What Is Gjakmarrja And Where Is It Practiced?

There are certain societies on Planet Earth (that’s our home, unfortunately) that take the concept of honor very, very seriously. A lot of people think this not-so-romantic notion of honor died out with the westernization of Japan. Not true at all. Actually, honor is still alive and well, and somewhat ironically it’s making a lot of unlucky individuals very dead and unwell. Gjakmarrja means “blood-taking” and even though you might mistake it for something Klingon, it is an Albanian practice in which family members take back the family’s honor by slaughtering the person or persons who stole it.

In other words, when ranking criminal justice systems, gjakmarrja ranks as just a little bit more strict than an eye for an eye.

Gjakmarrja isn’t all too common nowadays, but those who still practice it (or use it as an excuse to kill someone unliked) consider it more of an obligation than a choice. You might choose your sexual orientation or whether or not to live in poverty or whether God smiles upon your family, but you do not choose gjakmarrja. It chooses you. Sadly, this form of honor-killing is experiencing a recurrence in some parts of the world–namely it’s original home in some parts of Albania and Kosovo. When communism fell, the more remote, lawless regions of these countries fell back on old traditions. That’s just one more thing wrong with communism: it helps enforce a system of laws that prevent you from killing your enemies in the name of honor. A real shame.

Then again, with gjakmarrja comes order of a different kind. After all, honor-killing wouldn’t be quite the same without a rigid set of rules and regulations guiding how to best adopt the bloody practice. If you were hoping to take back any honor stolen by a woman or some old guy, you’re completely out of luck. You can’t kill women, children, male virgins, or the elderly.

It should be noted that gjakmarrja is just another form of killing in the name of honor, and even though it comes with certain rules and codes and definitions, it isn’t all that different from other practices throughout the Balkans (something explored in-depth by Ismail Kadare in his book Broken April. Kadare believes that blood feuds between landowning families is to blame for the continued violence over such huge time periods.

Today, the consequences of enduring blood feuds between rivals and landowning families–and even honor killings involving immediate family members–are discussed and explored at length in the media and cinema. Some purport that Albania’s failing government and judiciary branch are to blame, but whatever the cause, a solution needs to be found as quickly as possible. Too many victims are young and without any legal recourse, and it’s impossible to sort out justice from injustice so far into the fringe of Albania and other countries where these atrocities are still committed.

The Honor Killings of The Shafia Family in Ontario, Canada

The Shafia family murders were a high profile murder case that took place in in Ontario, Canada. Three young girls: Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, aged 19,17 and 13 respectively, along with Rona Amir Mohammed, aged 50 were found dead on June 30th 2009, in a car that was found underwater in the Kingston Mills lock, a part of the Rideau Canal.

The three girls were the children of Mohammad Shafia and his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya. The couple also had one son, Hamed, who was 20 years old. Rona Amir Mohammed was the first wife of Mohammad Shafia, and was infertile. The couple was a part of a polygamous household.

Mohammad Shafir, Tooba Yahya and Hamed were arrested in relation to the murder on July 23rd, and were charged with four counts of first degree murder. The murders were considered to be honour killings. The case eventually went to trial, and they were found guilty of all the charges in January 2012. The trial was conducted in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Dari, and this is thought to have been the first time that a Canadian trial has been conducted in four languages. The trial attracted a huge amount of media attention, and sparked debate over values, the protection of immigrant groups, and the issue of honour killings.

The Shafia family was originally from Afghanistan. They left there in 1992, and spent time in Australia and in the United Arab Emirates. They eventually settled in Canada in 2007. Mohammad Shafia got married to Rona long before leaving Afghanistan, but she was infertile. In 1989, he married his second wife, and then had seven children. Rona raised the children as if they were hers, and when the family moved to Canada, Rona pretended to be an aunt. Rona was the only person in the family that did not practice Shi’a Islam.

According to many reports coming from around the time of the trial, Rona wished for a divorce, but her husband was unwilling to grant it. Rona was in an abusive relationship, and was told that she was a slave and a servant. Since the Shafia family had Rona’s passport, she felt that she could not flee the country. She was on a visitor’s visa, and this was used to hold power over her.

Rona was not the only member of the family that allegations of abuse or threats surfaced regarding. Zainab, the eldest daughter, was in a relationship with a Pakistani boy, and this angered Mohammad Shafia. There were allegations from family members that Mohammad had threatened to kill her.

