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The Slaughter of Daughters: Jordanian Teenager Murdered for Wearing Makeup and Possibly Talking to a Man
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Nameless, faceless 19-year-old Jordanian victim.

The seventh known Jordanian dishonor killing of the year occurred yesterday in Zarqa, a city perhaps best known as the birthplace of the late al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi.  Apparently, a 19-year-old woman--unnamed, as is always the case in Jordanian dishonor killings--was beaten by her father and two minor brothers for more than two hours.  She fell unconscious, was rushed to the hospital by an uncle, and declared D.O.A.  The perpetrators have claimed family honor as their motive because the teen apparently lied about her whereabouts and was busted wearing makeup.  I wish I were kidding.  Murdered for wearing some mascara and lipstick.  I guess the family's honor is so terribly fragile it couldn't withstand a normal bit of beautification.

Supposedly, the victim set out to run some errands with her 14-year-old brother, agreeing to meet him later at a designated place.  An uncle later noticed her wearing makeup and sitting on the sidewalk at a different location.  He turned her over to her father, who became enraged and began to beat her with a garden hose.  When the two younger brothers showed up, he thoughtfully sectioned the garden hose into three pieces so everyone could join in.  After two hours of being beaten by three males in her family, the teen collapsed.  Who knows where the mother, the aunties, and any sisters may have been.

A post-mortem examination established that there had been no sexual activity.  This is usually the case.  The family acts as judge, jury, and executioner.  The law doesn't even stipulate what acts and behaviors are considered infractions of supposed family honor.  Females can be summarily executed just because someone gets a wild hair up his bum.

(Here's the International Herald Tribune's account of this crime:  http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/03/21/news/ML-Jordan-Honor-Killing.php)

14 Comment count
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Revolting and unreal.

Revolting and unreal. Especially this final line, from the newpaper story you cite:

"But attempts to introduce harsher sentences for honor killings have been blocked in Jordan's parliament, where the predominantly conservative Bedouin lawmakers argue that tougher penalties would lead to adultery."


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Blair, I totally agree with

Blair, I totally agree with you.  It says a lot about what they think of Western society and, especially, Western women.  Apparently, they think our strict stance on murder has turned us all into adulterers.  I can't quite follow the curlicue illogic of that thinking. 

I actually met with the leaders of both houses of Parliament and some of their staffers.  As I sat there talking with them about my research findings, I wondered what they were really thinking of me.  Probably that I'm a whore, Exhibit A in what they don't want their females to be.

In some segments of Jordanian society, virginity, chastity, and apparently bare-facedness trumps human life.  It is an honor/shame society.  A family's honor resides primarily in its females, which results in a whopping double standard.  I think those wrong-headed Parliamentarians think that if Jordanian males can't keep their females in check by murdering them if need be, all hell will break loose in their society.  Suddenly, girls and women will be having sex with anything with a pulse, and that will "shame" the males.

I think the entire notion of honor needs immediate redefinition.  Killing innocents isn't honorable.

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Beat her for 2 hours?

Seems that a mad-dog, mob-mentality befell this poor woman. Do you expect that there will be any arrests, trials, and punishments for these males?

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I'm surprised she lasted for

I'm surprised she lasted for two hours with three males beating her with hoses.  She must've fought for her life.

For now, the local news reports are saying the criminal prosecutor is charging all three with complicity in manslaughter.  Each claimed that he didn't intend to kill her.  Papa is being held in a correctional facility for 15 days and the brothers in juvenile detention for the same while the investigators attempt to sort this out.  The uncle who ratted out the victim knowing damned well the risk to her is presumably resting comfortably at home.

Under Jordanian law, the victim's family has a say in how the a case like this is prosecuted.  And, since in dishonor killings, by definition, the victim's family is the same as the perpetrator's, charges tend to get dropped and sentences reduced.  This is above and beyond the penal code articles that allow such leniency that the average sentence for these crimes is just six months.

My best guess--and this is just an educated guess--is that Daddy will get a slap on the hands and the brothers, because they are minors, will be sent home and given "a second chance at life" (this is the actual language used when known perps are set free).  Big sis didn't even get a first chance at life, though, so it all comes across as terribly unjust to me.

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Thank you Ellen for bringing this to my attention. I was almost sick reading it though. I agree with you about the males involved. Ofcourse they will get off scot free because it is, afterall, a mans world in that neck of the woods at least.M

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Mary, believe it or not,

Mary, believe it or not, some of these crimes are even more gruesome than this one.  One just wonders, how?  How can anyone do this?

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I don't think dear God rules

I don't think dear God rules over some part of this planet.

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Beautifully articulated, Dr.

Beautifully articulated, Dr. Jitu.  Ironic that this occurs in the Holy Land.

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Ellen, I don´t understand.

Ellen, I don´t understand. Wearing make-up?! What about their Queen? She wears a LOT of make-up. Queen Rania is a Unicef ambassador, for Heaven´s sake!She´s been to Brazil visiting human rights NGOs. What about the stuff happening in their own backyard? Does the royal couple say anything about it?

