of subservient wife and mother.
But Banaz, a bright, pretty 19-year-old, fell in love with another man.
And for that, she was murdered by her father, uncle and a group of family friends. The very people who should have protected her from harm plotted her killing, garrotted her with a bootlace, stuffed her body in a suitcase and buried her under a freezer.
Banaz’s crime was to « dishonour » her father, Mahmod Mahmod, an asylum seeker from Iraqi Kurdistan, by leaving her abusive marriage and choosing her own boyfriend – a man from a different Kurdish clan.
Her punishment was discussed at a family « council of war » attended by her father, uncle Ari and other members of the clan. In the living room of a suburban semi in Mitcham, South London, it was decided that this young woman’s life was to be snuffed out so that her family would not be shamed in the eyes of the community.
Banaz was only ten when she came to Britain with her father, who had served in the Iraqi army, her mother Behya, brother Bahman and sisters Beza, Bekhal, Payman and Giaband.
The family, who came from the mountainous and rural Mirawaldy area, close to the Iranian border, were escaping Saddam Hussein’s regime and were granted asylum.
But Banaz’s move to a western country changed nothing about the life she was made to lead.
She had met her husband-tobe only three times before her wedding day, once on her father’s allotment. He was ill-educated and old-fashioned but her family described him as ‘the David Beckham of husbands’.
The teenage bride, who was taken to live in the West Midlands, was to tell local police in September 2005 that she had been raped at least six times and routinely beaten by her husband.
In one assault, she claimed, one of her teeth was almost knocked out because she called him by his first name in public.
To leave the arranged marriage would have brought dishonour on the Mahmod family and Banaz’s parents apparently preferred their child to suffer abuse rather than be shamed.
But after two years of marriage, she insisted on returning home to seek sanctuary. It was there, at a family party in the late summer of 2005, that she met Rahmat Sulemani.
For the first time in her blighted existence, Banaz fell in love. She was besotted with Rahmat, 28, calling him ‘my prince’ and sending endless loving text messages. Her father and uncle Ari were furious; the young woman was not yet formally divorced by her husband and her boyfriend was neither from their clan nor religious. More importantly, perhaps, he had not been chosen by her family.
Mahmod became enraged when his daughter refused to give up her boyfriend and talked of being in love.
The threat to family honour was immense and made worse by the fact that Banaz’s elder sister, Bekhal, had already brought « shame » on the family by moving out of the house at the age of 15, to escape her father’s violence.
Bekhal’s defiance meant that Mahmod lost status in the community because he was seen to
have failed to control his women and his younger brother Ari, a wealthy entrepreneur who ran a money transfer business, took over as head of the family.
It was he who telephoned Banaz on December 1, 2005 to tell her to end the affair with Rahmat or face the consequences.
The following day, Ari called a council of war to plan her murder and the disposal of her body. She was secretly warned by her mother that the lives of her and her boyfriend were in danger, and she went to Mitcham Police Station to report the death threat. But she was so terrified of her family’s reaction that she asked police to take no action and refused to move to a refuge.
The next day, an officer called at the family home but Banaz would not let him in.
She believed that her mother would protect her from harm but as an insurance against her disappearance, went back to the police station a week later to make a full statement, naming the men she believed would kill her.
One of the men was Mohamad Hama, who has admitted murder and two of the others named fled back to Iraq after the killing. On New Year’s Eve 2005, she was lured to her grandmother’s house in nearby Wimbledon for a meeting with her father and uncle to sort out her divorce.
When her father appeared wearing surgical gloves, ready to kill her, she ran out barefoot, broke a window to get into a neighbour’s house and then ran to a nearby cafe, covered in blood from cuts to her hands and screaming: « They’re trying to kill me ».
The officers who attended the scene and accompanied Banaz to hospital did not believe her story.
However, the distressed and injured victim was able to give her own testimony about the attack to the jury in a short video recorded on Rahmat’s mobile phone at St George’s Hospital, Tooting.
The terrified lovers pretended they had parted but they continued to meet in secret. Tragically, they were spotted together in Brixton on January 21 and the Mahmods were informed.