The jury in the trial determined that the deaths were honor killings. Following the result of the trial, imams from many mosques in Canada and the US issued moral rulings condemning domestic violence, misogyny and honour killings. The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada also denounced honour killing and domestic violence, and Ali Falih Altaie, the imam of the family, called the murders unforgivable. It was a wrongful death.

How Do Muslim Americans Feel About Honor Killings?

Perhaps because most Muslims in America are default more westernized than their counterparts in The Middle East or Islamic regions, they believe that the barbaric ritual of honor killing is indeed deplorable. When approached on the subject, they claim that the religion itself does not promote violence but that honor killings stem from sexism and tribal behavior from when the religion was first founded.

But some Muslim Americans have taken it a step further to help advocate against these vicious felonies. Muslim leaders across the nation came together to create “Imams Speak Out: Domestic Violence Will Not Be Tolerated In Our Communities.” The goal would be to discuss the ramifications of domestic violence in their weekly sermons to stress that this type of behavior and violence is not acceptable morally, religiously, or legally.

From there, the Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse Organization was born. Established in February 2009, the goal is to raise awareness and vow to neither participate, condone or remain silent about physical, psychological and the emotional abuse of Muslim (as well as non-Muslim) women and children. According to the members, they reject domestic violence because their religion calls to stand for justice and reject all forms of oppression.

Despite many many objections to Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban, there’s an interesting piece of verbiage related to honor killings. The order dictates that the secretary of the Department of Homeland security will regularly and publicly publish “information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” This works in conjunction with Trump’s VOICE program that was created to raise awareness of crimes being committed by undocumented immigrants.

While honor killings do not happen often in the United States (or they are not reported as honor killings but rather regular homicides), when they do occur, it actually is done by legal immigrants. However, it is nice to see the administration acknowledge this crime. After all, the goal is to stop honor killings.

Key Details About The Honor Killing of Aqsa Pervez

Aqsa Pervez was a victim of an honor killing in Mississauga, Canada in December 2007.

The case received attention in various parts of the nation and world due to how it was completed and the reasoning behind it.

Here is more on the key details about the honor killing of Aqsa Pervez in Canada.

Who Was Aqsa Pervez?

Aqsa Pervez was a 16-year-old high school student living in Mississauga, Canada with her family at the time of her death.

She attended Applewood Heights Secondary School, and her father was a local taxi driver named Muhammad Parvez.

She was of Pakistani origin and grew up as a Muslim in a Muslim family.

At the time of her death, she had moved into her neighbor’s house named Lubna Tahir because of the underlying tension that was brewing in her house.

Day of Honor Killing

On the day of the honor killing, she had gone back to her house, and that is when the act was committed. It was completed by the brother as the tension grew in their household.

The brother had strangled her, and when the Peel Regional Police arrived, she was hanging onto her life by a thread. She was sent to Credit Valley Hospital before being transferred to the Hospital for Sick Children.

When the act was committed, her father called 911 to let the operator know he had killed his daughter. The police were able to respond in minutes and when they arrived the life-threatening injuries were evident.

The Hospital for Sick Children was unable to help Aqsa Pervez as her injuries were far too severe, she had medical problems and she passed away due to neck compression from strangling.

Reports came out from high school friends that she had been complaining about receiving threats from her father/brother.

Reason for Honor Killing

What was the reason for Aqsa Pervez being killed by her brother?

It was stated, she had refused to take up the hijab (Muslim garment worn by a woman) and that had caused her parents and brother grief. They wanted her to move away from “Western” teachings and felt it was corrupting her mind.

Due to the arguments both parties had back and forth, the honor killing took place when she went back home. The same was said by Muhammad Pervez when he was asked about the issue at hand when it came to Aqsa Pervez. The father had also reported having told the mother his daughter was not under her control and this had made him lose his honor.

Follow-up of the Case

Aqsa Pervez’s honor killing was denounced by various Islamic councils and imams in Canada, and the judge sentenced both Muhammad Parvez and Waqas Pervez with murder. Both father and son were sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole until 2028.

It is also reported various statements were made by Waqas Pervez to his father about not speaking to the police and this was deemed to be an obstruction of justice.

The Difference Between Honor Killings And Honor Suicide

An honor killing is where a person is killed due to his or her immoral actions, normally by a relative, in order to restore honor to the family. This practice is normally aimed at women who have been found guilty of an immoral practice.

An honor suicide on the other hand is a practice whereby a person takes their own life in order to restore honor to themselves, their family or a master. Honor suicides can take many different forms and can either be voluntary or coerced.

