Thursday, May 24, 2007

Let's Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death.

A seventeen-year-old girl named Dua Khalil Aswad was killed in Northern Iraq in April, 2007 by a group of more than twenty young men, including family members, in a so-called "honor killing." They recorded her murder on their cell phones.

Joss Whedon posted his passionate reaction to this outrage on the fan-blog whedonesque, as well as his thoughts about the continued oppression of women worldwide, and asked whedonesque members - and anyone reading his post - to do something about it. This blog will be one of the ways we record what we do.

These efforts are in memory of Dua Khalil - and in honor of Joss Whedon.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

by Joss Whedon
May 20, 2007

Let's Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death.

This is not my blog, but I don’t have a blog, or a space, and I’d like to be heard for a bit.

Last month seventeen year old Dua Khalil was pulled into a crowd of young men, some of them (the instigators) family, who then kicked and stoned her to death. This is an example of the breath-taking oxymoron “honor killing”, in which a family member (almost always female) is murdered for some religious or ethical transgression. Dua Khalil, who was of the Yazidi faith, had been seen in the company of a Sunni Muslim, and possibly suspected of having married him or converted. That she was torturously murdered for this is not, in fact, a particularly uncommon story. But now you can watch the action up close on CNN. Because as the girl was on the ground trying to get up, her face nothing but red, the few in the group of more than twenty men who were not busy kicking her and hurling stones at her were filming the event with their camera-phones.

There were security officers standing outside the area doing nothing, but the footage of the murder was taken – by more than one phone – from the front row. Which means whoever shot it did so not to record the horror of the event, but to commemorate it. To share it. Because it was cool.

I could start a rant about the level to which we have become desensitized to violence, about the evils of the voyeuristic digital world in which everything is shown and everything is game, but honestly, it’s been said. And I certainly have no jingoistic cultural agenda. I like to think that in America this would be considered unbearably appalling, that Kitty Genovese is still remembered, that we are more evolved. But coincidentally, right before I stumbled on this vid I watched the trailer for “Captivity”.

A few of you may know that I took public exception to the billboard campaign for this film, which showed a concise narrative of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a sexy young woman. I wanted to see if the film was perhaps more substantial (especially given the fact that it was directed by “The Killing Fields” Roland Joffe) than the exploitive ad campaign had painted it. The trailer resembles nothing so much as the CNN story on Dua Khalil. Pretty much all you learn is that Elisha Cuthbert is beautiful, then kidnapped, inventively, repeatedly and horrifically tortured, and that the first thing she screams is “I’m sorry”.

“I’m sorry.”

What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.

I try to think how we got here. The theory I developed in college (shared by many I’m sure) is one I have yet to beat: Womb Envy. Biology: women are generally smaller and weaker than men. But they’re also much tougher. Put simply, men are strong enough to overpower a woman and propagate. Women are tough enough to have and nurture children, with or without the aid of a man. Oh, and they’ve also got the equipment to do that, to be part of the life cycle, to create and bond in a way no man ever really will. Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, “If all we do is hunt and gather, let’s make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let’s make childbirth kinda weak and shameful.” It’s a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it’s entirely true. How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? In the case of this upcoming torture-porn, fictional. In the case of Dua Khalil, mundanely, unthinkably real. And both available for your viewing pleasure.

It’s safe to say that I’ve snapped. That something broke, like one of those robots you can conquer with a logical conundrum. All my life I’ve looked at this faulty equation, trying to understand, and I’ve shorted out. I don’t pretend to be a great guy; I know really really well about objectification, trust me. And I’m not for a second going down the “women are saints” route – that just leads to more stone-throwing (and occasional Joan-burning). I just think there is the staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted. If we were all told the sky was evil, or at best a little embarrassing, and we ought not look at it, wouldn’t that tradition eventually fall apart? (I was going to use ‘trees’ as my example, but at the rate we’re getting rid of them I’m pretty sure we really do think they’re evil. See how all rants become one?)

Now those of you who frequent this site are, in my wildly biased opinion, fairly evolved. You may hear nothing new here. You may be way ahead of me. But I can’t contain my despair, for Dua Khalil, for humanity, for the world we’re shaping. Those of you who have followed the link I set up know that it doesn’t bring you to a video of a murder. It brings you to a place of sanity, of people who have never stopped asking the question of what is wrong with this world and have set about trying to change the answer. Because it’s no longer enough to be a decent person. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news. True enlightened activism is the only thing that can save humanity from itself. I’ve always had a bent towards apocalyptic fiction, and I’m beginning to understand why. I look and I see the earth in flames. Her face was nothing but red.