Mohamad Hama and three other men tried to kidnap Rahmat and, when his friends intervened, told him he would be killed later.
When he phoned to warn Banaz, she went to the police and said she would co- operate in bringing charges against her family and other members of the community.
The policewoman who saw Banaz tried to persuade her to go into a hostel or safe house but she thought she would be safe at home because her mother was there.
On January 24, Banaz was left on her own at the family house and her assassins, Hama and two associates, were alerted.
The full details of what happened to her are still not known but two of the suspects, Omar Hussein and Mohammed Ali, who fled back to Iraq after the killing, are said to have boasted that Banaz was raped before she was strangled, « to show her disrespect ».
There followed a « massively challenging » investigation into her disappearance by detectives, fearing the worst. The family’s appalling crime was finally exposed when, three months after she went missing, Banaz’s remains were found, with the bootlace still around her neck.
The discovery of her body provoked no emotion in her father and uncle. Even at her funeral, the only tears were from Banaz’s brother.
« She had a small life, » a detective on the case said. « There is no headstone on her grave, nothing there to mark her existence. »
Yesterday, her devastated boyfriend, who has been given a new identity by the Home Office under the witness protection programme, said: « Banaz was my first love. She meant the world to me. »
The dead girl’s older sister, Bekhal, urged other women in the same position as her and her sister to seek help before it is too late.
Even today she continues to fear for her life, lives at a secret address and never goes out without wearing a long black veil that covers her entire body and face apart from her eyes.
She strongly rejected the suggestion that Banaz had brought « shame » on her Kurdish family by falling in love with a man they did not approve of, saying her sister simply wanted to live her own life.
« There’s a lot of evil people out there. They might be your own blood, they might be a stranger to you, but they are evil.
« They come over here, thinking they can still carry on the same life and make people carry on how they want them to live life. »
Asked what was in her father’s mind on the day that Banaz died, Bekhal replied: « All I can say is devilishness. How can somebody think that kind of thing and actually do it to your own flesh and blood? It’s disgusting. »
Bekhal says she is scared whenever she sees somebody from the same background as her.
« I watch my back 24/7. »
‘They’re following me’: chilling words of girl who was ‘honour killing’ victim
The murder of Banaz Mahmod by her family in 2006 shocked the country. A documentary now tells her story
22 September 2012
On police videotape, a 19-year-old girl named those she believed had intended to kill her. They would try again, she said. « People are following me, still they are following me. At any time, if anything happens to me, it’s them, » she told the officers calmly. « Now I have given my statement, » she asked an officer, « what can you do for me? »
The answer was very little. Banaz Mahmod went back to her family in Mitcham, south London. Three months later she disappeared. It was several months before her raped and strangled body was found and four years before all those responsible for killing her were tracked down and jailed. Her father and uncle planned her death because the teenager had first walked out of a violent and sexually abusive arranged marriage, and later had fallen in love with someone else.
Now a documentary is to be premiered at the Raindance film festival, which opens this week, that includes for the first time some of the recordings made both by Banaz herself in the runup to her murder and the videotapes of some of the five visits she made to police to report the danger she felt herself to be in and name, before the event, her murderers. She told how her husband was « very strict. Like it was 50 years ago. »
« When he raped me it was like I was his shoe that he could wear whenever he wanted to. I didn’t know if this was normal in my culture, or here. I was 17. » Her family were furious when she finally left him.
The so-called honour killing of Banaz, who was murdered on 24 January 2006, shocked not only the country but also the police team, who faced a daunting task in bringing her killers to justice. They faced an investigation within an Iraqi Kurdish community, many of whom believed Banaz had deserved her fate for bringing shame on her father – a former soldier who fled Saddam Hussein and had sought asylum in the UK with his wife and five daughters. Mahmod Mahmod and his brother, Ari, were jailed for life for their part in the murder in 2007, but two other men involved fled to Iraq and were extradited back before being jailed for life in 2010.
Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode, who won a Queen’s Award for her dedicated efforts in getting justice for Banaz, said she found the case harrowing. In most cases police get justice after a murder for the family. « In this case the family had no interest whatsoever in the investigation. It was an absolute outrage that this girl was missing and nobody cared. »
The film also shows the continuing effects of the killing, with both Banaz’s boyfriend and her sister, Bekhal, still living in hiding and in fear. Bekhal has put her own life at risk by her decision to give evidence against her family in court. She now « watches her back 24/7 ».
