When Were The First Documented Honor Killings?

The gruesome brutality of honor killings is finally becoming more universally opposed, and laws are beginning to trickle down through the Middle Eastern world. How did these killings become so common? How did honor killings become so acceptable to so many? Honor killings similar to those we know now have been documented at least since ancient Greek and Roman times when men had the legal right to kill a daughter or adulterous spouse free of consequence.

Other documents show that honor killings were somewhat common during the Middle Ages. Jewish law prohibited adulterous behavior and punished the crime by stoning the perpetrators. The practice is still documented all around the world, but this murderous behavior is most abundant in the Middle East and parts of Africa.

The ritualistic act has evolved over time. During the Ottoman Empire, killers would collect the victim’s blood and sprinkle it on their own clothes. They would then take to the streets with the murder weapon. This tradition was ironically thought to increase one’s honor.

It’s important that we all understand the nature of the “crime” that may precipitate an honor killing needn’t be proved. It needn’t have even occurred. The crime that these butchered women committed was falling to accidental suspicion, something that isn’t tolerated in certain parts of the world, and never was. This suspicion is what really tarnishes someone’s honor, and so the victim must be killed.

This kind of rationalization is about as ancient as you might expect. Men think it makes more sense to kill someone rather than let groundless rumors spread or be blown out of proportion.

There is a historical context for other types of honor killing. We’re all familiar with the idea of a duel. This type of honor-defending behavior was popular in Canada even into the late 19th century.

The English King Henry VIII had his fifth wife beheaded after she was accused of adulterous behavior. Shakespeare was notorious for including honor-based murder and execution in his plays. Other stories passed down through time include the notion of killing on a shocking scale in order to protect one’s honor. Perhaps the best example of this is the Trojan War.

Thankfully, the prevalence of the practice seems to have diminished over time.

Woman Stabbed 80 Times in Gruesome Honor Killing

It can be difficult for one culture to understand the beliefs of another, especially when those beliefs allow men to get away for murder–but that’s what happens in many Middle Eastern countries when they so often turn a blind eye to the honor killings committed against women. There are hundreds each year, and the rest of the world barely takes notice of the women who don’t survive. Those who do are often afraid to tell their stories.

In Abu Dhabi, an Arab man currently stands accused of the murder of his sister. His trial is underway. The Khaleej Times described the arguments between the accused and the victim prior to the murder as “heated” after the defendant questioned the morality of his sister’s actions. He stabbed her 80 times, only calling the authorities after he was certain she was dead.

Like so many similar trials, the outcome is up in the air. The defendant’s mother has managed to stall proceedings by requesting medical reports evaluating his mental state prior to the murder. According to the Khaleej Times, he should still find himself under the scrutiny of an official sentence even if his mother decides to drop her personal right charge.

Although honor killings occur in countries all over the world, they are far more common in the Middle East. When a woman was thought to have cheated on her husband earlier in the year, her father murdered her. In a separate case, one woman’s new husband made allegations that she was not a virgin–after he murdered her. When another woman ran away from home, her husband brutally killed her. Another live-streamed an honor killing using Facebook to disseminate the event publically.

These killings won’t stop until we raise public awareness that they’re happening in the first place, and put pressure on human rights entities to do more than they’re doing now. The practice is under increased scrutiny in some Arab countries, where legislative bodies are finally taking action to protect the rights of the women who live there. One of the biggest issues is how many of these honor killings remain unreported by other friends or family who know they’ve been committed. The law must not accept this in order for it to change.

Connecting The Muslim Holiday of Ashura To Honor Killings

Depending on which sect of Islam you ask, Ashura is a special day in Islamic history. The term itself means “Tenth” in Arabic and that’s directly connected to the Islamic calendar.

Ashura’s origins stem from a related Judaic day for atonement. According to Sunni Islam and NJ Employment Attorneys, this day was reserved as an important one by Prophet Musa (Moses) to thank God for all that he had provided Israelites. In addition to Prophet Musa, the day is also marked as being close to Prophet Mohammad, who would fast on this day and also encourage others to do so as per tradition of the Jews.

However, in the case of Shias, Ashura is solely reserved for the 10th day of Muharram and as a means to remember Husayn Ibn Ali’s martyrdom in the year AD 680. It’s important to note this is not a celebration but more of a way to remember the sacrifices of those who came before this generation. This is often commemorated with a deep period of mourning. In this case, the mourners will congregate in one place (i.e. Mosque) and work on remembering Husayn Ibn Ali with sorrow and will also take up chants such as “Ya Hussain” while beating drums. During this period, many scholars will take up the time to speak to the masses and help shed light on what’s being honored and why it’s essential to mourn.

