Not usually one to reproduce conversations, I cannot help but recount the discussion I had this afternoon with a fellow academic, who for the sake of anonymity I shall call Raed.
Hailing from Jordan, we naturally exchanged reminiscences about how marvellous Amman is before moving towards the more serious territory of Jordanian politics.
In a meandering fashion we eventually arrived at the monarchy, at which point a heated debate commenced on the role of Queen Rania.
As my office-mate piped up from her laptop the customary “Oh, but she is so beautiful!”, Raed commenced a rant on her general pointlessness culminating in the question of “what does she do? And what has she ever done?”.
I pointed out that Rania is quite active in the realm of women’s rights, at which point Raed blustered, “But what needs to be done? We have no problems with women’s rights in Jordan! Name one problem.”
Barely containing my apoplexy, I commenced a vengeful tirade on this year’s honor killings.
Quite incandescent at his seemingly blase attitude, eloquence scarpered and my argument ran roughly along the following lines of Arabizi: “Shoo, ma fi moushkeila? Ya3ni, have you heard about honor killings? How many in Jordan alone this year? 13, 15? It’s one of the biggest problems, mish hayk?”
Clearly startled by my sudden emergence from the stupor that had reigned for most of my afternoon, a u-turn was enacted and his conclusion was quite sagacious.
Honor killings, he reasoned, are not the problem: they are the symptom.
They are, in effect, the symptom of a greater malady afflicting Jordan: the absence of justice.
Reintroduce the true notion of justice into the Jordanian legal system – and by default in cultural and social terms where applicable – and problems such as honor killings will be reduced, if not eliminated.
Campaigning for honor killings, while worthy, will never bear fruit unless justice is present.
Perhaps it can be best likened to the Russian maxim, the fish will rot from the head: that is, changing the minds and traditions of the people at grassroots level could prove futile if the higher echelons do not comply.
Which brings us back to the courts and their lenient sentences towards honor killers: as long as the perpetrators are spared the punishment, the message remains clear: kill your daughter/sister/cousin/aunt, but as long as the reason comprises alleged immorality, you’ll be free by Ramadan.
Ultimately, enacting reform – be it culturally, socially, or legally – is ambitious: but through awareness, perseverance and vocalized activism it is possible.