Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Have Life

In my first weeks in the Middle East, I quickly erased six simple words from my vocabulary: “My dad would kill me, if…” Because the reality of those whom I spent most of my time was just that: Their dads [and brothers] would kill them, if… they texted a secret boyfriend. Left the house with “too loose” of a head covering. Didn’t come home straight after school. Were attacked or raped.

They’re called “honor killings.” [Or in other parts of the world: “Dowry Deaths” and “Crimes of Passion.”] And the idea is that somewhere, somehow, honor from the family has been lost. In order for it to be replenished, the one who brought the loss on the family has to pay. Traditionally, in Arab cultures, women hold the honor in the family. Or in other words: The family’s reputation falls on them and they can really do nothing to increase its value—they can only dirty or decrease it. And if this so-called “honor” has somehow been stained or taken away from the family, the woman [or the girl] pays. With her blood. These aren’t voluntary. These are pre-meditated attacks and murders by male family members on their own mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. [Most often the other women in the family not only support the attacks, but also aid in carrying out these murders.]

But there is nothing “honorable” about them.

As if the tradition and community acceptance of these acts of violence against women isn’t horrid enough, governments in over 30 countries [not only Arab countries] allow them to happen and have simply made room for them within their “modern” judiciary systems. The government and authorities see these passion crimes as a matter of the family—not the law. If the murder of a 16-year old girl is found to be in “a fit of rage” and “for the sake of the family’s honor,” her killers [most presumably, her immediate family members] will not be imprisoned. It’s custom and law that the case will not even be a case at all. Her death will see no justice. She’ll be buried in the backyard, in some unmarked grave, and the record of her existence will be erased—her family will never speak her name again.

There is nothing in the Q. book that permits or authorizes these “honor killings.” But the idea that women are property of men, with no rights of their own, is deeply rooted in Islamic [and other patriarchical] cultures. These crimes aren’t regarded as such on the governmental level because, well, the core unit of society [the family] practices them. Marital infidelity, pre-marital sex, flirting, seeking a divorce from a violent husband, seeming to be “too sexy,” even failing to serve a meal on time—these have all been “reasons” for honor killings. A man murdered his wife based on a dream that she had betrayed him, and in Turkey, a young woman’s throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad had been dedicated to her over the radio. Often, women are stabbed in their sleep, with no opportunity to prove their innocence. And quite regularly, it is their teenaged brothers who are forced to carry out their murders under the direction of their parents. [In case of improbable legal action, these minors would see a lighter penalty (maybe three months in a rehabilitation center) as opposed to the adults (maybe one year in the same place).]

These systematic acts of gender violence are not new. In our Book, we see the Teacher stop an honor killing—the one where they bring out the adulterous woman. Well, I’ve always wanted to point out that she had to have been with an adulterous man, ya know. But we don’t see him being brought out, presumably naked, to be stoned.

I know how He handled it. He dismissed it and granted her freedom and a second chance. The only worthy Judge ruled for life and redemption where humans saw shame and a need for death. He didn’t condone a killing for a proven wrong, leading me to believe that He certainly wouldn’t approve of a murder for a supposed [and unproven] sin. Honor killings, dowry deaths and crimes of passion occur every day in our world, and maybe in your country… Among the very people that some of us have come to love with our hearts and lives.

And so how do we navigate that?
How do we interact with people
who have been trained to believe
that there is no redemption,
no second chance in life?
How do we begin to instill a thought that
there is a God Who is Good and Just,
Who longs to rescue us from our own selves,
Who is slow to anger and
rich in steadfast, unwavering Love?
That they, as females, are worthy of Love?

That He knows their names?
That He wants them to know Him?

That He came so that they may have LIFE?


  1. Good job...one of the hardest entries you had to write I know:) I just had a conversation with a friend this week and honestly the whole time I'm thinking in my head, her brother would kill her, he totally would. The deeper I get into people's lives the more I see the darkness of this culture and religion. It's honestly heartbreaking. Thanks for writing this. It needs to be said.

  2. Sarah! Thanks. Yeah... you know. Praying for you and all your friends. Shineshineshine, ya 7abibti. be7ebek.


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