One of the prominent stories told during the day would be about Husayn Ibn Ali’s sacrifice as it can help illustrate why the mourning is important and what it implies. It is a way to get closer to the religion and also appreciate what the Husayn family had to deal with at that time.

Ashura is not reserved for a specific country and is observed in various parts of the world.

However, the way it is set up can vary with Arab countries (i.e. Iraq, Syria, Iran) focusing on the storytelling whether it has to do with the Battle of Karbala or the martyrdom of Husayn Ibn Ali. Iran is also renowned for taking up the time to put up plays that can help illustrate what happened on that fateful day and why it’s important to keep it in one’s heart as a Muslim.

In South Asia, there are many sermons and the day is often capped with celebrations that go on throughout the Shia community. There are often processions that take place throughout the course of the day but this can vary from place to place.

There are many mosques around the world, which take the time to speak on this day and what it means to Muslims. Many will visit their scholar and look to rekindle their passion for the religion and deepen their understanding of what it means to be a Muslim. We hope on this day that those who have been murdered in an honor killing will also be remembered.

Update: Ali Farsan Receives Death Penalty

We have been highlighting the Ali Farsan honor killing trial for the past few weeks. The last time we checked in Ali Farsan was found guilty of two honor killings but we were still waiting to see if he will face a life in prison or receive the death penalty. The results are in and Ali Farsan has been sentenced to death.

The trial was a grueling six weeks of heart-wrenching testimony against and in favor of Ali Farsan. He was accused and found guilty of murdering his son in law Coty Beavers and his daughter’s best friend Gelarah Bagherzadeh back in 2012. Farsan is the first person in Harris County to be sentenced to death in 4 years. These murders are considering honor killings because the motivation behind the murders was the fact that his daughter married a Christian and converted to Christianity which was a dishonor to her Muslim family.

Once the news of death penalty was announced, the mother of Coty Beavers read a statement in court about how honor killings have no place in the world. She continued:

In America, everyone is free including the women, they can choose their own careers, I said to be prosecutors or judges, and they can choose their own spouses, and they have a right not to be treated as property of their husbands, fathers, and brothers.

Iran’s attorney’s plan on filing an appeal.

Ali Irsan Found Guilty

On Thursday, July 26, a jury of peers deliberated for only 35 minutes and found Ali Irsan guilty of murder in the death of his son-in-law and his daughter’s friend. We highlighted some of the trial in an earlier post found here. Since our wrap up, Irsan took to the stand, going against his lawyers at NS Texas Law‘s advice. He declared that he was not involved in the murders of Coty Beavers and Gelareh Bagherzadeh and that he was a devout Muslim who wanted his daughters to focus on school.

The defense tried to paint Irsan as an overprotective father but not who was not angry enough to kill. In the cross-examination by the prosecutors tried to show that because he is a devout Muslim that his daughter marrying a Christian was dishonor on his family.

What was really shocking is during the sentencing portion of the trial, when the prosecutors call witnesses to testify about past crimes they say were committed by Irsan in order for the jury to determine whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. The most shocking was the testimony of his daughter Nerseen Irsan. In her testimony, she claimed that her father disapproved of her older sister’s marriage in 1999 so he murdered her husband and made it look like self-defense. Her testimony also went on to include her violent home life including details about how her father beat his 12 children with garden hoses, electrical cords, and boards.

He beat me. He slapped me around and called me names. He would punch me, kick me, hit me with sticks.

This Monday on August 6, the defense hand their turn to call witnesses to the stand to testify on behalf of Irsan. They portrayed him as a generous, doting and loyal as they tried to persuade jurors to make his sentence life imprisonment over the death penalty. His lawyers have not determined if Irsan will take the stand in his sentencing hearing.

What Country Has The Most Honor Killings? Who Are The Victims?

Honor killings or shame killings are exacted in a bid to regain family honor after a member of the family has committed an act which brings shame to the family, such as homosexuality, adultery, violating religious principles or renouncing a faith. The four main types of honor violence are FGM, forced marriage, domestic violence, and killings. Killing is the most extreme punishment.

The majority of honor killings are carried out in the Islamic regions of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. However, there are documented cases of honor violence from people belonging to all of the major world religions.

