Honor killings are generally associated with Middle Eastern and African countries, but the truth is that the number of murders coined as such are on the rise all over the world — including here in the United States. Maybe part of the reason is because families whose ethnicity stems from the Middle Eastern countries have been under increased pressure to conform to conservative American standards. Hate crimes against American Muslims, for instance, have skyrocketed since Donald Trump took office in 2016.
With his potential reelection just around the corner, this is a dangerous time for those of Middle Eastern descent, especially when those in question are practicing Muslims.
Just like in the Middle East, it can be difficult to find adequate data points to determine exactly how many victims of honor killings there have been in the United States. That’s because no agency devotes its time to compiling data regarding these murders. Many human rights organizations avoid labeling a murder “honor killing” in the states because they believe it could lead to increased pressure and stigmatization of these cultures instead of less.
Trump’s Executive Order 13769 was written and signed in order to gather data on honor killings in the United States — but alongside his mandate that crimes committed by immigrants be collected and published on a routine basis, the effort was likely less than wholesome in nature.
Farhana Qazi, Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism in the United States said that the number of killings was likely more than other organizations estimated because officials also avoided public embarrassment for families involved. Zuhdi Jasser, a member of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said in 2012 that honor killings should be studied to discover their true impact in this country.
The Islamic Center of Washington in Maryland pointed to Chinese detention centers where Muslims were incarcerated and the Trump administration’s actions toward minorities as the reasons why these murders more often go unnoticed — because members of those very communities are afraid to call out the injustices they see amongst themselves for fear that they might continue to be viewed as second class citizens.
A number of high profile cases have come into the spotlight since 1989 when 16-year-old Palestina Isa was murdered by her parents for her interests in American music. Other reasons for the murder included an African American boyfriend and was working part-time. That same year, Amina and Sarah Said were born. They were murdered by their father for having love interests who were not members of the Islamic community in 2008. Their father Yaser Said was consistency on top ten most wanted lists until he was finally captured earlier this year.
More recently, Gelareh Bagherzadeh and Coty Beavers were murdered by Ali Mahmood Awad Irsan when Bagherzadeh attempted to compel Irsan’s daughter to give up Islamic faith in favor of Evangelical Christianity. Irsan was sentenced to death in 2018.