A form of voluntary honor suicide is seen the ancient ritual of Japanese Seppuku. This is where a Samurai would kill himself when he has been found to be dishonorable to save his Daimyo from the shame of having to take his life. Shimbu-tai is another form of Japanese suicide where a soldier takes his own life in a way that will inflict maximum damage and casualties on the enemy.

Coerced honor suicide is normally where a woman who has committed an immoral act is persuaded that there is no other way for her to restore honor or to continue life other than to kill herself. This is normally done by threatening torture, death or imprisonment of herself, family members or loved ones.

Immoral acts in both the form of honor killing and suicide can range widely. Dressing salaciously, conversing with men, adultery, rape and other acts are all considered to be reason for an honor suicide or killing.

Unfortunately, in some circumstances, no evidence of the alleged act is necessary for the practice to be enforced. In most cases, the husband, father or other relative will force the woman into a position where she thinks she has no other option.

The practice is also widely used to cover up the crime of murder. Due to the fact that honor suicides are rarely investigated in the countries in which they are practiced, it is the ideal means to literally get away with murder.

The main similarity between the two is that the act is meant to restore honor to another person or family by the taking of a life. The difference lies mainly in the means in which this is achieved, the one through suicide and the other through death at the hand of a relative or other person.

Both of these practices are highly controversial as there is no legal or legislated way of determining guilt or innocence. However, in most countries where they are practiced, the law simply overlooks the murder or suicide. In other words, even though they are illegal in most countries around the world, they are not policed as they should be.

Honor killings can however result in charges of murder. Honor suicides on the other hand that were used as means to cover up a murder rarely result in charges due to the lack of investigation into the issue. The U.N. has started making moves to ensure that all honor suicides are investigated.

Different Forms Of Honor-Based Violence

While ‘honor killings‘ is the most commonly discussed aspect of this phenomenon, it is actually only one of a link of control exercised over women’s lives. In ‘honor’ cultures women and men are subject to the wishes of the elders in their family and in the community who presume to act in the greater good of the culture as a whole. Children or adults who step outside of the cultural boundaries or insist on their own autonomy are considered to selfish and disruptive and to violate the honor of the family and therefore the community.

Women are particularly targeted and constantly subjected to surveillance to prevent them from transgressing the honor code of the family and thereby bringing into disrepute. Women brought up in honor cultures have little or no privacy at home, and few opportunities for socializing outside their immediate kinship network. The family feels honor bound to restrict a woman’s movements to prevent them from developing relationships outside the community group. Such a control ethnic controls a woman’s freedom of association and movement to such an extent that they are denied opportunities to socialize in a wider world, freedom to choose who they have relationships with, and choosing to seek help when violence or coercion occurs. Responses to a perceived slight on the family honor vary according to family preference and the public nature of the behavior that is seen as “dishonoring”.

Motives For Honor-Based Violence

Some of the most common motives for committing honor-based violence are:
– Loss of virginity in unmarried women;
– Extramarital affairs;
– Homosexuality;
– Insulting an elder family member;
– Rebellion against traditional dress, occupation or forms of behavior;
– Honor conflicts such as inheritance disputes
– Refusal to take part in honor-based violence against others.

Forms of Honor-Based Violence

Young girls and women are the most common victims of honour-based violence which can take many different forms, however, boys and men are often victims too. Girls or women who have displayed dishonoring behavior are often disowned by the family, abused, or forced to have an abortion. Examples of honor-based violence include:
– Physical abuse such as beating and kicking;
– Abandonment (leaving a person behind in their country of origin or forcing them to go back there;
– Forced suicide
– Psychological pressure such as threats, humiliation and strict monitoring of movement and behavior;
– Honor killing (murdering a person);
– Forced abortion or hymen ‘repair’;
– Abduction and imprisonment.

Sometimes when a woman falls pregnant outside of marriage and this is unknown outside the immediate family circle, the family may consider an abortion and a hymen repair a better solution than committing honor-based violence which is a crime. However, if her condition becomes common knowledge, the family may have to resort to more severe forms of punishment to quell the negative reactions from the community. Consent to such drastic medical procedures is either acquired under duress or not at all. When given the choice between hymenoplasty and an unwanted abortion, and death at the hands of a family member, it is impossible not to consent. Such methods violate a woman’s rights over her own body.