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Excellent questions,

Excellent questions, Luciana.  I hadn't even made the connection between this poor victim's supposed reason for being murdered and all the makeup worn by the royal ladies in Jordan.  They wear it much more heavily than is common in these parts.

I have, however, noticed the disconnect between what is tolerated within Jordan and the statements made by the leadership when they are outside the country.  It's an aid-dependent nation, and they've learned how to work the system to their advantage.  But lately I've noticed more and more people from outside (like you!) taking note of the clash between what is said and what is done.  Actions speak louder than words.

To be fair, I've had private conversations with a number of Jordanian royal family members.  I do think they are against these crimes.  The queen's people contacted me about my findings, and the Director of Research at the Royal Court met with me for a couple hours to review them.  He bought a number of copies of my book. . .he told me one of them was for the queen.

If he wanted, the king could ensure that the penal code articles that offer shelter to the perpetrators are overturned.  He is an autocratic ruler, so he doesn't need anyone's permission.

But there is, unfortunately, a lack of political will.  Very broadly speaking, the Jordanian population is roughly one-third Bedouin (i.e., East Bank) and two-thirds Palestinian (i.e., West Bank).  The trend is for the Palestinian segment of the population to grow at a faster rate than the Bedouin.  The royal family is supported by the Bedouins, but the Palestinians have tried to overthrow the regime (most famously, during Black September, in 1970).  My best guess as to why the king doesn't overturn those unjust laws and why the family doesn't directly and forcefully speak out against these crimes within Jordan is because they're afraid of upsetting the apple cart and being overthrown.  For a number of reasons, they are already in a precarious position, so they don't want to hand their detractors a weapon that could be used against them.

That is my take on the situation.  They want to stay in power more than they want to prevent these horrific murders.  I would like to see the international community exert more pressure for reform, even if it means tying our aid packages to concrete, measurable, sustained improvements in basic human rights or using some of it to build a network of safehouses and shelters for the at-risk people.  While I was in Jordan, the first family shelter opened, but it specifically prohibited people who are at risk of being killed for supposed honor.  (Slaps self on head in disbelief.)

Clearly, more could be done.

By the way, I met the Brazilian ambassador to Jordan and his wife on several occasions.  They are lovely people.  The wife is French.

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I am always aware that women in Western countries like the United States allow women to be beaten in their own homes. This is even more appalling to me than honor killings, because so many of us shrug it off as an every day occurrence in our society.

Pitt bulls are put to sleep when they bite. I sometimes wonder why we don't put abusive boyfriends and husbands to sleep for the damage they do.

Violence against women happens all around us in the West, but we think we are "liberated." We are not.

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This is undeniably true,

This is undeniably true, Belle.  I'm not necessarily for putting abusers to sleep, though I do think--to build on your pit bull analogy--they should be securely caged until they no longer pose a threat to the rest of us.  :-)

The big difference I see is that there is legal recourse for victims in the West.  It's not always 100% adequate, but it is usually a vast improvement over the options available in some countries.  The state doesn't effectively endorse abuse.  The victim is never imprisoned.  Perps are socially disgraced, shunned, not celebrated as heroes.  There are shelters and support services.  Teachers, doctors, and other front line people are obliged to report any suspected cases they come upon.  This is so much more than is available to so many of the women I know in the developing world.

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Dishonourcide's other victims

Just as women are supposed to be "pure", so men are supposed to be "manly". Gay men are the other common victims of (dis)honour killings, as in this recent case in Baghdad:

The connection to religious views is particularly clear in such cases. It is more murky with (dis)honour killing of women, because of the strong cultural-tribal patterns--such as those Salzman analyses both revealingly and depressingly (since he shows how strongly rooted they are in cultural patterns):

BTW, the IHT link has disappeared, due to the NYT doing a website re-jig. But other articles on the killing are available, such as here:

GIven, as you note in your comments, the precarious balancing act of the Jordanian monarchy, nothing is likely to happen in terms of better law and law enforcement in Jordan unless the Parliament does it, since that would provide the appropriate amount of political "cover".

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Michael, thanks for linking

Michael, thanks for linking to an active link and also to the gay murders in Iraq.  I'd already bookmarked some reports of the gay dishonor killings to blog about later, but you've just reminded me to get on it.  :-)  I have blogged about a Turkish case in the past (http://www.redroom.com/blog/ellen-r-sheeley/gays-are-killed-supposed-honor-too), but this Iraqi spate is even more egregious due to the numbers involved.

I agree with you that it would be best if the Jordanian Parliament would come around to a humane view of these crimes, and that that would offer the right sort of political cover.  But the king has stacked the Lower House with his supporters from the tribes--in a sort of faux democracy--to hold the Palestinians and the Islamists at bay and to prolong his rule.  So it would surprise me greatly if the Lower House came around on its own. 

Therefore, I would like to see the international community exert some influence.  The U.N. could do a better job of enforcing its human rights agreements.  And the aid community, which is huge in Jordan and elsewhere where these crimes occur, could tie their packages to concrete, objectively measurable, sustained improvements in basic human rights.