We Need to Talk About the Illusion of Achieving Honor by Murdering Women

There’s a horrific injustice that exists for some women. It is an injustice that has become a reality to many: so-called “honor killings.”

Recently, a father in Jordan was arrested for killing his daughter. After he murdered her, he sat beside her corpse, smoked a cigarette and sipping a cup of tea. He appeared to be boasting.

For those that are not yet familiar with honor killing, I will explain. The word “honor” is a word we have heard of in just about every culture. Depending on what culture you are from, it may mean something different. In Arab, African, Asian, and even Christian purity cultures, honor is sometimes dependent on a woman’s actions. A woman can destroy a family’s reputation (honor) if she does anything that would embarrass the family.

If a woman is perceived to have done something to shame her family or tarnish their reputation, she is threatened with death or exile. This standard usually does not apply to men, except in rare cases. Some women continue to become victims of honor killings to this present day. The belief is that killing the woman, with her problematic behavior, will restore the family’s honor.

Neighbors heard Ahlam screaming for help as she was running out of her home; she was seen with blood dripping down her face.

The most recent “honor killing” happened in Amman, Jordan. The victim’s name was Ahlam. Her alleged “crime,” unknown. One thing for sure is that she had just become the latest victim of an “honor” killing.

Neighbors heard Ahlam screaming for help as she was running out of her home; she was seen with blood dripping down her face. As Ahlam was running, her father chased her down and hit her over the head with a brick. He hit her repeatedly until she died. Neighbors called police after they heard Ahlam screaming. By the time police arrived, it was too late. Ahlam was dead. Some neighbors tried to save her, but Ahlam’s family stopped them. At one point before taking her final breath, Ahlam begged her mother to intervene, but she remained silent.

The police had been notified earlier in the week about a woman being abused by her family, but the police did not take any action. Authorities rarely intervene in family issues, especially domestic violence. In many parts of the world, including here in the United States, domestic violence remains a stigmatized and taboo subject.

After her murder, a video of Ahlam’s last moments went viral. Audio of Ahlam screaming for help as her father killed her sparked outrage. Many took to social media to express their feelings.

As we hear about these stories, we wonder how many more women like Ahlam are out there? How many more women will die before governments take action? When will governments sanction a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to honor killings, violence against women, and domestic violence? What will it take for legislators to change their minds, and create severe punishments for murderers?

Dr. Salma Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, said “The entire system in Jordan is flawed. What we need is to work on improving the whole system from legislation to social attitude. The role of the government is to provide women with protection and the ability to move on. Women can stay in safe houses for three months, then they are told to find a place to stay, which is when some are forced to go back to the violence. It is the government’s job to empower these women and help them become independent.”

Another woman was killed in 2019 by her family. Her name was Israa, and she was killed in Palestine. It is alleged that Israa was also the victim of an honor killing. Her crime? Posting a photo of her and her fiancé on her private social media account during a chaperoned date. Israa was accompanied by her fiancee’s sister, but the action still outraged family members. A female cousin is alleged to have leaked the photo to a male family member. The situation escalated.

Some governments won’t even investigate the death of a woman unless they receive immense pressure from the public.

Israa’s story made headlines after a recording of her attack went viral. The attack happened during a hospital stay. Israa is screaming for help in the video. Her family denies the allegations, and continue to allege that she died of a heart attack. No charges have been filed.

Some governments won’t even investigate the death of a woman unless they receive immense pressure from the public. Some will act, but only because they fear losing support in the political arena. They would rather turn a blind eye to these murders. One blogger posted, “As a survivor of an [atrempted, sic] honor killing, Israa’s story triggered a deeply embedded fear of mine,” feminist blogger Fadumo Adan told The New Arab. She emphasized that despite the fact women are becoming financially independent, they still remain at risk.

Islam does not condone honor killings

An honor killing is a murder, no matter how some want to label the the horrible act. Islam instructs its followers to stop injustice and to heed the warning that taking the life of one person is like taking the lives of every human in the world. How can the murders of women in the name of honor be justified by any person claiming to be Muslim or otherwise? In order to fight injustice, we must first acknowledge that this is a problem; a problem that exists across borders, across cultures, and across the globe. If we want to hold perpetrators accountable, then we must protest that laws need to change! Our voices need to count.

It is culture, not God, that oppresses women.

Unfortunately, like many other things, there are those with power that do not agree with the change. They will fight back. They will try and silence those who oppose them. When it comes to the right for us to live, we must prevail. Women have rights. We should not let the few men in power continue their reign of injustice. God did not ordain anyone as a judge, jury, and executioner! Our education and our intelligence will be of no use if our sisters don’t stand with us. You don’t have to be an Arab woman or a Muslim woman to care. You should care because you’re a human being, Unknown to many, Islam encourages women’s rights, and their rights are equal to men. It is culture, not God, that oppresses women.

One thing for sure is that women are leading the way, and will bring change. But how many more will die before the change occurs? More people need to support this movement. Whether it’s a woman in the U.S. Army (Vanessa Guillen) or a woman killed by her abusive partner, or a woman killed in the name of honor, we should not remain silent.

To remain silent in the face of evil will only invite evil to your doorstep. Never look the other way, never think it can’t happen to you, but never lose hope, or give up faith. Together we can change the world; one day at a time, one movement at a time. Together we can, and we will succeed in the fight against injustice.