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The official blog of Fausta's Blog Talk Radio show.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Honor killings and Palestinian omerta

Last month Alcibiades sent this article on an honor killing that took place in Israel, where the eighth woman in an extended family was murdered in the last six and a half years.

All were victims of honor killings.

The difference is that,
This time, instead of keeping mum when the police questioned them, the Abu- Ghanem women gave detailed testimonies of everything they knew.
By doing so they imperil their own lives,
The witnesses have been put in safe houses, for fear the men would try to harm them. However, several women were not comfortable in the safe houses and are returning to the neighborhood. "The relations between the men and women in the family have become really tense. We've had special meetings about how to protect the women after they testify and we have a plan," the inspector said.

However, Aida Touma-Suleiman, director of the Women Against Violence group in the Arab sector, said she has grave fears for the women's lives. "I support these brave women. They finally broke the circle of blood and silence. But I'm also afraid they will be hurt. As long as there is no witness protection program, these women will be abandoned after they testify. They may have been courageous, but they have also sentenced themselves to death," she said.
A couple of months ago, Sigmund, Carl and Alfred sent this article from the MIFTAH Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Omerta in Palestine. The article starts by explaining omerta, the Sicilian code of silence we've all heard about in the Godfather movies, but focuses on how it is prevalent in Palestinian society (emphasis added):
In the occupied Palestinian territories, Omerta has come to embody society's unspoken law of silence towards atrocities committed against individuals in the name of "honour," patriotism, family loyalty, among other normative principles of which the victims are accused of undermining. The executioners' ethical point of reference in punishing the accused is, at best, a severe blow to Palestinian efforts to foster a free and democratic society governed by the rule of law.

One of the most common patterns of such atrocities takes place against Palestinian women in the name of "honour," particularly the killing of females suspected of engaging in sexual activities outside marriage. In 2006 alone, 60 Palestinian women were reported murdered (by Palestinians) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the basis of "honour." The alarming reality is that these figures only represent a mere fraction of all cases of killings, punishment, and retribution against women, who not only fall victim to a viciously conservative society (particularly in isolated Palestinian communities), but equally, to a consistent sense of apathy by Palestinians in tackling this taboo issue.
To me it is more than mere apathy - it is symptomatic of an entire culture's hatred of women, and an acceptance of a culture of death.

As the Muslim Women's League Position Paper on "Honor Killings" explains (emphasis added),
The problem of "honor killings" is not a problem of morality or of ensuring that women maintain their own personal virtue; rather, it is a problem of domination, power and hatred of women who, in these instances, are viewed as nothing more than servants to the family, both physically and symbolically.
The number of women killed by this hatred is unknown: The MIFTAH article continues,
The 60 cases filed in 2006 represent the minority of incidents where witnesses took the odd step of reporting these crimes to the authorities; there are countless other cases in which this harshest form of violence against women remains locked up in the memories of indifferent members of the community who choose to distance themselves from these so called "shameful acts." Meanwhile, Palestinian law remains ambiguous towards holding perpetrators of "honour" killings accountable, and in most cases it is an anachronistic Palestinian (Arab) tribal code of conduct which supersedes any set of legal framework or principles.
As the victims of "honor killings" are seen as betraying their beliefs through "shameful acts", there are other killings against those perceived to be traitors,
While "honour" killings take place more frequently and more consistently than any other form of atrocity committed by Palestinians against each other, another trend is increasingly posing equal alarm among Palestinian civil society, namely the killing of Palestinians suspected of collaboration with the Israeli occupation.

Due to the circumstances in which these killings and executions take place, it is difficult to draw an accurate figure of such cases; however it would be safe to assert that dozens of Palestinians have been executed by paramilitary elements since the outbreak of the Intifada in September 2000, on the basis of their collaboration with Israel.
Palestinian society has evolved into a cult of of death, where women who actually have sent their young sons to murder innocent Israelis become members of Parliament.

While the article from the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy exhorts Palestinians to not be "blinded to the virtues of their own humanity", the society as a whole will not change, will remain blinded, until there is a sea change coming from within.

