Book presentation about “honour”-related violence



Exactly one week ago, last Tuesday night, I was in Lund listening to a book presentation at Lund City Library. The two authors Eduardo Grutzky and Lars Åberg had been invited by the organization Humanisterna and Lund City Library to present their brand new book “Heder och Samvete”/Honour and Conscience – A book about honour cultures in Sweden” from Fri Tanke/Free Thought Publishing Company. It’s based on many actual cases of so called “honour”-related violence, it’s structures, and how different parts of the Swedish society has related or still relates to it. When I came to the library I spoke shortly with Eduardo before I took my seat. We were about 20-30 people in the audience and the book was for sale afterwards. I read it during three days last week. Parts of the book describe recent events from this summer.

Eduardo Grutzky is one of Sweden’s most leading experts on honour-related cultures. He’s been involved in social issues and Human Rights in Sweden since the mid 1980’s and honour-related issues for at least 15 years. He’s often called in as lecturer and is having educations about it for e.g. police officers, social workers, wet nurses and school staff. Eduardo Grutzky is also the initiator of organizations such as Elektra, Sharaf heroes and heroines as well as ALMAeuropa, where he’s now working. His work is not just some scientific work distant from the reality described. No, Eduardo’s work is very distinct, tangible and filled of life destinies, young and grown up individuals he has helped, but also failures where young people have been killed or forced to marriage by their own relatives for having wanted to live a life of their own choosing.

Lars Åberg is one of Sweden’s most experienced journalists in the field of integration and society issues. He’s often writing for papers like Göteborgs-Posten and Sydsvenskan, i.e. The Gothenburg Post and the South Swede. Åberg has also written about 20 books, mostly about society issues in Sweden and the USA. His latest book called “West” has been praized both here in Sweden and in the United States of America. The cover of this new book is black with white letters and on the back of the book one might read this following text translated from Swedish to English:

“In Sweden today about 70 000 youngsters fear that they might not choose whom to marry. All the same Swedish debaters deny the very existence of the honour cultures or diminish its effects. It’s spoken in very vague terms about men’s violence against women and of a global patriarchate. But the collectivized characteristics are unique. Entire families and clans are involved. The individual is sacrificed to pure the collective group. The honour-life means an existence lowered into an every-day-surveiling system – the tyranny of small gestures… “Honour and Conscience” is based on the authors’ long experience of the integration debate and work to protect those who fall victim for honour-related oppression. The authors make a critical survey of the Swedish debate about the authorities’ resistance against implementing the taken political decisions in order to prevent the oppression. They (the writers) mean that the notion of anti-racism has been twisted. Instead of treating everyone as equal there now exist demands of separate treatment for different groups, which makes it more difficult to prevent the honour ideology”.


My own second novel “Heder eller samvete? – En kriminalroman om rasism, fördomar, dubbelmoral och jämställdhet”/Honour or Conscience? – A crime novel about racism, prejudice, double standards and gender equality” which exists in two versions from 2009 and 2010 respectively, and is used on schools and adult education around Sweden, deals with the same issues in fiction form, but based on the same kind of realities. Eduardo Grutzky also writes about his and Lars Åberg’s own book “A new kind of honour has been introduced in Sweden during the last decades. It’s an honour ideology which do not care about human rights and do not tally with democracy. To question it or go against its norms means enormous risks. The collective group controls the individual. The honour culture is anti-democratic and reminds of the maffia. They deal with anti-feminism and xenofobia. ”

On the book’s first page it is said: “Honour in this context is a notion of that an entire clan’s good reputation is depending on the capacity to control the women and their bodies. By controlling the female sexuality the family,  the dynasty or clan makes sure that they maintain their honour. Murder is the final, brutal consequence of the honour ideology, but barbaric violence is not its normal, every-day expression. Instead it’s the power base, the threats and the exclusion which make the victims suffer. We do not know how many honour-killings which have been commited in Sweden since the statistics are based on insecure and subjective numbers. The amount does neither say very much about the situations hidden behind it. In fact the murder is a failure which shows that the honour culture hasn’t been able to assemble its group. What is distinctive for a life in the shadow of honour is that it is held in check and keeps silent. It’s best working when nobody from the outside the own group notices it.  The honour life is an existence lowered into an every-day surveiling system – the tyranny of small gestures. You can’t escape; the family, the relatives, the village, the clan keep you under observation. If you go outside the given norm it’s bad news. Nothing special must have happened really, it’s enough with a rumour or gossip. Someone is socializing with the wrong person, is turning the eyes in the wrong direction, have the wrong ambitions or is sending text messages to the wrong reciever”.