Remembering her sister, she tells the film-makers: « She was a very calm and quiet person. She loved to see people happy and didn’t like arguments, she didn’t like people raising their voices, she hated it. She just wanted a happy life, she just wanted a family. »
The film, Banaz: A Love Story, was made by the former pop star and now music producer and film-maker Deeyah. Norwegian-born, but of Punjabi and Pashtun heritage, Deeyah has herself been subject to honour-related abuse and her singing career was marred by endless death threats that, in part, led to her giving up touring. The story of Banaz, who died because she just wanted to be an ordinary British teenager, she said, struck an immediate chord with her.
« Despite the horror, what emerges is a story of love, » said Deeyah. « What has upset me greatly from the very beginning of this project is how absent Banaz was from her own story. Whenever you see a film about someone who has passed you will always have family, friends, people who knew the person, sharing their love, their memories and thoughts about the person who has died; they have home videos, photos. That was just not the case here at all. The only person speaking for Banaz who had known her alive was her sister. Other than that, everyone else in the film came to know Banaz after she had died. »
A search for other witnesses to her life proved fruitless. « We tried to find anyone who would have known her, no one came forward, » said Deeyah. « Then I came across the videotape with Banaz herself, telling us what her suffocating reality was like. Watching this tape for the first time was among the most difficult things I have ever experienced. I had spent three-and-a-half years working on this film, learning everything I could about this young woman’s life and her death, we were in the final editing process and suddenly here she was, when no one else would come forward to speak about her.
« I found it excruciatingly sad to see her and at the same time I felt so glad to finally get a chance to see her and hear her. No one listened to her in her life. As a society we let down Banaz, as her community we let her down. I am sorry she had to die for people to start learning more about this problem, although measures have been taken to improve the understanding around this.
« There is a very long way to go before we can adequately understand, protect and support women at risk. We don’t need empty slogans or lip service, we need real concise action on this issue. Living in western societies, we need our lives as ‘brown’ women to matter as much as any fellow human being. »
Crime d’honneur -Elif Shafak
Roman sensible et émouvant d’une auteure turque adulée dans son pays, Crime d’honneur tisse les relations complexes d’une famille écartelée entre sa culture traditionnelle et le désir d’émancipation né du passage à l’occident.
Un village près de l’Euphrate, dans un monde patriarcal où l’honneur des hommes est la valeur suprême. Là, une femme qui implore Allah pour la naissance d’un fils après avoir mis au monde six filles voit sa requête ignorée. Ce seront deux filles de plus : Pembe et Jamila, jumelles aux caractères aussi dissemblables que leurs destins. L’une se marie avec le Turc Adem et part vivre avec lui à Londres, dans un pays hostile et providentiel. L’autre se retire dans une cabane isolée et devient la sage-femme vierge. C’est Pembe, la voyageuse, qui réalisera le rêve maternel en accouchant en Angleterre d’un fils : Iskender, aîné de la fratrie, sultan, petit dieu. Mais les amours contrariés pèsent de tout leur poids dans les malheurs à venir. Car amoureux de Jamila, Adem a dû se résoudre à épouser Pembe qu’il n’aimera jamais et quittera. Le champ est libre pour mettre l’honneur à l’épreuve, car chacun sait chez les kurdes que les femmes ne peuvent apporter que la honte. Et qu’en l’absence du mari, c’est sur le fils, aussi jeune soit-il, que pèse la responsabilité de défendre, par tous les moyens, l’honneur du clan.
ESMA Londres, septembre 1992
Ma mère est morte deux fois. Je me suis promis de ne pas permettre qu’on oublie son histoire, mais je n’ai jamais trouvé le temps, la volonté ou le courage de la coucher par écrit. Jusqu’à récemment, je veux dire. Je ne crois pas être en mesure de devenir un véritable écrivain, et ça n’a plus d’importance. J’ai atteint un âge qui me met davantage en paix avec mes limites et mes échecs. Il fallait pourtant que je raconte cette histoire, ne serait-ce qu’à une personne. Il fallait que je l’envoie dans un coin de l’univers où elle pourrait flotter librement, loin de nous. Je la devais à maman, cette liberté. Et il fallait que je termine cette année. Avant qu’il soit libéré de prison.
