Awareness | Posted by Julie Z on 03/2/2010

I Can’t Believe This Still Happens: Honor Killings

a map of countries that have reported cases of honor killings

a map of countries that have reported cases of honor killings

It’s kind of hard to convince American teenagers that we still need feminism. “But my mom works,” many a peer of mine has stated in response to finding out that I identify with the f word. “She even kept her own last name. We’re totally post-feminist.”

Ah, yes, it is fun for us to live in the privileged little bubble that is the United States, where our Moms do work and can keep their own last names (how far we’ve come…). Even with the rate of women earning 77 cents for every man’s dollar (as of 2007), not to even go into all of America’s feminist short comings, we are incredibly lucky to live here.

At least we don’t have honor killings.

Honor killings, as defined by StopHonourKillings.com, includes battery, torture, mutilation, rape, forced marriage, and even murder for the sake of preventing or punishing women’s violations of socially accepted behavior, especially sexual behavior. Women who have been abducted, arrested or raped are blamed for shaming their families and may be targeted for honor killings. In such countries as Iraq, Syria and Jordan the law condones these cases with lesser sentences, and in some rural communities even mandates them.

Still don’t think we need feminism? This article I ran into over the weekend should help you change your mind. The title of the article? Turkish Girl Buried Alive for Talking to Boys.

Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an “honour” killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.

The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.

Police made the discovery in December after a tip-off from an informant, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on its website. The informant told the police she had been killed following a family “council” meeting. Her father and grandfather are said to have been arrested and held in custody pending trial. It is unclear whether they have been charged. The girl’s mother was arrested but was later released.

Media reports said the father had told relatives he was unhappy that his daughter – one of nine children – had male friends. The grandfather is said to have beaten her for having relations with the opposite sex.

A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.

The discovery will reopen the emotive debate in Turkey about “honour” killings, which are particularly prevalent in the impoverished south-east.  Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey.

As I read this article, I thought this girl was my age…this girl could have been me. And that’s a scary ass thought. I thought of all my guy friends, the conversations I have with them every day, and then tried to imagine a society in which those conversations — which are insightful, helpful, kind and funny– could be the nails in my coffin.

I’m not trying to minimize the sexist issues that I, and all other American/1st world feminists face, because they are important. Just because disgusting shit like this happens doesn’t mean we should give up the fights to end injustices that effect our own lives, no matter how they compare to honor killings.

But the fact is that we have come so far in our own country that it’s sometimes hard to believe that somebody would actually murder their own family member (granddaughter…daughter) for merely talking to the opposite sex.

The next time anybody questions feminism, it may be because they’re not thinking globally. Clearly, we have a shit ton of work left to do.

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  • Claire @ at 1:54 pm, March 2nd, 2010

    Very true.

  • Helen H. @ at 2:06 pm, March 2nd, 2010

    This is sickening and sad and scary scary scary.

    I consider myself lucky, even though I live in a country notorious for honor killings. I’ve seen and can recognize the culture of girl-talking-to-boy hysteria. It’s around me.

    And one thing that–though you don’t seem to have mentioned it here–I think is worth pointing out. Even as a non-Muslim, I feel kind of obligated to point out that despite it being popular to connect honor killings to Islam, there’s no Islamic text that refers to that.

    In fact, one of the pre-Islamic cultures that Islam strove to end 1400 years ago was female infanticide.

    But that’s not to say that, in this case, Muslims actually practice what their religion preaches. And I think that’s very stupid and sad, for lack of a better word.

    Thank you for posting this, Julie.

  • Helen H. @ at 2:07 pm, March 2nd, 2010

    Oh one more thing…
    “The next time anybody questions feminism, it may be because they’re not thinking globally. Clearly, we have a shit ton of work left to do.”

    This was brilliant.

  • Dia @ at 2:41 pm, March 2nd, 2010

    Most of my friends are guys, I could probably count all my girl friends on one hand(give or take afew fingers on the other). But I feel that it’s more important to convince people where it’s happening than worrying about people here. There’s an organization,and while it’s not a feminist organization, called Pennies for Peace that educates women in some of those regions. My school had a fundraiser to support that organization. I donated because I feel that if men and women over then can see how important women are then things like this will stop happening.

  • Ruth @ at 2:56 pm, March 2nd, 2010

    It’s so horrible, it’s actually worse that FGM (female genital mulitation) at least you’ll survive that.

  • Ruthie G @ at 4:23 pm, March 2nd, 2010

    *shiver*

  • Morgan @ at 9:09 pm, March 2nd, 2010

    I am actually really glad you wrote this.
    I was going to write a paper on this for one of my classes, however after doing a ton of research I found I just couldn’t. In ways I was dissapointed with myself but its an incredibly heavy topic after an afternoon of research I felt mentally exhausted because its so fucking (pardon me) depressing, scary, terrifying, any other sad/depressing emotion you can think of.

  • Nadia @ at 4:32 am, March 3rd, 2010

    Yes this is very scary. My mom and I are disgusted that this happens.

    My question: where is Saudi on the list???

  • Samuel W. @ at 4:34 pm, March 3rd, 2010

    And, don’t forget, the map shows Canada and the US as countries with reported honor killings, so it’s not just in one or two voraciously religious, closed little villages far away we’re talking about here.

  • Toongrrl @ at 5:45 pm, March 3rd, 2010

    Julie, I hate to tell you this: it has been happening for years. I read an old article in “Marie Claire” about the issue of honor killings in Turkey. Many families try to avoid any criminal penalty by urging the girls to kill themselves instead and the EU wouldn’t admit Turkey until the goverment cleans up their act on their responses. God help the girls and Chile

  • Shaden @ at 3:55 am, March 4th, 2010

    Hi! if you’re interested in knowing more about honor killings in Jordan, especially the incidents that took place in 2009 alone, check out this article on JO Magazine: http://bit.ly/9otDWw

    Nearly 20 women were murdered in the name of honor in 2009. It’s horrific.

  • Diane @ at 5:55 pm, March 4th, 2010

    great article i am going to share this with my group

  • PatriarchySlayer @ at 8:35 pm, March 4th, 2010

    My comments are not being posted and I’m starting to wonder why. Maybe there is a backlog?

  • PatriarchySlayer @ at 8:36 pm, March 4th, 2010

    Nevermind, it must just be my computer yesterday. That’s sad, cause I tried to post an awesome reply to this. But now I’m tired.

  • Adrian @ at 11:03 pm, April 20th, 2010

    I did a presentation about women in developing countries for my public speaking class. I find this article very insightful, and equally as concerning as the rest of you. I think the United States should step in to do something about these horrendous acts of violence toward women.

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