Honor Violence in America
Other girls, unable to resolve the conflict between submitting to a marriage, and essentially being raped by a stranger – not to mention the physical torture and possible murder if they resist – prefer to end their lives.
Aiya Altemeemi, aged 19, suffered a punishment last February that none of her schoolmates in Phoenix, Arizona could have imagined: her father cut her throat with a kitchen knife. When she escaped to her bedroom, her mother and sisters followed, tied her to her bed, taped her mouth shut, and beat her. And this was not the first time: previously, when Aiya had expressed reservations about marrying the 38-year-old man her parents had chosen as her husband, her mother had shackled her to the same bed and burned her with a hot spoon.
Despite such treatment, Aiya, who arrived from Iraq with her parents around three years ago, soon after announced to stunned reporters that she understood why her mother had assaulted her: "Because I talked to a boy, and that is not normal with her, that is not my religion. My religion says no talking to boys."
Alhough Aiya's was among the few to receive media attention, stories like hers are far more common than most people would imagine. In what is known as "honor violence," mistreatment includes not just beatings, but acid attacks, setting a woman on fire, severing her nose from her face -- particularly in Pakistani and Afghan communities -- and other forms of mutilation.
Such incidents, which occur mainly in Muslim and Hindu families, have been the focus of attention in Europe for several years -- largely thanks to the efforts of Somali-Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who first brought the problem to light some ten years ago in the Netherlands. Since then, research has uncovered disturbing statistics: 400 to 600 incidents of honor violence are recorded annually in the Netherlands alone, with around 12 honor killings a year each in Germany and the Netherlands. And in England, where the directors of one center say they receive 500 calls for help from victims of honor violence every month, and where police estimate there are between 3,000 and 17,000 incidents of honor violence each year, a recent report contends that one-fifth of all South Asian immigrants believe that "certain acts thought to shame families were justification for violence."
Americans, however, have been reluctant to accept the notion that honor violence occurs on US soil, just as – until recently – they insisted that the radicalization of Muslims in Europe was not a problem that could confront Americans. But with events such as Nidal Malik Hassan's 2009 attack at Fort Hood and the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, we've learned otherwise: radical Islam is alive and well in these United States and with it, religious and culturally-based violence against women.
CBS News has reported that, "According to a survey, the [Virginia-based] Tahirih Justice Center conducted of more than 500 social service, religious, legal, educational and medical agencies last year, 67 percent responded that they believed there were cases of forced marriage occurring among the populations they serve, but only 16 percent felt their agency was equipped to deal with the situation." Yet no one had ever investigated the problem.
Now Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) has introduced a bill that promises to make clear just how big the problem is, and – if necessary – to develop programs to address it.
Those who have experience with the issue say that such programs are sorely needed: while Americans are growing more aware of honor killings, they are less conscious of honor violence -- a more insidious but even larger phenomenon. Moreover, domestic violence shelters and services are not adequately suited to handle the problem, , which encompasses more complex and dangerous situations, and which often require a different kind of outreach: honor violence victims are often immigrants with little or no understanding of the resources available, few outside contacts, and in the case of Muslims, are often not even allowed access to the outside world except when accompanied by a male family member.
More significantly, in cases of honor violence, the entire family –- even the entire community –- is involved. Where a domestic violence victim can often find shelter with a friend or family member, such refuge is usually impossible for these women. "What do we do with a teenager runaway? Ninety-nine percent of the time, we take her home," Peoria, Arizona, Detective Chris Boughey told CBS. "But some of these girls end up getting killed."
For this reason, many of the victims of honor violence -– girls and women who have, for instance, refused a promised marriage; fallen in love with a boy the parents do not accept; or who are too Westernized, at least according to the family's standards -- are not safe even in domestic violence shelters. The situation has grown so difficult that in the Netherlands, young girls are sometimes sequestered in prison cells -- the only place where they can be certain they are safe. Some will only appear in public in disguise, including full face masks and wigs. Other girls, unable to resolve the conflict between submitting to marriage, and essentially being raped by a stranger -- not to mention the physical torture and possible murder if they resist -- prefer to end their lives. Carla Rus, a psychiatrist who specializes in working with these women in the Netherlands, reports that suicide among young Hindu and Muslim women is as much as five times higher than among the rest of the population.
