This article was published in my previous weblog in 09 March 2011 and is moved now to the new weblog:
I recently read the book “Silent Tragedy” (Fajeeye Khamoush) in Persian by Parvin Bakhtiari Nejad. It’s about honour killings in Iran. She’s dedicated the book to 7, 14 and 16 years old girls from Ahwaz, Abadan and Marivan who were killed for being suspected. The book is now banned from being published again.
From the very first page it’s hard to stop trembling in horror. It starts with very sad and horrible images from Iranian newspapers:
“Sheida a 16 years old mother with a 2 years old kid was stabbed by her brother when talking to a man.”
“A man killed his wife for suspecting her loyalty. They had lived together for 29 years.”
“In autumn 2002 a family in Khouzestan province found a post card without signature in their daughter’s bag. The girl was killed by her cousin and her family forgave the killer.”
“Saideh, 14 years old Baloch girl was stoned by her father, brother and his friends for being suspected.”
The list goes on. These are only those published ones. There are many others which are kept silent inside families to complete the operation of cleaning. Most of Iranians have similar real stories to which either they’ve been witness or have heard from a close relative or friend. Once in my hometown Tabriz and talking to a couple of restaurant workers originally from Iranian Kurdistan, they told me of two cases in their region. In one of them in a village near Boukan a girl was shot dead by her father for apparently having a boyfriend. In another one brothers force their sister to invite her boyfriend to home to slaughter him and they did.
As Mrs. Bakhtiarinejad says in the book this “silent tragedy” is mostly seen in Muslim communities but it’s found in others too.
In traditional type of life in our society in which individualism is nothing compared to family, tribe or community values, following or respecting country’s written law (if any) is not enough to be in the safe side. Regardless of being man or woman you’ll be in trouble if you don’t follow the unwritten rules of honour.
I believe “honour” is a disease; a very dangerous one. The intensity of this disease is so that it can make the patient go mad to an extent that he may kill his mother, daughter, sister or even his nephew or niece to clean up the shame on the family. “Honour” is a masculine characteristic. Women have nothing to do with it because only men as head of their tribe are responsible for the family or tribe’s honour. This disease which is positively called “gheirat” in Persian is very common among men in a way that even educated ones can feel it occupying a corner of their minds and souls. Only the degree of infection may differ. Someone may only get angry for suspecting her sister of having a boyfriend but some other more severe case may kill her for the same reason.
Honour killings in Iran is a sad story of brutal violence against women along with many other physical and mental cruelties they suffer in the family and society. Girls and women are killed for undermining or endangering family’s so called honour. This can happen by committing adultery, having a boyfriend, resisting a forced marriage, asking for divorce or even simply for being suspected of one of these cases. No evidence is needed. Only rumours going round in the community about a sister, daughter, wife or mother is enough for a brother, father or even a cousin to wipe this stain away from his family; this way proving that he is an honoured man.
Victims are not always girls or women. Years ago in Tabriz the owner of a very famous confectionary found his wife and a man together in bed. He was enough mad at that moment to be able to stab both of them and introduce himself to police. Law was on his side as still is. He married to a young girl later and life goes on. Men engaged in honour cases are in danger too. I myself was threatened by my girlfriend’s brother once in Tabriz to be stabbed. We had been arrested by police for talking to each other in public place (park) and this way had undermined his honour. It was a big shame for him caused by me.
As long as this criminal act is not openly discussed about and law is in honour killer’s side, we will unfortunately hear about new victims again and again. A public enlightenment and legal action is needed to stop this brutal and barbaric punishment.