All I ask is this: Do something. Try something. Speaking out, showing up, writing a letter, a check, a strongly worded e-mail. Pick a cause – there are few unworthy ones. And nudge yourself past the brink of tacit support to action. Once a month, once a year, or just once. If you can’t think of what to do, there is this handy link. Even just learning enough about a subject so you can speak against an opponent eloquently makes you an unusual personage. Start with that. Any one of you would have cried out, would have intervened, had you been in that crowd in Bashiqa. Well thanks to digital technology, you’re all in it now.

I have never had any faith in humanity. But I will give us props on this: if we can evolve, invent and theorize our way into the technologically magical, culturally diverse and artistically magnificent race we are and still get people to buy the idiotic idea that half of us are inferior, we’re pretty amazing. Let our next sleight of hand be to make that myth disappear.

The sky isn’t evil. Try looking up.

joss | General | 05:35 CET | 382 comments total | tags: joss post

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

You are encouraged to post your actions in a comment (or multiple comments) on this (or upcoming) post(s). Feel free to email me via this blog if you are planning an event and would like me to post something special for you, and/or if you have relevant links. Quotes are nifty, too.

(And please note: being technologically somewhat challenged, I have disappeared the first version of this post - and I believe that means the comments, as well. If you sent a comment earlier today, and do not see it posted, that is probably what happened. Sorry, and feel free to send them again, if they are still pertinent...)


Kentonist said...

I've been doing a great deal of thinking about this... as I'm sure we all have. In any discussion of a problem of this magnitude, people are - in their very human fashion - apt to stray on to tangents, informed by their own feelings, experiences and, indeed prejudices.

This is what has struck me, and I think it echoes some of Joss Whedon's frustration as well, though I would never presume to say so with any certainty.

Inequality thrives - and leads to insane tragedies like that of Dua Khali - because we allow it to ferment in "harmless" forms.

I mentioned on the Whedonesque thread that I was raised in a strict religious environment, one that clung, and still clings, to, to an Old Testament-style patriarchal society. I was raised to believe that men were in charge, women were there to support them and, basically, keep their mouths shut.

And the women who also believed went along with it - until such a time - and, horribly, in some instances, long past that time - when a man in their life crossed the line from underlying oppression to obvious abuse.

That, to the outside world, is clear lunacy. Much as, to the outside world, we look on the murder of Dua Khali as the lunacy it is.

But many of the same people who would, being in their right minds, denounce honour killings, spousal abuse, pay discrepancies and inequality of social opportunity will still turn around and assume that their daughter won't like sports.

My daughters are five and I've seen them chant quite fiercely at televised football matches, despite the fact that I'd rather watch paint dry - on the insides of my own eyelids - than watching a bunch of sweaty, IQ-challenged men propel leather across grass.

I'm a working-class, white, straight(ish... everyone has their days) male. I don't conform to any supposed traits of the group into which I have been arbitrarily dropped.

When I'm with a group of male friends and one of them turns to me, with a roll of the eyes and a sense that marital relations may not be at their most vibrant, and mutters, "Women!" the first two thoughts that cross my mind are, in this order, "Where?" and "Thank God."

So, perhaps, I've made the undeniable error of putting women on a pedestal rather than the equal playing field where they clearly belong. The women with whom I've shared various portions of my young(ish, again) life have been fairly equally divided into wonderful and Dear God, stop poking me with that stick, but they've all shared one thing in common. They were all incredibly human and interesting.

My daughters are small, mad things, but I have no doubt that they will achieve twice as much as I have in my life, in half the time. Because they have - at home, at least - no reason to think that they won't.

Someone made a very kind comments about my attitude to them on Whedonesque. But it's no credit to me to react to women as equals. They are equals. Anyone with half a brain can see that, in a gloriously maladjusted species such as humanity, there is no disparity in our essential natures.

But we make excuses. We write things off as minor. Sexist jokes thrive, while racist jokes have - and rightly - become unacceptable.

"That's just the way it is" is perhaps the most dangerous phrase in the English language. It kept African-Americans enslaved and disrespected for centuries.

The worrying thing about, say, Buffy's place as a strong female role model, is that she was needed - and continues to be needed. That it was considered a noteworthy thing for a young woman to be the superhero, to be the victor, to be the one with the power in the 20th and 21st centuries is appalling.

Many will leap on Dua Khalil's case as a cultural one - blame the other culture, blame the people who don't think as we do. Others will see it as a chance to lash out at men - in general - something which gives me, and many others, cause to say, "Hang on a damned minute."

Humanity is humanity. People either exercise it, or they don't. They either put that integral feeling for their fellow humans above and beyond any cultural idiosyncracies, or they don't.

