Details About The Honor Killing of Ahmet Yildiz

Most people believe that honor killings are only performed against women, but men are most definitely not exempt. When Ahmet Yildiz decided against living a lie, instead choosing to live openly as a gay man, his father stalked him a crazy six hundred miles in order to dole out his brand of justice. Yildiz was shot and killed in Istanbul nearly a decade ago, but honor killings such as these still occur all the time with no end in sight.

One of the issues that makes honor killings so difficult to study or fully grasp is the lack of publicity surrounding them. Yildiz’s murder was the first honor killing of a gay man to find any publicity in Turkey. That doesn’t mean none have occurred in the past–it just means any murders that did occur were squashed and covered up by families or ignored by authorities.

When Yildiz’s father finally caught up to him, he was on his way out of his apartment to purchase ice cream. His father pumped him full of five bullets, after which most witnesses hid inside nearby apartments. One person who did venture forward noted that there were dozens of others who saw the crime play out. Because this was an honor killing, the body was never claimed by family members.

After the 26-year-old’s murder, his father ran away, forcing a trial to proceed without him. At the time of the murder, it forced Turkey to take a look at how and why these types of crimes happen. There are effectively two different worlds colliding within the country: there is the traditional Turkey which values the old ways and customs, and then there is the new Turkey that is quickly becoming more westernized. Families are routinely torn apart because of this conflict. Ahmet was born into an extremely religious family, and his decision to come out of the closet was seen as a steely betrayal, an insult to the family’s honor, and an embarrassment when seen by the community.

Thousands of people die annually because of similar honor killings, but those committed against men seem to remain invisible–as do many others. Even so, those convicted in such murders may find themselves the recipients of a life sentence, which many would say is too lenient a sentence for their crimes.

One of the reasons that the murder of gay men in Turkey might be swept under the rug is the apparent difference to the community as a whole. While a son coming out of the closet might taint a family’s honor in the eyes of that family, it also destroys a societal construct that many don’t want to change: that is, that sexuality is a choice or that homosexuality can be cured. If you come out as gay, then you attack the very nature of your gender’s usual identity for the people around you.

When will it stop? Violent crimes against homosexuals even occur in New York City

WHAT IS THE AHA FOUNDATION?

Many of us in the Western world see men and women as equals. Maybe in different roles or the same roles of life, but we see them as equals in personhood, respect, intelligence, and dignity.

Sadly, there are some parts of the world where that is not the case, and they prove it through brutality that many of us cannot fathom.

For many years, female genital mutilation has been a practiced ritual in some cultures, including in many Muslim areas of the world – mainly in the Middle East, though some fundamentalist Muslims practice it within their European or North America enclaves. Considered one part of “honor violence” against women – right alongside “honor killings” – the subjugation of women has been part and parcel of some cultures going back centuries, and honor violence has been one way to ensure it.

A barbaric practice that dates back to the early days of Islam, honor violence was rarely talked about until some of it came to the fore in headlines through Western civilization with stories of honor killings and female genital mutilation occurring in Europe and North America in recent years.

While many are willing to “apologize” for the violence and claim that it is much in the minority of practicing Muslims, one woman has been a bullhorn in bringing attention to the practice as more widespread than believed and more pervasive and dangerous on behalf of women and girls everywhere.

This is where Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s voice can be heard, and her face seen. She is the resistance to traditional Islam and a force for reform for the benefit of women and girls. She is a survivor of honor violence and she consistently speaks out against the practice and seeks to educate the Western world to help stand for human rights and the dignity of women and girls who are in the Muslim faith.

Ali was subjected to genital mutilation more than 40 years ago as a young girl in Somalia, then was taught to be submissive to men, though she was strong enough to question it. She later sought political asylum in Holland and went from janitor to a member of Dutch Parliament. As she rose in status in the European community, she began to speak out more and more about honor violence and fighting for the rights of equality among women and calling for reforms in Islam that would wipe out the practice of honor violence, and especially genital mutilation.