Dans quelques heures, je retirerai du feu le halva au sésame, je le mettrai à refroidir près de l’évier et j’embrasserai mon époux, feignant de ne pas remarquer l’inquiétude dans ses yeux. Je quitterai alors la maison avec mes jumelles – sept ans, nées à quatre minutes d’intervalle – pour les conduire à une fête d’anniversaire. Elles se disputeront en chemin et, pour une fois, je ne les gronderai pas. Elles se demanderont s’il y aura un clown, à la fête, ou mieux : un magicien.
– Comme Harry Houdini, suggérerai-je.
– Harry Wou-quoi ?
– Woudini, elle a dit, idiote !
– C’est qui, maman ?
Ça me fera mal. Une douleur de piqûre d’abeille. Pas grand-chose en surface, mais une brûlure tenace à l’intérieur. Je me rendrai compte, comme à tant d’occasions, qu’elles ne connaissent rien de l’histoire de la famille, parce que je leur en ai raconté si peu. Un jour, quand elles seront prêtes. Quand je serai prête.
Après avoir déposé les petites, je bavarderai un moment avec les autres mères. Je rappellerai à l’hôtesse qu’une de mes filles est allergique aux noix et que, comme il est difficile de distinguer les jumelles, il vaut mieux les garder à l’œil toutes les deux, et s’assurer que ni l’une ni l’autre n’ingère d’aliments contenant des noix, y compris le gâteau d’anniversaire. C’est un peu injuste pour mon autre fille, mais entre jumelles ça arrive parfois – l’injustice, je veux dire.
Je retournerai alors à ma voiture, une Austin Montego que mon mari et moi conduisons à tour de rôle. La route de Londres à Shrewsbury prend trois heures et demie. Il est possible que je doive faire le plein d’essence juste avant Birmingham. J’écouterai la radio. Ça m’aidera à chasser les fantômes, la musique.
Bien des fois, j’ai envisagé de le tuer. J’ai élaboré des plans complexes mettant en action un pistolet, du poison, voire un couteau à cran d’arrêt – une justice poétique, en quelque sorte. J’ai même pensé lui pardonner, tout à fait, en toute sincérité. En fin de compte, je n’ai rien accompli.
En arrivant à Shrewsbury, je laisserai la voiture devant la gare et je parcourrai à pied en cinq minutes la distance me séparant du sinistre bâtiment de la prison. Je ferai les cent pas sur le trottoir ou je m’adosserai au mur, face au portail, pour attendre qu’il sorte. Je ne sais pas combien de temps ça prendra. Je ne sais pas non plus comment il réagira en me voyant. Je ne l’ai pas revu depuis plus d’un an. Au début, je lui rendais visite régulièrement mais, alors qu’approchait le jour de sa libération, j’ai cessé de venir.
À un moment, le lourd battant s’ouvrira et il sortira. Il lèvera le regard vers le ciel couvert, lui qui a perdu l’habitude d’une aussi vaste étendue au-dessus de lui, en quatorze années d’incarcération. Je l’imagine plissant les yeux pour se protéger de la lumière du jour, comme une créature de la nuit. Pendant ce temps, je ne bougerai pas, je compterai jusqu’à dix, ou cent, ou trois mille. On ne s’embrassera pas. On ne se serrera pas la main. Un hochement de tête et un salut murmuré de nos voix fluettes et étranglées. Arrivé à la gare, il sautera dans la voiture. Je serai surprise de constater qu’il est toujours musclé. C’est encore un jeune homme, après tout.
S’il veut une cigarette, je ne m’y opposerai pas, bien que j’en déteste l’odeur et que je ne laisse mon mari fumer ni dans la voiture ni à la maison. Je roulerai à travers la campagne anglaise, entre des prairies paisibles et des champs cultivés. Il m’interrogera sur mes filles. Je lui dirai qu’elles sont en bonne santé, qu’elles grandissent vite. Il sourira comme s’il avait la moindre idée de ce que c’est d’être parent. Je ne lui poserai aucune question en retour.