Both Eduardo Grutzky and Lars Åberg have a background from the political left, but they do not hesitate to critisize today’s Swedish lefties for flirting with reactionary groups of a dangerous sort, but politicians, debaters, journalists, authorities and various organizations of various colours are under hard scrutiny in this book, combined with real life stories, but with changed names to anonymize the given examples. Åberg as a journalist has done most of the writing while Grutzky has summed up lots and lots of his many experiences. Originally the manuscript was much longer with many more distinct examples, but had to be shortened to 236 pages, from page 7 to 241. They have divided the book in two sections called Part 1 Honour and Part 2 Conscience. In part one the book is divided into the chapters Samira, Honour life, Neyla, Multiculturalism, Parvi, The double lack, The faith and the honour, and Gabriel. Here they give us a background of the structure in the honour cultures and four deepened cases from reality. Part two, Conscience, scrutinizes the Swedish debate and attempts to prevent the honour-related crimes and those who in different ways try to oppose those preventions. That second section in this book is divided in the chapters The Swedish debate, The structural good-will, Fatme, and The Deep State.

It was interesting listening to them and hear their ideas about the matter, but the debate now is very heated. Not long ago an Iranian woman working as a primary school teacher in Stockholm and who opposes the honour culture fiercely has made suggestions similar to those coming from the Sweden Democrats. This has provoked much anger from believing Muslims and/or debaters on the ideological left mainly. Hanna Gadban suggested two things: 1) That a specific law against honour-related violence ought to be passed and implemented in the Swedish legal system and 2) That those who commit murders in the name of family, clan honour ought to be expelled from Sweden and have their citizenships withdrawn. Recently she was rewarded with a prize by Södertörn College outside Stockholm for her articles. This has led to a division in the society. Many debaters are furious with her, claiming that it’s racist to do that. Others hail her. For my part I want to see a distinct law against honour-killings as soon as possible, but think that withdrawn citizenship is going too far. We still have to work for better attitudes in the society. My idea is that there exist both good and bad structures in all cultures and countries, and that we must continue working for a better society in many ways similtanously.

When Maria Barin Aydin was murdered in Landskrona in April 2012 by her then 16 year old brother – killed with 107 stabs from knives and a pair of scissors – the day after her 19th birthday she became one of many victims. This Yazidi girl had been married off in her early teens, violated, run away, come back to Sweden, gone to upper secondary school, wanted to become a hair dresser and at the age of 18 in the summer of 2011 looked for help in Malmoe from the organization Tänk om!/Reconsider. She had just got an apartment of her own in Landskrona, only weeks before the murder. When Tänk om! asked me to help them in commemorating this young woman’s memory and all other victims of honour-related violence I gladly participated. It was a beautiful, sad and emotional manifestation, but some disturbing things happened in connection to it. A group of ordinary Swedes stood talking on the Major Square and when I informed them about the manifestation one of them said: “Let them kill each other. Then we don’t have to”. Very cruel and cynical comment about a murdered young woman who just had turned 19 and whose highest dream was to become a hair dresser and live a life of her own as most youngsters in this society. During the manifestation two young men stood near the stage silently showing us a couple of bullets, and after the manifestation the staff at Tänk om! were threatened to their lives for several months. Maria Barin Aydin wasn’t given a proper burial and the court sentence was a mockery of her and all others who fall victim for this treatment. Something has to be done, that’s for sure. Whose Human Rights are to be reckoned with?

Anders Moberg, October 22d 2013


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