Honour killings

19 04 2007

The 7.30 Report has a story about Arab women in a small city in Israel who are speaking out against honour killings in their community. One woman turned her own son in to the police after he killed his sister:

INSPECTOR LIMOR YEHUDA: It is terrible to know that in the era of 2007 and such terrible murders happen. Women that get murdered for the way they dressed or the way they talked, maybe because they talked on the phone with someone or looked at some guy or even didn’t look at some guy, for stupid, stupid reasons or for no reason.

DAVID HARDAKER: Last year, 19‑year‑old Reem Abu Ghanem was murdered. Her crime was to turn her back on the man that her family had picked for her to marry and fall for another. Her killer turned out to be her older brother, a respected paediatrician who Reem had trusted for protection. He smothered Reem in a cloth soaked with anaesthetic drugs from his hospital. He believed he’d killed her. His four brothers threw her body into the boot of a car. They drove to a field on the outskirts of town to a deserted and derelict house, where they would dispose of her down an old well, but when they arrived, it turned out that Reem was not dead after all.

So she was still alive. Do you know, did they do anything at that point before throwing her in?

INSPECTOR LIMOR YEHUDA: Yeah, yeah. After she cried, after she begged for her life, they used a stone to hit her on the head. And then she was still alive, she didn’t die from the injury. And she was then thrown out into the well like this. Alive, semi‑injured, bleeding, I guess. It’s terrible. It’s so cruel, so vicious. But to throw someone alive when is your relatives, your own flesh and blood, right? It’s, it’s very, very difficult to bear.

[. . .]

Reem’s older brother was arrested after a tip‑off from a prison informant. Despite the crime, the women of Joh Arish remained silent until the killing this year of another of their number. Hamda Abu Ghanem, also 19, was shot in the head nine times, as she lay in her bed upstairs alone in her house. Her killer was her own brother. This time, the women broke their silence. For the Ramle police, it was extraordinary.

INSPECTOR LIMOR YEHUDA: Wow – huge, huge step. When we are talking about this murder case, it’s like a big step because we learned that among the years, there were like eight murders in the same family, Abu Ghanem family. The women are getting murdered one by one. All of a sudden, we’re all like in shock – they decided to talk.

DAVID HARDAKER: The woman that went to the police was Imama Abu Ghanem, the mother of Hamda. She gave police the evidence to charge her own son.

IMAMA ABU GHANEM (translation): In the Koran, there is no order, murder your sister, and I’ve asked my son, “Why didn’t you put the rest of your bullets in your own head?”

Honour killings in the Arab world are perpetrated by Muslims and Christians alike, having originated in Hammurabi and Assyrian legal codes that predate Islam and Christianity. This might upset a few people, but no society that tolerates such crimes against humanity can reasonably be described as rational or civilised.

UPDATE: For more background on honour killings in Israel and Palestine, see this Haaretz piece. (via Amal A)

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