According to Congressman Wolf, the new bill will allow the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to examine the extent of the problem in the US, based not only on Aiya Altameemi's case, but on research from Tahirih, in addition to the cases that have ended in the death of the victims: girls such as Jessica Mokdad, murdered at 20 by her father, an Iraqi immigrant; Noor Al-Maleki, also Iraqi, who was also 20 when her father ran her down in the family car (she, too, had refused an arranged marriage, and was considered "too Westernized" by the family); and Aasiya Hassan in Buffalo, NY, whose husband, when she threatened to leave their marriage, beheaded her.
"This is just the beginning," notes Wolf. "It's from here that we will look to find out if there really is a problem, or if this is just an isolated few incidents. Until now, it seems the FBI has not wanted to look at it; but there seem to be enough dots on the page that we feel it is time for them to gather data."
Not everyone, however, finds this idea admirable. Some worry that the bill targets Muslims, defining a category of crime that singles out specific cultures and religions.
"That's ridiculous," says Rep. Wolf; he points out that his office has long championed issues on freedom-of-religion. "If there are honor killings and honor violence, wherever it's going on, it ought to be ended. This is just the beginning of our country beginning to deal with this issue in a way that we should have been dealing with it a long time ago."
Reader comments on this item
|Great to see that Abigail Esman is now numbered among your contributors [55 words]||David Meir-Levi (New York)||Jul 19, 2012 17:06|
|A well-informed voice on an important topic [91 words]||Lisa Ramaci||Jul 19, 2012 13:48|
|Good work, Ms. Esman [20 words]||Rosa Mencher||Jul 18, 2012 12:30|
Comment on this item
by Burak Bekdil
Where Turkey stands today is a perfect example of how, when Islamists -- mild or otherwise -- rule a county, even the most basic liberties are systematically suppressed.
"A climate of fear has emerged in Turkey." — Hasam Kilic, President, Turkey's Constitutional Court.
The prosecutor demanded a heavier penalty for the victim than for her torturers.
The European Commission identified government interference in the judiciary and bans imposed on social media as the major sources of concern regarding Turkey's candidacy for full membership.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
To understand what drives a young Palestinian to carry out such a deadly attack, one needs to look at the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders during the past few weeks.
The anti-Israel campaign of incitement reached its peak with Abbas's speech at the UN a few weeks ago, when he accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip. Abbas made no reference to Hamas's crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians.
Whatever his motives, it is clear that the man who carried out the most recent attack, was influenced by the messages that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership have been sending their people.
by Richard Kemp
Would General Allen -- or any other general today -- recommend contracting out his country's defenses if it were his country at stake? Of course not.
The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.
There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.
Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.
If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.
by Louis René Beres
The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], forerunner of today's Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel came into the unintended control of the West Bank and Gaza. What therefore was the PLO planning to "liberate"?
Why does no one expect the Palestinians to cease all deliberate and random violence against Israeli civilians before being considered for admission to statehood?
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States endorsed a "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the right of Jews to settle anywhere they chose between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the core American legacy of support for a Jewish State that President Obama now somehow fails to recall.
A sovereign state of Palestine, as identified by the Arabs -- a Muslim land occupied by "Palestinian" Arabs -- has never existed; not before 1948, and not before 1967. From the start, it was, and continues to be, the Arab states -- not Israel -- that became the core impediment to Palestinian sovereignty.
by Timon Dias
It looks as if this new law is meant to serve as a severe roadblock to parties that would like to dismantle the EU in a democratic and peaceful way from within.
A rather dull semantic trick pro-EU figures usually apply, is calling their opponents "anti-Europe."