At least 5,000 women a year are killed or driven to suicide by fathers or brothers who think that, according to tribal tradition, the inferior female has shamed the family. It is most worrying that the custom has migrated to Europe and the Americas.
In a series of articles in the UK-based Independent, concerning the practice of so-called honor killings and written by well-known Middle-East journalist Robert Fisk, the repeated appearance of the mobile phone is very striking, showing how medieval and modern are now intermingled. Daughters are told to commit suicide by mobile, sisters are phoned and asked to meet brothers – only to be shot when they arrive – others again are killed merely their mobile has stored an unfamiliar number that could be from a secret admirer.
Women who are killed this way die for a variety of reasons – if the latter term can be applied at all: not wanting to enter into a marriage arranged by her family without her consent, being disobedient, talking to or meeting a man outside her own family, being suspected of adultery, having an actual love affair, having been raped, having become pregnant by way of incestuous rape by her own father, wanting to adapt to the culture in the new country the family migrated to, not following traditional dress-code, wanting a divorce from an abusive husband, having had a gynaecological exam.
It is difficult to imagine, but all of the ‘dishonorable’ actions, situations or experiences listed above have been documented as reasons why fathers and brothers, sometimes with the consent of the mother, have felt that the only way out of the situation was murder: slashing a throat, 33 stabs with a knife, a few gunshots, wringing a neck, burying a girl alive or drowning her. Last not least, the accused may simply be ordered to commit suicide – and that’s what the frightened women sometimes actually do.
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