Defining honour

Today’s Observer has the horrific story of the murder of the mother of a 17-year-old Iraqi girl who was murdered a couple of weeks ago, because she was friendly with a British soldier.

Just to reprise the original murder. Rand Abdel-Qadar was seen talking in public with the soldier. Her father attacked her.

Though her horrified mother, Leila Hussein, called Rand’s two brothers, Hassan, 23, and Haydar, 21, to restrain Abdel-Qader as he choked her with his foot on her throat, they joined in. Her shrouded corpse was then tossed into a makeshift grave without ceremony as her uncles spat on it in disgust. (From the Observer, 11th May)

Leila Hussein had to go into hiding after denouncing her husband. She was sheltered by a woman’s rights organisation, but was ambushed and shot while moving between safe houses.

A fortnight ago, the Observer reported an interview with the father:

For Abdel-Qader Ali there is only one regret: that he did not kill his daughter at birth. ‘If I had realised then what she would become, I would have killed her the instant her mother delivered her,’ he said with no trace of remorse. ….
Abdel-Qader, 46, a government employee, was initially arrested but released after two hours. Astonishingly, he said, police congratulated him on what he had done. ‘They are men and know what honour is,’ he said.

Somebody get a dictionary for the Iraqi police and Abdel-Qader Ali, please. Or for me. Because if this is “what honour is”, then my understanding of the word is deeply flawed.

In fact, the man has even been rewarded. He is going to get paid without having to go to work.

Sources have indicated that Abdel-Qader, who works in the health department, has been asked to leave because of the bad publicity, yet he will continue to draw a salary.
And it has been alleged by one senior unnamed official in the Basra governorate that he has received financial support by a local politician to enable him to ‘disappear’ to Jordan for a few weeks, ‘until the story has been forgotten’ – the usual practice in the 30-plus cases of ‘honour’ killings that have been registered since January alone.

The Observer suggests that this case has only received so much attention because Rand was in love with a foreigner rather than an Iraqi. 30 cases since January? Thirty.

As far as I can see, the only person who showed any signs of holding to a concept of “honour” in this sorry crime was Leila Hussein. And look what happened to her.

Abdel-Qader is a Shia and he claims God’s support:

I know God is blessing me for what I did,’ he said, his voice swelling with pride. ‘My sons are by my side, and they were men enough to help me finish the life of someone who just brought shame to ours.’

As so often, religion becomes the last refuge of the scoundrel.

You can’t lay the blame for these sorts of outrages at the door of religion, as such. It’s sexism – which also victimises these men involved by ingraining them with insane models of what it is to be a man. However, whenever some evil bastard wants to play a winner-takes-all trump card that beats all the opposition, you can usually rely on religion to serve this ideological end.

Here’s a link to the International Campaign to Stop Honour Killings.

Childrens Pledges

I was reading an interesting article on No More Hornets about a city councillor in Exeter who refused to stand for a Christian prayer. Now, this never made big news in the UK, and you pretty much need to ferret into the regional sections which cover the south west of England. For those who don’t know, Exeter is one of the few “Cities” in the county of Devon – which is a strange place at the best of times. If you ever visit there, it is like going back in time to the 1940s. You expect to hear German bombers over head at any moment.

Anyway, as I was reading through the comments on the post (mainly about the US Pledge of Allegiance), I remembered a discussion in the UK last year (ish, I didn’t remember it that well) which got a fair bit of press coverage, about bringing in a “pledge” in UK schools — all in an effort to combat Islamist terrorism.  Fortunately this died a death and there are, currently, no signs of such a thing on the horizon.

This all got me thinking. What real value is there is making children take an oath of allegiance to anything? I am not saying this to offend any nations who have an oath, but out of genuine curiosity.

It strikes me, there is an implicit assumption that brainwashing Children is acceptable and that convincing generation after generation that they can be forced into a binding oath, without any options, is a reasonable behaviour. The real cynic in me, suspects the hand of the church in all this — as this is largely one of the practices by which people are indoctrinated into a particular belief system.

Religious issues aside, for an oath of allegiance to have any real value it has to be entered into willingly. If, as an adult, you choose to join the British Army, for example, you are required to take an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen and the Royal Family. You take this oath because you have willingly joined the army. You are not forced to take this oath because you were randomly born into a particular nation. Children have no say over who their parents are…

An oath of allegiance carries with it certain obligations — obedience for example. How can some one who has no option but to take the oath be expected to be bound by it? A nine year old child cant say “well, actually, I disagree with [insert issue here] so strongly, I no longer feel able to keep my obligations under this oath and I would now like to leave.” Without the option for consent, what real value does the oath have?

I find it amusing that people can expect children too young to drink, too young to vote, too young for anything other being treated (effectively) as their parents chattels, to be bound by an oath. At least as an adult you can vote to influence the way the country is run. You are old enough to leave if you don’t like it (etc).