A bestselling author of several books, Ali eventually started the AHA Foundation, which advocates the end of honor violence against women and girls, including forced marriage, within the Western culture of the United States, and fight for the rights of women all around the world, especially in cultures where female subjugation is tradition or culturally acceptable.

The Foundation is based on four main pillars:

  • Intervention: Supporting women and girls in the U.S. who are facing forced marriage or violence.
  • Influence: Raising awareness of oppression and violence based on gender.
  • Information: Providing training to providers to help them recognize honor violence and take appropriate steps to mitigate and counteract it.
  • Investigation: Conduct data-gathering mission to build the case for the work and establish foundational baselines for the anomalies and risks of honor violence and forced marriages.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the women’s rights activist of this generation. For more information about her foundation and its work, check out www.theahafoundation.org.

 

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE

In a Western civilization, people are exactly that – civilized.

And when they are civilized, the idea of committing any form of violence against another person, even based on gender, class or race, seems to be lowering civilization to its very basal instincts of fear, power, and survival.

We’re all supposed to be better than that.

Fortunately, for the most part, civilization is indeed civilized, and it doesn’t tolerate violence that is prejudicial in any way, whether it’s based on the dominance of a gender, the superiority of a race or the power of one class over another. We civilized people tend to push out these kinds of behaviors and not make them part of our existence.

That actually is part of why violence against women is seen as such an anomaly in Western civilizations, though the prevalence of the violence is much more marked In other parts of the world, and the numbers seem to bear it out in a report put out by the World Health Organization.

For those who bemoan women’s “rights” and such in Western civilization, here are some stats to help underscore the real problem that the Western world does not allow itself to see. You think women are “oppressed” in the Western world? Check out some of these statistics regarding violence against women:

  • It is estimated that about 35 percent of all women (7 in 20) worldwide have experienced some type of sexual or physical violence in their life.
  • About 3 in 10 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hand of their partner when in a relationship.
  • It is estimated that 38 percent (about 3 in 8) of murders of women are committed by an “intimate partner” – a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse.
  • The rate of sexual violence by an “intimate partner” against women range from a low of 15 percent in Japan to as high as 71 percent in Ethiopia. So even in a Western civilization at least 1 in 6 or 1 in 5 women experience violence by a spouse or relationship partner. This does not account for all physical or sexual violence.
  • Women who were sexually or physically abused are about 1.5 times more likely to have a sexually-transmitted disease than women who had not experienced such violence. Abused women are also twice as likely to have an abortion.

While these numbers seem like a minority, this is a global number, which means we’re talking about hundreds of millions of women – think the United States’ population being 100-percent female – then tripling it. That is about30 percent of women in the world.

Some important risk factors were found, that seem to show indications or the increased likelihood of a woman experiencing violence in her life:

  • A low level of education.
  • An antisocial personality.
  • Having multiple partners, or even being accused of infidelity by a partner (whether true or not).
  • Being a witness to violence in the family and/or mistreatment of children.
  • Being in a culture or society where violence and inequality of women are considered acceptable.

Physical or sexual violence against women is never acceptable in civilized, mature and fair societies and cultures. Where there is a large amount of violence against women tells you that it is a culture not fit to be part of modern society, and it must be reformed or eradicated by the strongest force possible – the force of love for women and no apologies for the perpetrators.

Proof That Honor Killings Are Worse Than You Can Imagine

Most honor killings affect young women or girls who have done no real wrong in the eyes of most of the world. But in the eyes of their families or communities, they are the root of all evil. How is it possible, though, that someone might become convinced that the death of a two-day-old girl is somehow necessary in order to retain a family’s honor? Sadly, that was exactly what happened way back in 2010, and it’s a story being told and retold again seven years later in 2017.

Having premarital sex or engaging in sexual relations out of wedlock in some regions of the world is a much more criminal act than any of us might realize–so criminal, in fact, that the conception of a baby during such this act could be reason enough to end a life. When a 25-year-old mother was impregnated without first marrying, her grandmother and the rest of the family decided that the baby’s life should be forfeit. The grandmother strangled the baby, which was then buried in the garden out back. Luckily, an anonymous call made to the police led to the secret being uncovered.