Woman account for 93% of all victims of honor killings and the average age of victims is 23. These statistics are based on available worldwide data reported from English-speaking media organizations. Many shame killings around the world go unreported, so statistics are often severe underestimates. It is estimated that there are around 5000 honor killings globally each year. Of that 5000, 1000 occur in India and 1000 occur in Pakistan. The honor based violence awareness network has a good breakdown of victims by region.

The methods used to carry out shame killings can be very brutal and torturous. Methods include burning, stabbing, beating, beheading, hanging, stoning, shooting, lethal acid attacks, throat slashing, and strangulation. Many times, the homicides are carried out in public in front of crowds to warn other members of the community about the consequences if they engage in any illicit behavior. Often, young children are chosen to be the perpetrators, as their families know they are more likely to be looked at favorably in the eyes of the law.

Specific triggers for honor killings vary depending on local culture. Some of the most common triggers include being a victim of rape, seeking a divorce, refusal to partake in an arranged marriage and homosexuality. In some cases, forced suicide can be seen as an acceptable substitute punishment. The family force the victim to commit suicide to avoid more brutal public execution punishments.

Many people might like to believe that honor killings do not happen in the USA, but the DOJ released a report in 2014 estimating that 23 to 27 incidents take place in the country every year. However, there is no reliable data summary of such killings in North America. This is due to the fact that following many homicides in the US, necessary information is often not collected because of inadequate tracking systems.

Honor killing has been outlawed in most countries around the world. If you are found guilty, you will need to present a proper defense to the judge.

Jordanian Immigrant Accused of Pair of Honor Killings

Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, a 60-year-old Jordanian American is currently facing the death penalty after being accused of a pair of honor killings. Irsan is a devout Muslim and his accused of killing his daughter’s husband, 28-year-old Coty Beavers, and her best friend, 30-year-old Gelareh Bagherzadeh, after his daughter, Nesreen Irsan converted to Christianity and married a Christian. Bagherzadeh was an Iranian medical student.

The trial now it’s in her third week and is being judged by state District Judge Jan Krocker. The prosecution consists of Jon Stephenson, Marie Primm, and Anna Emmons. Irsan is accused of tracking down Bagherzadeh as she arrived at her home in Jan 2012 shooting her. He is also accused of stalking Coty Beaver and shooting him 7 times in November of 2012. The defense team consists of Allen Tanner and Rudy Duarte (visit their website).  Their defense consists of proving that these two murders are unrelated. If convicted, Irsan faces the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

It’s key for the prosecution to prove that these crimes were connected in order for capital punishment to still be on the table, which is why the defense is trying to prove htat they are not connected. Yesterday, Detective Dousay recently testified 8 key reasons as to how these crimes were connected:


  • Both victims had extensive connections to Nesreen Irsan.
  • Both victims helped Nesreen Irsan “escape” from her father’s control.
  • An envelope found in Ali Irsan’s sport utility vehicle had the license plate numbers for cars connected to both victims.
  • Both victims lived for a time at the Beaver’s family home in Spring. (Bagherzadeh never moved in but spent an extensive amount of time there with boyfriend Cory Beavers.)
  • There was phone contact between Baghezadeh and Ali Irsan before her death. An outspoken young woman, she told Ali Irsan to leave Nesreen alone and told him one of his other daughters was sending nude selfies to Christian men.
  • Six months after Bagherzadeh was killed in January 2012, Nesreen and Coty Beavers married. They moved to an out of the way apartment complex in northwest Harris County. Before and after the move, there was criminal mischief—air being let out of tires and cars being vandalized—at both locations.
  • Before and after the move, cell phone GPS records seem to indicate Ali Irsan or other family members were stalking Nesreen and Coty at both locations.
  • Finally, Dousay said his investigation, including interviews with Ali Irsan’s neighbors and family members, turned up proof that Irsan had previously threatened death for people who he believed disgraced his honor.  “It was my belief that the defendant believed in honor killings,” Dousay said.


Top Movies That Take A Stand Against Honor Killings

The term honor killing refers to the murder of women or girls, by their kin, who are said to have wronged their family or community. This horrific act has been condemned across the world, but still continues to date. Various movies have been filmed to showcase the reality of honor killings and shine a light into this dark and repulsive act. It’s more repuslive than a severe hit and run accident.

Below you will find a list of movies that condemn honor killings in its entirety.

A Girl In The River

This is a short documentary which follows the life of an 18 year old girl who became a victim of the horror of honor killing, but survived to the tale. The film which won the prestigious Oscar award was made by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. The documentary shows how the eighteen year old girl was traced and fatally attacked by her kin, including her father, for falling in love and eloping.


