Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Honor Killings - The Ultimate Oxymoron

Several people in the atheist blogosphere have already posted about the "honor killing" of a 17 year old Iraqi girl named Rand Abdel-Qader by her father Abdel-Qader Ali, including this post at Pharyngula.

I imagine that a lot of people who read stories like this have the same reaction as me. There is an almost incandescent rage as one imagines the last moments of a terrified and defenseless girl having the life choked out of her by her father over something that most of us write off as just an episode of harmless puppy love.

The idea that the value of a woman's life is worthless in and of itself apart from upholding a family's sense of honor is an affront to civilization. It belongs on the ash heap of history along with slavery and communism.

True to his misogynist core, the murderous father blames the mother of his dead daughter:

He said his daughter's 'bad genes were passed on from her mother'. Rand's mother, 41, remains in hiding after divorcing her husband in the immediate aftermath of the killing, living in fear of retribution from his family. She also still bears the scars of the severe beating he inflicted on her, breaking her arm in the process, when she told him she was going. 'They cannot accept me leaving him. When I first left I went to a cousin's home, but every day they were delivering notes to my door saying I was a prostitute and deserved the same death as Rand,' she said.

It heartens me at least somewhat knowing that the mother did not stand for the killing and has left the bastard. I can only hope that she will remain safe.

As if being a murderer wasn't bad enough, the Guardian article to which I linked also reveals Abdel-Qader to be a vicious homophobe:

Homosexuality is punishable by death, a sentence Abdel-Qader approves of with a passion. 'I have alerted my two sons. They will have the same end [as Rand] if they become contaminated with any gay relationship. These crimes deserve death - death in the name of God,' he said.

It never ceases to amaze me how these religious fanatics worship a god that is supposed to be all powerful, and yet they feel the need to kill in this god's name rather than letting Mr. Big mete out justice Himself.

As for what to do in response to this and other honor killings, part of the problem is that we feel that expressions of impotent rage are all that we can do. I have to admit to wishing that there existed some paramilitary force to combat honor killings by murdering the family members who perpetrate them and then leaving their mutilated bodies in the town square to serve as a warning to others. If any ex-military guys want to organize such a group, I will be happy to send them a fat donation. After all, how can such a deeply ingrained cancer in a culture be combatted unless its members know that there will be deadly consequences for engaging in such conduct?

Of course, my revenge brigade idea will never be more than a fantasy. But there are things that you and I can do in response to this, however futile it may seem.

First, lodge a complaint with the United States Embassy in Iraq. At the very least, if they hear from enough of us, they can try to lean on the Iraqi government to address the issue.

Secondly, we can also complain to the Iraqi Embassy itself. Unfortunately, I perused the site and there does not seem to be an e-mail address. The contact page lists an address and a telephone number. I plan to write a letter, hopefully this evening, and will post it here. Rand Abdel-Qader and all of the other victims of "honor killings," which I call the ultimate oxymoron, deserve justice.


Anonymous said...

Wow, how refreshing to read a blog post about dishonor killings and actually see some constructive recommendations about what we can do about them! Bravo!

Since they are on the increase in other countries, too, I think we need to address the problem more globally. My suggestions are:

1. If you are from a country that donates large amounts of aid to countries where these crimes are indigenous, write to your president or prime minister, your representative(s) in congress or parliament, your various foreign aid committees, and tell them you want some meaningful portion (25% or more) of your country's aid package tied to measurable, lasting improvements in basic human rights. No significant improvements, no aid. Simple as that.

2. While you're at it, tell them you expect them to enforce all the international human rights agreements and covenants the errant countries have signed with us. For example, last I checked, Jordan was in violation of 17 of them just on dishonor killings alone. Where's the enforcement? Why have these contracts no teeth? What's the point?

3. Consider boycotting companies that do business with countries that are habitual violators of basic human rights. I think it's time we did for women what we did for blacks during apartheid in South Africa. Economic means are often very effective.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

Tommykey said...

Thanks for your comments Ellen.

bullet said...

"incandescent rage"
Good phrase.

I have nothing further to add. The whole idea is horrific.

Unknown said...

I want to organise some sort of international recognition for Leila Hussein, the mother of Rand, in the form of millions of people wearing tee shirts with her face on them. I doubt we can shame the knuckle dragging primitives like her husband but at least we could make a statement of support to women like her and perhaps encourage intelligent and sensitive Muslims to wear it also in an expression of disassociation from this barbarism.
Anyone interested in organising this ?

Tommykey said...

David, that's a good suggestion. Proceeds from the sales can go to NGOs working to promote women's equality in the Middle East.

What would really be cool is if it could be arranged to have fliers airdropped on Basra with pictures of Leila Hussein and Rand Abdel-Qader with the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" in English and Arabic.