It turns out that the family bribed a doctor and secretary to keep the birth off of traditional registries. The father of the child was in the military at the time of the murder, and so he was obviously not involved. In addition to the doctor and secretary, police arrested the mother and six others in connection to the honor killing.

As barbaric as this incident might sound, it’s hardly the first–or the last. Sadly, it’s also far from the worst.

In Pakistan, arranged marriages are a traditional norm, and marrying for any other reason–especially against the wishes of your own family–is an invitation for disaster. In 2014, one couple had barely been married for a week before they were murdered. Family members participated in the killings, slitting the throats of their loved ones. If that weren’t bad enough, children were forced to watch as the couple bled to death in an apparent warning: this could happen to you if you marry out of love. Learn and respect the traditional way, or suffer a gruesome end.

Five people were arrested after the couple was murdered.

In countries that hold such traditions, women generally have little cultural of financial value outside of marriage. As terrible as this is, it helps some people in these communities accept that these killings might even be okay or necessary. It isn’t unprecedented for pregnant women to fall victim to the same end for similar reasons. Many of these cases are either unreported or ignored by the proper authorities, even as global outrage to these crimes continues to swell. The world is changing fast, but brutal customs continue to persist. How many more will die?

Is Facebook Responsible For Honor Killings?

When we’re browsing our favorite social media platforms, most of us don’t stop to consider the full scope of what we’re doing. Who are we talking to, and what effect are we having on those we correspond with? What are the consequences of our actions, both seen and unseen? Those questions are experiencing dynamic shifts as we begin to search for the answers in a rapidly advancing age of connectivity and higher technology. Here’s a new one: are there honor killings over the use of Facebook?

In some Middle Eastern countries, arranged marriages are tradition. Straying from the path set forth by your parents is a dangerous option that few would exercise, but some choose to anyway in hopes of finding greater freedom through the outside world. When one Saudi Arabian woman was caught perusing Facebook by her father, she was beaten for her curiosity–especially because she had been speaking with a man she had met online. After the beating she was forced to endure, her father shot her.

This isn’t a complete surprise because many religious leaders in the region are convinced that Facebook and other social media platforms just like it are an unprecedented source of evil–and they work tirelessly to convince others of this odd belief as well. When people fall prey to these beliefs, their actions can transform into a kind of extremism that most people in more developed regions of the world can’t even fathom.

These same religious leaders believe that women shouldn’t be allowed to use Facebook or any practice management software at all because it supposedly leads them towards a life filled with lust. Even so, there are nearly 8 million Facebook users residing in the country out of a population with only 32 million people. That’s a gigantic swath of people who are giving into temptation–if you believe in that sort of thing.

In the past, many of these profiles used aliases and fake pictures in order to avoid discrimination. Saudi officials have also moved to block Facebook entirely, but the measure did not pass. In 2016, Facebook Messenger was successfully banned because of privacy concerns.

The use of Facebook in Saudi Arabia and similar countries today is very different than it is in other regions throughout the world. If you share someone else’s post or tag them in content which they could find offensive or embarrassing, then you could end up the target of a defamation suit–or much worse. Even drinking is illegal in the country, and so photos of such behavior could get you in big legal trouble.

It’s important to realize how enormously different traditions are in other regions of the world, and we need to take a moment to consider how we can best implement meaningful change to make the lives of citizens who live in those regions a whole lot better. Facebook might be the first step towards reducing the number of honor killings, but only if we can effect change the right way.

Details About The Honor Killing Of Hina Saleem

If you were born in Pakistan and decide to travel abroad to learn a little bit more about the world, you should probably be wary of your new environment and the people in it–but even moreso, perhaps you should be wary of your own parents. Hina Saleem, a twenty-year-old Pakistani native living in Northern Italy was the victim of ritualistic honor killing because she was becoming too westernized.