The state of Uttar Pradesh is among the areas where honor killings still continue to date. This film follows the true events of a case in the state. The film exposes how law enforcement officials work to promote the occurrence of these events by turning a blind eye when they occur.

The movie demonstrates how local law enforcement officers cover up evidence, suppress witnesses and ensure that investigations by officers from external agencies go nowhere.


This movie showcases the difference between city life and village life in India. A couple from the city finds themselves in unfamiliar territory when they become accidental witnesses to an honor killing. This creates a real and unfamiliar shock.

Furthermore, the movie demonstrates how men, scared of women who know the power of their mind and use violence to bring them down and crush them.


This is one of the most successful movies condemning honor killings; it recorded a record performance in the box office. The movie follows the story of a boy and girl from different communities who end up falling in love. The movie also shows how even in Maharashtra state, which is considered to be progressive, honor killings continue to date.

It’s worth mentioning that cases of honor killings have been on the rise especially in the absence of serious laws against the same. The films above are meant to raise public awareness on this issue, and with it increase the pressure on the authorities to take action.

Arrest Made In Response To Alleged Honor Killing of An Italian Woman

It has been reported that Pakistani police arrested the brother and father of Sana Cheema. Miss Cheema was a 25-year-old Pakistani woman, who died under mysterious circumstances when she was visiting relatives in Pakistan last month. The family first reported that her death was caused by a chronic ulcer and hypertension, however many familiar with Cheema’s suspected that she died due to an honor killing.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term honor killing, it refers to when family members kill or severely injure another family member. This familial violence is rooted in the belief that there is damage to the family’s honor based on the victim’s actions such as interacting with men outside of the religion or violating any of the conservation and traditional values.

Cheema was living in Brescia, a northern Italian city and was seeing a gentlemen caller that was not approved by her family. The family made a suggestion at a different male suitor to which Cheema rejected bring a dishonor on her family. After a rallying cry from rights groups and social media, Cheema’s body was exhumed and forensic reports indicated that she was indeed strangled.

The Pakistani official Irfan-ul-Haq Suleheria told Reuters that police took into custody Cheema’s father Ghulam Mustafa and her brother Adnan Cheema.

Honor killings have been prevalent in Pakistan for several years as there was a loophole in the law that allowed the family members be pardoned if they were forgiven. New legislation was passed in 2016 which fixed that egregious error and doled out tougher punishments for those convicted of honor killings. According to the local Pakistani police since hte legislation has been passed there have been fewer honor killings in the area.

Five Things You Should Know About Honor Killings

Five Things You Should Know About Honor Killings

Honor killings happen every day, all over the world. In some countries, the Islamic faith has a hold on the laws allowing parents to kill children for bringing shame upon the family. The shame does not have to be brought by committing a crime. It can be for something as simple as eloping with a male partner.  

In an effort to shed light on this epidemic, the U.S. Department of Justice sponsored a study in 2014. Some of the results will shock you. Below I have included a list of five things you should know about honor killings and why they need to be stopped.

What are honor killings?

Honor killings are a form of extreme punishment that is used to regain the family’s honor after a member commits a sexual crime. A sexual crime can be adultery, homosexuality, elopement, or other sexual acts. In the study, the U.S. Justice Department identified four types of honor violence: forced marriage, honor-based domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and honor killings.  

How common are honor killings and where do they occur?

There is no definite answer to this question. The most recently reported statistics are from the United Nations in 2000. The report estimated that there are 5,000 killings worldwide each year. Most of the killings came from regions with heavy Islamic influence in South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Honor killings are not limited to the Islamic faith; there have been cases of honor killings reported in families of various religious beliefs.

Do they happen in the United States?

According to the study conducted by the Department of Justice in 2014, 23 to 27 honor killings occur in the United States annually. Due to the inadequate information on homicides, this number is a rough estimate.

Who are the victims?

The average age of the honor killing victim is 23 years of age and women makeup 93% of those killed. The most common victims are teenage girls who’re average age is 17 years old and women who’re average age is 36 years old.

What are the trends?

The number of honor killings appears to be increasing as the years go on. Although, it is unclear if the increasing number of ills is due to and increased amount of exposure or because there are actually more and more honor killings every year. The internet is playing an increasing on both sides of the table. While it is bringing more exposure to the killings, it is also allowing families to track inappropriate behavior by relatives.

As the world becomes increasingly westernized it seems to be a reason for the killings. Nine out of 10 honor killings in North America were because victims have become “too Wesernized.” The report also stated that 43% of victims in Muslim countries were being killed for this reason.