J’aurai apporté une cassette pour la route. « Les plus grands succès d’ABBA » – toutes les chansons que ma mère aimait fredonner en cousant, en faisant la cuisine ou le ménage : Take a Chance on Me, Mamma Mia !, Dancing Queen, The Name of the Game… Parce qu’elle nous regardera, j’en suis certaine. Les mères ne montent pas au paradis, quand elles meurent. Elles obtiennent la permission de Dieu de rester un peu plus longtemps dans les parages pour veiller sur leurs enfants, quoi qu’il se soit passé entre eux au cours de leurs brèves vies mortelles.
De retour à Londres, on gagnera Barnsbury Square et je chercherai une place de stationnement en grognant. Il se mettra à pleuvoir – des petites gouttes cristallines – et je réussirai à me garer. Je me demande s’il me dira en riant que j’ai la conduite typique des femmes au volant. Il l’aurait fait, jadis.
On se dirigera ensemble vers la maison, dans la rue silencieuse et lumineuse devant et derrière nous. Pendant un court instant, je comparerai ce qui nous entoure à notre maison de Hackney, celle de Lavender Grove, et je n’en reviendrai pas de trouver tout si différent, désormais – combien le temps a progressé, alors même que nous ne progressions pas !
Une fois à l’intérieur, on retirera nos chaussures et on enfilera des pantoufles, une paire de charentaises anthracite pour lui, empruntée à mon mari, et pour moi des mules bordeaux à pompon. Son visage se crispera en les voyant. Pour l’apaiser, je lui dirai qu’elles sont un cadeau de mes filles. Il se détendra en comprenant que ce ne sont pas les siennes à elle, que la ressemblance n’est que pure coïncidence.
Depuis la porte, il me regardera faire du thé, que je lui servirai sans lait mais avec beaucoup de sucre, à condition que la prison n’ait pas changé ses habitudes. Puis je sortirai le halva au sésame. On s’assoira tous les deux près de la fenêtre, nos tasses et nos assiettes à la main, comme des étrangers polis observant la pluie sur les jonquilles du jardin. Il me complimentera sur mes talents de cuisinière et me confiera que le halva au sésame lui a manqué, tout en refusant d’en reprendre. Je lui dirai que je respecte la recette de maman à la lettre, mais que jamais il n’est aussi bon que le sien. Ça le fera taire. On se regardera dans les yeux, dans un silence lourd. Puis il s’excusera, prétextera de la fatigue pour demander à aller se reposer, si c’est possible. Je le conduirai à sa chambre et je refermerai lentement la porte.
Je le laisserai là. Dans une pièce de ma maison. Ni loin ni trop près. Je le confinerai entre ces quatre murs, entre la haine et l’amour, sentiments que je ne peux m’empêcher d’éprouver, piégés dans une boîte au fond de mon cœur.
C’est mon frère.
Lui, un meurtrier.
EXTRAIT BAC :
Together they focused on the film.
Pembe watched The Kid with wide-open eyes, the look of surprise on her countenance deepening with each scene. When Chaplin found an abandoned baby in a rubbish bin, and raised him like his own son, she smiled with appreciation. When the child flung stones at the neighbours’ windows so that the tramp–disguised as a glazier–could fix them and earn some money, she chuckled. When social services took the boy away, her eyes welled up with tears.
And, finally, as father and son were reunited, her face lit up with contentment, and a trace of something that Elias took to be melancholy. So absorbed did she seem in the film that he felt a twinge of resentment. What a funny thing it was to be jealous of Charlie Chaplin. Elias observed her as she unpinned her hair, and then pinned it back. He caught a whiff of jasmine and rose, a heady, charming mixture. Only minutes before the film came to an end, he found the nerve to reach out for her fingers, feeling like a teenager on his first date. To his relief, she didn’t move her hand away. They sat still–two sculptures carved out of the dark, both scared of making a move that would disrupt the tenderness of the moment.