In countries where honor-killings are vigorously prosecuted, a strategy is deployed to force a woman to kill herself in order for the perpetrator to be found technically innocent of murder. This is particularly common in certain regions of Turkey. It is never clear whether forced suicide was due to direct coercion, whether a woman is honor-bound to kill herself in order to spare a family member from going to jail, whether an honor-killing has been disguised as suicide, or whether a woman has truly committed suicide to escape the unbearable violence, restrictions, disfavour and abuse by her life family. No matter what the issue is, it’s a criminal act.

What World Religions Practice Honor Killings?

Honor has been passed down from generation to generation and is a concept that is ingrained in many societies.

It is something that has transcended life and is a part of living for people. One of the reasons for honor being such a healthy subject and one that is adhered to passionately involves religion. Many deviants who go through with honor killings point towards religious expectations and rules as a reason for their actions.

This read is going to analyze world religions where honor killings are practiced and used as a way to manage honor.


This is the first religion that pops up when it comes to honor killings, and it has a rich history with the concept.

While numerous clerics have stated honor killings are “un-Islamic,” the understanding of religion by various Muslim states and its citizens have made it a connected subject. Many perpetrators who go ahead with honor killings use Islam as a means to describe their murder and why it was necessary to restore honor to their family.

Islamic nations also have relaxed regulations when it comes to honor killings, and this can be a major issue for victims receiving justice. The religion has been associated with numerous followers who have decided to go ahead and use Islam as a means to justify honor killings.


While Judaism hasn’t seen a comprehensive set of international cases such as Islam, it had a phase during a time where honor killings were tolerated.

This was a time when Judaism was spreading, and honor was seen as an important concept to keep the tribes together. If not, it would lead to the disintegration of the community, and that wasn’t acceptable. This is why honor killings were permissible and something that had been used as a tool to control family members.


It was at the time of the early civilizations where honor killings were practiced with great vigor.

Various civilizations felt it was appropriate to use the religion to justify honor and make sure it was protected at all costs. This meant the religion was spread and it became a prominent part of life. While it is not as prominent now and the religion has seen a change in how things are done, it is a religion that has been associated with honor killings in the past.

Its history can be connected to the concept of honor to this day.

These are the religions where honor is practiced, and honor killings are justified using religion. While most nations understand honor killings are unacceptable and do punish those who are guilty, the punishments are still not as severe in various nations around the world.

A lot of work is being done to work with these nations to ensure religion isn’t used as a crux by deviants who perform these killings to protect honor. Progress has been made with most nations strengthening their legal system to protect men or women who are victims of honor killings.

What Is The Difference Between Shame and Dishonor?

In society, the term “honor” is thrown around to describe a person’s social standing and how their actions impact that stature.

If the wrong action takes place, it can harm a person’s honor whether it’s through lying, cheating, or doing something else that’s perceived as being dishonest. However, the same people start using terms such as “shame” and “dishonor” in the same light leading to confusion.

This article is going to dissect both words and illustrate the context they’re used in or should be used in while speaking about the subject of honor.


This is a personal feeling of a perceived action (i.e. lying, cheating).

A person will feel shame if they are to commit something that’s wrong or looked down upon. The context can vary as to what would make a person feel shame, but in the end, it is a personal feeling. It might not have anything to do with someone else.

In general, a person who puts themselves in this position feels they have wronged another party, been wronged by someone, or have reduced their stature in society. This can come as a result of what others might say or what they feel is right.

A person who feels shame can often relate to the painful feeling inside and might become aware of what others think of him/her. It illustrates a state of consciousness to what should or should not bring shame to a person.


In comparison, dishonor has nothing to do with personal feelings and is an external term.

It means when a person has committed an action (i.e. lying, cheating) that goes against societal norms or what is perceived to be honorable. Dishonor does not have to relate to the person who has committed the act but also those in his/her family or near him/her.

An individual who dishonors another person will have brought shame to them.

The person is going to feel shame for the actions of another leading to a dishonored state. In some cases, “honor” has to be defined for a person to show signs of dishonor. It can be something as straightforward as lying or something as extensive as adultery depending on the situation at hand.

This can also impact how a person reacts to this state of dishonor or how they are treated by others around them. It is important to differentiate between the terms due to this reason as it can have an impact on how actions are perceived.

The terms are often interchanged when they should not be. A person can quickly feel shame without being dishonored.

These definitions play a major role when it comes to the subject of honor killings where a man/woman is killed due to the shame felt by their family members. Due to the shame felt by these family members, they try to make amends by killing the accused party.

