Honor Killings: Symptom, Not Problem

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.

2 comments on “Honor Killings: Symptom, Not Problem

  1. bambam
    July 23, 2009

    Well I think the thought was poisoned by being in a civil society culture for tooo long . Fact of the matter is that in Jordan culture trumps due process and even if the law and justice is performed the culture will collude to protect the perpetrators if the system doesn’t … it’s true that “honor” killings is a symptom, but it’s a symptom of the larger issue of the wrongs done to women in jordan at large.
    Which brings me to the second point, and something i used to despise about feminists because they mentioned it a lot and i knew it was true at heart and it goes something like this “at the end of the day we have to fight for our own rights because men will never get it !”
    And your friend proves that point quite clearly by blatantly declaring that there is nothing wrong in jordan when it comes to woman’s rights and the queen is doing nothing.
    you know what one thing the queens in jordan always done well ? to provide a role model for an independant women … nuff said.

    • Layla
      July 23, 2009

      You know what one thing the queens in jordan always done well ? to provide a role model for an independant women…

      Yes – despite the derision with which my view will undoubtedly be met, I cannot help but agree. Living in a country in which the principal achievement of young royals is marriage and appearance at social events, I find Rania refreshingly active with regards to women’s issues.

      Then again, one could reason that it is easy to triumph causes in such a high profile manner when one is Queen…

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This entry was posted on July 22, 2009 by in Culture, Jordan, Middle East and tagged , , , .
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