The Muslim Women's League proposes
Confronting the problem of "honor killings" and other crimes that disproportionately affect women requires a change in attitude that pervades all levels of society where such attacks occur. Muslim leaders can provide an important example to their followers by taking an unequivocal stand against behavior that is in direct violation of Islam. In addition, legal reform must occur with the intention to protect the victims and punish the perpetrators, all totally possible within a legitimate Islamic legal framework. Concomitant attention must be paid to meeting basic human needs and solving problems stemming from poverty and illiteracy that are often at the root of disturbing social trends that seek out the most disenfranchised to serve as scapegoats.
In order for this to take place, substantial change would have to emerge. As SC&A said,

'The Arab world see the rejection of their values as a rejection of themselves - they do not see or understand that by rejecting the ugly values they have had forced upon them, they can only elevate themselves.'

In Turkey, women groups call for more efforts to protect victims of domestic violence
They included women who were forced into marriage, thrown out of their family homes for extramarital pregnancy and victims of physical, sexual, economic, emotional or other types of abuse as well as potential targets of honor killings.
And then this morning...
I thought of the articles that SC&A and Alcibiades sent a while ago when I came across this article today: Palestinian honor killings linked to travails of occupation
Soraida Abdel-Hussein, a researcher at the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in Ramallah, uses the word "femicide" to describe the killings.

She told IRIN that Palestinian society is undergoing radical change as a result of the daily violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and women are suffering as a result.

"Being under oppressive occupation gives you a feeling of low self-esteem, of being less intelligent, less powerful, less of everything," she said.

"That hits the masculine identity - and women pay the price. Men internalize the values of violence. They replicate the roles of occupier and victim. It will become part of the culture - part of how you see people and they see you. We are now at the stage where it is radically changing our society and structures."
There are honor killings in Germany, Britain, Holland (where Ayaan Hirsi Ali, when she was a member of Parliament, insisted that Holland begin to count the number of honor killings) and other places in Europe (h/t PeakTalk), Turkey (see above), Pakistan, Syria, Jordan and in many other countries in the extremist Muslim world.

And who does Soraida Abdel-Hussein, a researcher at the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in Ramallah, blame?

The Jews.

Update: Stupefying. It isn't often that word can be used when describing a Grand Canyon deep detachment from reality.

Update, Tuesday, March 13: Soul Murder: Nurtured on Hate
Steak tartare and femme fatales

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At 11:51 AM, Blogger JMK2006 said...

This is clearly an instance of proud self-promotion. Wear it well.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

"And who does Soraida Abdel-Hussein, a researcher at the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in Ramallah, blame?

The Jews."

I suppose the Jews can be blamed for honor killings, mistreatment of women and all the other dysfunction throughout the Islamic world.

The Grand Canyon of detachment from reality in Palestinian society and the rest of the Arab world only gets deeper.

The answer to the question of whether or not the Palestinians can redeem themselves from the dysfunction they have crafted for themselves, becomes more apparent every day.

It seems they cannot.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger LindaSoG said...

Sadly, the palestinians are lost and I seriously doubt if they can ever find their way back.

Last year, when a child fell off a swing and hit her head, her father waited at the playground for Hamas to be notified, and for a course of action to be decided upon.

The decision took a while, and they stayed at the playground talking about how to use the injured child to the best advantage. Eventually, they decided to blame the Jews and the palestinians claimed she was hit by an IDF rocket. That's what they told the doctors and the media, hours after her accident, when they finally brought the child to the hospital for treatment.

The child died.

and in the end, the truth came out.

Such is palestine.

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Kalanit said...

Just want to point out that the brave Arab women who spoke up were from Ramle -- a town in central Israel (which, incidentally, was the Arab capital of Palestine in the middle ages). The women in that family who were murdered and those who spoke out were not in any way "under occupation." They were Arab citizens of Israel in a town in which Arabs and Jews are well-integrated. The fact that they chose to speak out is an indication that recent work by male and female police in Israel on dealing with various crimes against women is starting to bear fruit.


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