When the lights came back on, it took them a few seconds to grow accustomed to real life. Quickly, he took out a notepad and wrote down the name of another cinema in another part of the town. “Next week, same day, same time, will you come?”
“Yes”, she faltered. Before he’d found a chance to say anything else, Pembe leaped to her feet and headed towards the exit, running away from him and everything that had taken place between them, or would have taken place, had they been different people.
She held in her palm the name of the place they were to meet next time, grasping it tightly, as if it were the key to a magic world, a key she would use right now were it in her power to decide. And so it began. They started to meet every Friday at the same time, and occasionally on other afternoons. They frequented the Phoenix more than any other place, but they also met at several other cinemas, all far-away from their home, all unpopular.
[. . .]
In time he found out more things about her, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that he would complete only long after she had gone.
Slowly he was beginning to make sense of the situation. This unfathomable, almost enigmatic attraction that he felt for her, a woman so alien to the life he had led, was like a childhood memory coming back.
Elif Shafak, Honour, 2012
Voir par ailleurs:
Bac 2013: shocking confusion à l’épreuve d’anglais
Marie Caroline Missir
Les concepteurs du sujet d’anglais LV1 se seraient risqués à comparer le prestigieux ‘ »Oxford Union » avec une vulgaire association étudiante…
Lorsque le journaliste anglais Peter Gumbel a découvert le sujet d’anglais première langue du bac 2013, son sang n’a fait qu’un tour. Les concepteurs du sujet auraient confondu « Oxford Union », prestigieux cercle de discussion et de débats bien connu Outre-manche, avec l »‘Oxford’s Student Union », l’équivalent du bureau des élèves. Shocking!
Le texte sur lequel devaient en effet plancher les lycéens est tiré d’une oeuvre de Jeffrey Archer, First Among Equal. Le récit en question met en scène un jeune homme très ambitieux, et qui pourrait, selon sa mère, aspirer à présider le prestigieux « Oxford Union ». A partir de la lecture de ce texte, les élèves sont alors invités à disserter en imaginant le discours de campagne de Simon, le héros de Archer, pour devenir président « of the University’s Student Union », soit l’association des étudiants d’Oxford…rien à voir avec l’Oxford Union, évoquée dans le texte du sujet! « Cette confusion, absolument incroyable pour un examen tel que le bac exigerait que l’épreuve soit annulée! », estime-t-il.
Pour l’Inspection générale d’anglais, il n’y a aucune erreur dans ce sujet. « Dans le texte de compréhension, il est en effet fait référence à la prestigieuse société de réflexion et de débats Oxford Union. Il est vraisemblable que relativement peu de candidats la connaissent. L’un des sujets d’expression proposés au choix du candidat envisage une autre situation: le personnage du texte décide d’être candidat à la présidence de the University’s Student Union. Pour éviter toute confusion, Oxford n’est pas mentionné. Les candidats sont invités à tenir compte de ce qu’ils connaissent du personnage pour l’imaginer dans une situation différente du texte », justifie l’inspection. Much Ado about nothing donc, comme dirait Sheakespeare.
Peter Gumbel est l’auteur de « Elite Academy, La France malade de ses grandes écoles », Denoël, 2013.
Honor’ Killings: A New Kind of American Tragedy
A new kind of American tragedy is taking place in a Brooklyn Federal Courthouse.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler
30 Jun 2014
Both the defendant, standing trial for conspiracy to commit murder abroad in Pakistan, and the main witness against him, his daughter Amina, wept when they first saw each other. Amina’s extended family stared at her with hostility. As she testified, Amina paused, hesitated, and sobbed. She and her father had been very close until he decided that she had become too “Americanized.”
This Pakistani-American father of five, a widower, worked seven days a week driving a cab in order to support his children; this included sending his daughter, Amina, to Brooklyn College.
This is a successful American immigrant story—and yet, it is also a unique and unprecedented story as well, one which demands that Western law prevail over murderously misogynistic tribal honor codes.