If, as I currently feel, there is no real value in making kids take an oath, why make them do it?

[tags]Society, Children, Culture, Oath, Honour, Philosophy, Allegiance, Exeter, Council, Terrorism, Islam, Nationality[/tags]

Women at the mercy of Honour

This link to a website, whose name says it all, Stop honour killings, was in a comment on one of the powerless rants here about honour killings.

The link is here because I realised that I had absentmindedly not even put it in the last post on this topic..

The site is a moving slidehow of innocent-looking young women who have been murdered for allegedly bringing “dishonour” to their families. You can read stories from around the world that report on honour killings and the struggles against them.

If you can stomach it, knowing the outcome, you can link from there to the phone video of Banaz Mahmood when she was in hospital, on Youtube.

Obviously, if your stomach is strong enough, you can find footage on the web of the death of Du’a Khali, the Iraqi Kurdish girl who was horrifically murdered by a mob. Watching that is well beyond me so I haven’t been able to look for a link, sorry.

As an update to the last post, the press reported that the policewoman who interviewed Banaz – when she had smashed a window to escape from the earlier attempt on her life – considered that she was making the story up and wanted to charge her with criminal damage for breaking the window. Words fail.

More dishonour

Grrr. Yet another offensively-misnamed “honour killing” “Honour” is apparently being redefined in some bizarre medieval way to mean how totally you can control your female relatives. As far as I can see, this is not just dishonour at its extreme.

It also speaks of men who are so completely lacking in a sense of their own masculinity that they can only fake it by killiing females they can’t control. I hate to refer to the currently- dishonoured Freud here, but some things don’t seem to be explicable otherwise.

A 20-year-old woman was killed by her male relatives for “dishonouring” them. (Her body was dumped in a suitcaes over a hundred miles away, just in case you mistakenly imagine there were any shreds of residual kinship feeling in the relatives who did this). Three people (including her father and uncle) have been found or pled guilty.

The police seem to have treated this case with a level of seriousness somewhat lower than that with which they are now supposed to treat kids playing football in the street. (Her father had already tried to kill her once before. Her sister was also beaten.)

Banaz had made several attempts to warn police that her life was in danger, even naming those she thought would kill her.

The BBC site links to the Forced Marriages Unit. You might assume this is a policing unit designed to stop British women being subjected to this sort of evil. Wrong. It’s just yet another anti-immigration department of the Foreign Office, as far as I can see.

(Its website just discusses how a “forced marriage” is not the same as an “arranged marriage.” It has a few case studies and discusses how difficult they can be for consular staff. it seems to offer no redress or solutions, other than the possible extrapolation that the person whose immigration benefit the forced marriage is for won’t get a visa. I would have thought that that is of no interest to anyone except the Foreign Office.)

I can’t see how this is relevant to this case or any use in protecting victims. If this weakest link is the best the BBC can find, it implies there is no dedicated police unit or section of the Home Office. Most honour killings and other culturally excused atrocities such as female genital mutilation have little to do with immigration.

The only policies with any chance of working would involve:

(1) Police treating such cases as a serious priority, so that any man or woman facing a such situation, who has the strength of will to seek help for themselves or other people gets it as a priority.

(2) Aggressive targeting of potential victims through the education system and mosques and temples and churches, if necessary. All girls should be made aware that forced marriage and any of the other associated anti-female horrors are serious crimes in the UK. And the law will be enforced as a priority.

(3) Girls and women under threat need agencies prepared to protect them and to provide them with the means of escape.

(3) Aggressive targetting of potential perpetrators through the education system and mosques and temples and churches, if necessary. Everyone should be made aware that forced marriage and any of the other horrors are serious crimes in the UK. And the law will be enforced as a priority.

[tags]bbc, disgrace, homicide, honor, honor-killing, honour, honour-killing, law, law-and-order, sexism, society, culture, religion, belief[/tags]

Poor Sailors and Marines

Today’s radio news headlined with the supposed “outrage” that the 15 sailors and marines detained by the Iranians were being allowed to be paid for for their press reviews. Apparently The Sun newspaper (no, I will not post a URL to them…) has offered them a “six figure sum” [*] for their stories. From the breakfast radio news, this has caused outrage. People like Bob Stewart, Tim Collins and numerous other people were being mentioned as “outraged” over this decision by the MOD. The BBC news website had a lead article titled “Iran stories sale criticism grows” which explained the Head of the Army has banned all Soldiers from selling their stories following the Navy personnel being allowed to make some money off the story. Different media outlets have similar stories — all pretty much saying the same thing. The TV news had vox pop interviews with people in the street, mostly saying they “thought it was wrong for them to sell their story.”

The sheer barefaced hypocrisy, tinged with basic madness, of all this amazes me. I am (almost) at a loss for which parts of the nonsense to start with… Continue reading