Honour-related oppression and honour-related crimes is no easy matter to deal with for several reasons. The wonderful heroines Mette, Annica and Nazanin from HOMA in the picture above are three of those who try. The so called “honour”-related issues has mainly to do with two major things: 1) The man’s right to dominate and possibilities to flirt, have sex with different girls and women, make a career, and to do so with the blessing of his family and his other relatives. 2) that the girls and women in the family must be guarded, oppressed and rejected the same rights as mentioned above. The girls and women who oppose this surveilance, but also boys and young men are often punished for not obeying the family rules. Many teenage-girls and young women are persuaded to marry someone that the family has chosen for them. If they refuse, want to live a life of their own, make their own career choices, falls in love with someone that the family don’t know or like or someone outside the group, the punishments are severe. There are different levels of punishment: gossip, increased surveillance, grounding, economic sanctions, mockery and social rejection. If the person still wants to make her or his own choices she or he gets an even tougher life. The surveillance and oppression increases with beatings, harrassments, rapes as punishment, death threats, assassination attempts and finally murder. In 1999 Pela Atroshi was murdered and in 2002 Fadime Sahindal. In April 2012 Maria Barin Aydin who just had turned 19 years old was killed by her 16 year old brother. In the beginning of May 2012 I was persuaded in taking part in a peaceful manifestation in her memory, and also to commemorate all others who have been victimized in the name of “family honour”. (At least 5000 people globally are murdered like this each year). The reactions among ordinary Swedes varied a lot. Some were appalled by the phenomenon, others, (mainly women), felt sorry for the girl, but the most sarcastic reaction I got was when I reached the Major Square, Stortorget. When I was handing out information leaflets about the manifestation three ordinary Swedes said: “Let them kill each other. Then we don’t have to”. That was a very cynical and cruel comment. Most likely those who said that didn’t like immigrants, or at least not people from the Middle East, especially Muslims. I myself am pro- the multi-cultural society, but have no qualms critisizing Swedish authorities, the passitivity in the Swedish society, but in this case especially the immigrant families themselves. Since the murder of Fahime Sahindal in 2002 lots of investigations have been made, government, politicians, officials, police, lawyers, social workers, teachers, headmasters, prison staff have been educated in these issues and new laws have been made.
The laws are there, but still the honour-related oppression and the murders continue. Why? Here too I see two major things where changes have to be made. 1) Within Swedish social services one has to be quicker in realising when someone is in danger of being harrassed or even killed by her or his own relatives, and as fast as possible get a safe-house far away from the family and a new identity. Don’t put the girls and women among drug-abusers, hotels, or in families who don’t understand their problems. Expell the culprits and send them out of the country. We must also realise that dealing with these things isn’t racist or unkind, but necessary. We have today a multicultural society and must be prepared to deal with it accordingly. Then these new laws must be followed. We must see it as part of Swedish society today, not as something alien. Those who suffer from this kind of oppression don’t need us to feel sorry for them pointing a blaming finger on this or that culture or this or that religion. 2) Changes have to be made in the families themselves. In so called honour-related oppression and murders large parts of a family is involved. The girl or woman in most cases has her eyes upon her, and people love spreading rumours and gossiping. Ohh, she’s been seen talking to this or that guy. Oh, I saw her being kissed on the mouth by so and so. Her brother has had sex with those girls. Let him, he won’t marry them. He’s just having fun with this or that girl. Let him! But his sister, ohh, no. She has a male friend!! Upsetting. She wants to live a life of her own? She wants to be with a Swedish guy, or a Danish guy, or a Bosnian guy? Horror! What a shame! She must die! We must do something. Let’s plot against her to end her life brutally to stop her from making a life of her own that we can’t decide and control, and warn others.
In the case of Maria Barin Aydin she belonged to a Yazidi family, she wasn’t a Muslim. The so called honour killings usually occur though among Muslims, Christians from the Middle East, Yazidi, and some other groups, but it’s based upon an honour-codex about shaming female sexuality and femininity as a whole in a very distinct patriarch culture. This kind of honour-codex about male family honour connected to the woman’s genitals and sexuality is something that has been part also of Scandinavian culture centuries ago, and still exists in certain areas, but in a slightly different way that seldom is this extreme. The honour-related oppression is not one individual hitting or killing another. This is a big collective surveillance, oppression and murder of a single individual or two, plotted by many, encouraged by many, being kept silent about by many, but a gruesome murder often performed by one, two or three individuals. To evade the law the murders are often arranged to look like accidents. It could be a “hit and run” by car, a fall from a balcony, an arranged “suicide” etc. Those who make the decisions are often mothers and fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins. Sometimes they let someone under age commit the murder, since he can’t be put in jail, but it’s often arranged by grown-ups. Maria Barin was murdered by her three years younger teenage brother. The mother has been released out of lack of evidence. Maria just wanted to live a life of her own. During the manifestation and afterwards death threats have been aimed at those who helped Maria Barin and honoured her courage. Shame on them, I say. I wrote about it on my blog earlier in my text “Killed for wanting to live”. In my eyes it’s an extreme dishonour to commit such a crime and an extreme cowardice by the adults to encourage a young boy to become a sister-murderer. Many times I see that people who grow up in that environment out of misguided family-loyalty try to evade the family connection and blaming Swedish laws, Swedish judiciary system, social services, lack of understanding in the schools etc, while the major problem isn’t there, but in the own family, among gossiping neighbours and other relatives. I have also many times seen a disrespect of and mockery of Swedish society and Swedish laws. This has to change. It’s precisely this mockery and disrespect of Swedes, Swedish laws and our society that enables a party like the Sweden Democrats to grow. I don’t like that at all. If we’re to learn to live together in mutual love and respect for each other things have to change in many places. The good aspects of atheism, secularism, and religion. The tolerant, good aspects of human kind and the multicultural society must be able to dominate and flourish, and the acceptance of our diversity that enables us to co-exist. The double-standards in different rules for different people must also change for this to happen. What are your views? If you want to comment you may reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anders Moberg, January the 16th 2013