At some point, Mohammad Ajmal Choudry sent Amina to Pakistan so that she might re-connect with her “roots”—but he had her held hostage there for three years. During that time, Amina, an American citizen, was forced into an arranged marriage, ostensibly to her first cousin, who probably expected this marriage to lead to his American citizenship. Such arranged marriages, and arranged specifically for this purpose, are routine. They are also factors in a number of high profile honor killing cases in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
For example, the Texas born and raised Said sisters, Aminah and Sarah, refused to marry Egyptian men as their Egyptian cab-driver father Yasir wanted them to do and he killed them for it. Canadian-Indian, Jaswinder Kaur, refused to marry the man her mother had chosen for her and instead married someone she loved. Her widowed mother and maternal uncle had her killed in India. They have been fighting extradition from Canada for more than a decade.
Amina, who grew up in New York from the time she was nine years old, did not want to be held hostage to this marriage. Indeed, Amina had found a man whom she loved and wished to marry.
Plucky Americanized Amina fled the arranged marriage within a month. With the help of a relative, the U.S. State Department, and ultimately, the Department of Homeland Security, Amina left Pakistan and went into hiding in the United States.
She had to. Her father had threatened to kill her if she did not return to her husband, give up her boyfriend, or return to her father. Mohammad may have pledged Amina’s hand without her knowledge, long, long ago.
A female relative’s sexual and reproductive activities are assets that belong to her father’s family, her tribe, her religion. They are not seen as individual rights.
Acting as if one is “free” to choose whom to marry and whom not to marry means that a woman has become too Westernized, or, in Amina’s case, too “Americanized.” This is a capital crime.
From Mohammad’s point of view, his beloved daughter had betrayed and dishonored him. She had “un-manned” him before his family. The desire to marry whom you want or to leave a violent marriage are viewed as filthy and selfish desires. Many Muslims in the Arab and Muslim world; Hindus and Muslims in India; and Muslims and, to a lesser extent, Sikhs in the West share this view and accordingly, perpetrate “honor killings.”
I do not like this phrase. An honor killing is dishonorable and it is also murder, plain and simple. It is a form of human sacrifice. It is also femicide–although sometimes boys and men are also murdered. I would like to call them “horror” murders.
American federal statutes have allowed prosecutors to charge and convict American citizens and residents while they are in the United States for having committed crimes abroad. This includes conspiracy to commit murder, incite terrorism, launder money, engage in racketeering, etc.
What did Mohammad Choudry do? According to the Indictment filed in United States District Court/the Eastern District of New York on September 20, 2013, Choudry “knowingly and intentionally conspired” to commit one or more murders. He contacted and wired money to at least four conspirators in Pakistan, including some relatives. Since Amina would not come out of hiding, their job was to murder the father and sister of Amina’s boyfriend. And they did just that. An eyewitness “observed Choudry’s brother standing over the victims, holding a gun and desecrating the bodies.”
The murders were committed in Pakistan “between January 2013 and February 2013.” Mohammad Ajmal Choudry was arrested in New York on February 25, 2013. The trial began last week, in June, 2014. Amina testified that her father vowed to kill her and every member of her new lover’s family if she did not do the right thing.
The price of love or of freedom for Amina—and for other women in her position–is very high. She will have no family of origin. If she ever weakens and tries to seek them out, she risks being killed by one of her siblings, uncles, or cousins. After all, Amina entrapped her father on the phone by allowing him to death threaten her and others.
I have published three studies about honor killing and am at work on a fourth such study. I have also written countless articles about this subject and submitted affidavits in cases where girls and women have fled honor killing families and are seeking political asylum.
I am beginning to think that, like female genital mutilation, honor murder is so entrenched a custom that, in addition to prevention and prosecution, (at least in the West), what may be required is this: People may need to be taught courage, the art of resisting tribal barbarism. Families need to learn to go against tradition, withstand ostracism and mockery, withstand being cut off by their families and villages—for the sake of their daughters.
One fear that a “dishonored” family has is that they will not be able to marry off their other daughters or sons. Perhaps educating a pool of potential marriage mates into understanding that murder is not “honorable;” that daughters’ lives are valuable, that such horror murders are not religiously sanctioned (if indeed, that is the case), and that enacting tribal honor codes are high crimes in the West.
The Choudry trial continues today in Brooklyn. Stay tuned for breaking news.