This can have a profound impact on how society views honor and how a person feels “shame” for his/her actions.

Honor and Dishonor

Throughout the ages, we have heard of the terms “honor” and “dishonor.” From the samurai warriors who centered their belief system around honor, to the soldiers of today who receive honorable or dishonorable discharges, honor and dishonor have a lot to do with how others view us and how we view ourselves. In this article, we will discuss the differences between both.

1. Honor

“Honor” is a term that refers to being morally upright, virtuous, noble, and altogether good as an individual. A person who could be described as “honorable” or “having honor” would be an individual who displayed these qualities as well as a sense of dignity. A person like this would have a good reputation and be easy to respect.

Another way to use the word “honor” would be in reference to a privilege that a person was able to enjoy. For example, if someone was able to speak at a charity event, they could say that they had the honor of being able to stand up and say a few words to everyone.

The samurai warriors of long ago (Japan) followed a strict code of honor called “Bushido.” This code stressed the importance of loyalty, frugality, serenity, wisdom, and honor until death. These warriors believed that violence was to be used only when necessary, and that to be truly honorable one would need to practice peace and tranquility above all else. Today, although we do not follow Bushido in and of itself, the points stressed by this way of life are still put into practice by those who want to be honorable.

2. Dishonor

“Dishonor” is a term that is derived from “honor.” It refers to behaviors and actions that are in stark contrast to those that are honorable. It also refers to a state of disgrace and shame. If an individual were to act in such a way that was dishonorable, they would bring discredit and disgrace to themselves and possibly others close to them, earning a negative reputation.

Another definition of the word “dishonor” would be in reference to a contract or obligation that someone agreed to. If one was to fulfill the obligation or contract, it could be said that one honored their end of the deal. However, if that person was to not hold up their end of the bargain or contract, it could be said that they dishonored the terms of the agreement.

In conclusion, to be “honorable” means to hold yourself to a set of standards that relate to morality, loyalty, and other positive attributes. An honorable person will hold true to promises and agreements and enjoy the esteem of others. One who is described as being “dishonorable” is the exact opposite. This individual would not see through their agreements, nor would they enjoy a positive reputation. History has shown that those who display the qualities synonymous with honor are better people and people who are seen in a positive light by others. Clearly, we want to strive to be honorable and let ourselves be known for being individuals who can be trusted and relied on.

What Is The Difference Between Femicide And Honor Killings?

Femicide is the killing of a female (woman or girl) specifically due to her gender.

Honor killing, on the other hand, is the killing of a family member (in most cases a female) due to the fact that they have brought dishonor upon their family and not due to their gender.

Femicide is most notable in China where female babies and young girls are often killed by their parents due to the one child policy. It is preferable in Chinese culture to have a son to inherit the family name, status as well as property. Girls do not carry this privilege and are only worthy to improve a family’s status through an arranged marriage. Female babies are therefore often killed in order to give a couple the chance to try for a son.

However, this form of regulation has become disadvantages in this Asian society. The lack of marriageable girls or women has caused the price for a respectable bride to rise and has also resulted in many men being unable to find a suitable marriage partner.

Honor killings are largely practiced in conservative Middle Eastern countries. There are many different reasons that can be presented for an honor killing from simply dressing incorrectly to committing adultery. However, adultery is the most common reason for an honor killing. Crimes such as rape can also be used as a reason for honor killing.

It is called an honor killing as the process is meant to restore honor to the husband and family of the woman who has been considered to have been immoral. Honor killings are highly controversial and are commonly enforced privately or by society or religious leaders rather than by a judicial system. This does not mean those honor killings are legal in most countries where this is practiced. Women can be severely injured, beaten or murdered if they bring dishonor on their household.

One of the most common forms of honor killing is forced suicide. Forced suicide is where a woman who has been considered to have committed an immoral act is manipulated or coerced into killing herself. Manipulation can be in the form of persuading her to commit suicide in order to restore honor to her family.

Coercion can take the form of threats to her personal safety, health or even life or those of her family making it preferable for her to kill herself rather than suffer or let her loved ones suffer the consequences of her dishonor.

However, in some cases, no immoral act may be committed and evidence may be fabricated. In other cases, the murder of a woman may be concealed as a suicide. Most female suicides are not investigated in depth making it an easy solution for a husband or other person to kill a woman.

Both femicide and honor killings are highly controversial and contribute to the subjugation and oppression of woman in many different types of societies and cultures around the world.