Hina’s father, Mohammed Saleem, was open and honest about his feelings regarding his daughter’s new outlook on life. He didn’t like it. According to him, she had dishonored and shamed the entire family, and it was up to them to make sure that she paid the price and saw his family’s honor redeemed. He says that he had no desire to kill her–no, he only wanted his baby girl to move back home where she belonged. She refused.

He dragged a knife across her throat no fewer than twenty-eight times, and is now serving a thirty year sentence for the unthinkable crime he committed. Back in 2011, he was allowed to grant an interview that showed the outside world a window into the other side of this horrible crime and the people who most often it out. Why do parents choose to kill their own children rather than see them adopt different customs and traditions, date a different kind of person, or wear different clothing? The answer is a complex one, and for most people it doesn’t make much sense.

Mohammed thought himself a decent, caring father who had done a good job raising his daughter. That ideal vision of his daughter came to a crushing halt the moment she refused to give in to a traditional marriage that had been arranged for her. She began smoking. She dated an Italian man. These were shocking betrayals. Mohammed saw this as a devastating blow to his family, and the pain of that blow radiated outward into their surrounding community, who would inevitably come to look at him differently.

After the murder was committed, he buried Hina in the garden out back. His family knew where her final resting place was located, and they supported Mohammed’s decision. This type of honor killing occurs not only because of the clash between traditions in new regions, but because the family dynamic is one of ownership over freedom. Hina Saleem was not free to fly wherever she chose–her father had the final say, and that’s why the murder was eventually committed. She was unrelenting in her desire to live a life of freedom.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, an estimated 5,000 women and girls are murdered every year in apparent honor killings, although men are not exempt from this type of violent response. The world must adopt a different attitude if these killings are to be prevented in the future, and we must acknowledge that there are countries that fail to provide legal justice in the face of such crimes. Only then can we really stand a chance to stop this trend from continuing.

Details About The Honor Killing Of Hatun Sürücü

Although honor killings are more common in certain parts of the world, we live in a world where people can travel thousands of miles in a matter of hours. Because we can live wherever we like, these somewhat archaic, ritualistic forms of murder can make their way into societies where they are deemed completely barbaric–a reputation they find for good reason. On February 7, 2005, a Turkish-Kurdish native woman named Hatun Sürücü was murdered by her younger brother in an apparent honor killing in Berlin, sparking outrage in the surrounding regions.

Hatun was only 23 when she was murdered, and her young life was ended for the most tragic of reasons. At the age of 16, she was forced to marry one of her cousins. Soonafter, she gave birth to a son through this cousin. She couldn’t handle the pressure from her family, and without any form of practical recourse she decided to run away from her home in Berlin. While in Germany, she divorced this man and began to see a native German, a turn of events which her own family found appalling. She also continued her education in an attempt to become an electrician, a feat she had very nearly accomplished when she was eventually killed.

Hatun was killed on February 7 when someone shot her in the head three times as she stood waiting near a bus stop. Although it took a few weeks for the case to gain traction during the initial investigation, police were eventually able to tease a confession out of her youngest brother. Before her death, she had already been the victim of a number of threats, which she did not hesitate to report. Before the youngest brother confessed, the media had already decided that Hatun’s death could be categorized as an honor killing.

Ayhan Sürücü, the youngest brother, was eventually convicted of the murder and sentenced to a somewhat lenient nine years and a handful in months in prison. As of July 4, 2014, he was freed and promptly deported to Turkey. A man who murdered his sister for divorcing her cousin is now free to live his life. Because this is nearly as appalling as the crime itself, and also due to the fact that this was the sixth such honor killing in less than a year, the public responded strongly especially in Dallas.

Vigils were held in Hatun’s name and memory, and some organizations fought against Turkey’s introduction to the European Union on the grounds of human rights violations. Even today, people continue to organize events to memorialize Hatun on February 7 each year, determined to fight against such injustices before they can continue.

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.