Wrongs are always paraded and justified.

I was speaking to someone who, until this conversation I considered a friend, who told me she was moving her children away from the city.

I empathised and said I often considered the same thing.

"Yes," she replied, "I have to get them away from all these damned Muslims."

I was literally lost for words.

Here, at the end of this ramble of thoughts, is my feeling.

We are in a fight, not against any particular religion, culture, or gender. We are in a fight against bastards. Those who have decided that they will hang the coat of their own murderous idiocies on the convenient peg of outdated, outmoded ideas and ideals.

But, in the long run, unless we do our part to weed out the underlying prejudices in our own lives, we are no better. We just have a line we won't cross - we think.

So, we need people like Equality Now! We need any group that truly serves to educated and illuminate the world about the indignities suffered by any of its citizens.

But we also need to turn to our sons and daughters, our friends and family and say, "If anyone tells you this is the way it is, they are lying, because they WANT this to be the way it is."

We are so capable of beauty, ideas, truth... and yet, through history, we find - often in the same minds and bodies - destruction and prejudice.

It's a human weakness, yes, but it doesn't have to be flaunted. It doesn't have to be indulged. It has to be fought.

The Battle of the Sexes is an unjust war, fought for dubious reasons. It's time to make peace, and bring the troops home.

lexigeek said...

Thank you for doing this, QuoterGal!

yinyang said...

Oh, it's very pretty. I've been lurking over at Whedonesque, and I think this is a good idea...

Tonya J said...

So my pal QG asked me to leave a comment about what I've been up to since Joss' magnificent message at Whedonesque last weekend. I see some folks have already started commenting, but here's what I've done:

The day after Joss' post I

* Sent out a MySpace Bulletin with the link to the message

* Sent out Bulletin to blog I posted with a couple of thoughts about how important the message was

* Wrote about what Joss did at my movie forum in the Buffy thread, posted link

This week,

* Posted links to a petition and website dedicated to stopping honor killings at Whedonesque from a Browncoat email Digest I received

* Bought Dua Khalil t-shirt from Lexigeek's store

* Posted link to Joss' message at two forums on World Crossing

Last night,

* Sent an email to the New York Times Arts desk with a link to Joss' message. Said I hoped they would write some kind of article not just because it was Joss, but what he had to say was important and needed to be heard

In the next five days, since I'm taking time off with the Memorial Day Holiday,

* Will take a long look at Equality Now and Amnesty International's websites

* Will send the link to the message to a few more publications like Rolling Stone and others I think would be interested in doing something with it

* Search out any more petitions I can sign, and

* Click on every link Quoter Gal put up here.

Great job, QG!

Nic said...

This is a wonderful idea, and I really applaud you for deciding to take action -- and actually doing it.

I lurked on Joss' post at Whedonesque. I lurked all over, reading up on the recent Mary Jane statue controversy; through that I found links to websites like "Girls Read Comics (and they're pissed!)" And, and I've been lurking around those, now too. I lurk in my college classrooms, and when my (female) roommate complains that her Women in Psychology professor "never shuts up about feminism," and when my guy friends down the hall use the phrase "get raped!" as shorthand for "haha, my character killed your character in this cartoon-style video game." For a long time I lurked in my own head, and allowed myself to believe it when I was told that I should hate myself and the parts of my body that made me feminine. Some days I still catch myself believing it.

Sometimes I think society is so far under water that we don't even realize we're drowning. We're afraid to change. We're afraid to "look up." Maybe because doing so means that at some point we need to actively decide if we're going to be silent, or if we're going to step forward and say that this is wrong to a world that doesn't really want to hear it.

I'm saving this blog. I'm buying a t-shirt, too.


Sunfire said...

Excellent site, Quoter Gal. Thanks so much for putting it together.

I thought I would share that I have started reading a book (Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice) that I'm hoping will help me understand these issues better. The author's website is here is people are interested in looking into it. I'm only a few pages into it so far.

ketonist, thanks for that post. I feel the same way.

QuoterGal said...

I thought I'd post my own comment about what I've been doing. Obviously, this blog; I posted Joss' post to my MySpace blog; I bought an "I Am Dua Khalil" tee-shirt by lexigeek, and wrote to the Iranian government to protest the 1) capital punishment of "adultery" by stoning and 2) the imprisonment of American-Iranian scholar Haleh Esfandiari (go to to read about it...)

I'm now in the process of spreading both Joss' post and the existence of this blog around the internet.

Frances Burney said...

What a good idea this blog is. As soon as I get home, I will tag it with and other such tools. It deserves high visibility.

Toronto Can't Stop The Serenity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mockingbird said...

I keep having technical difficulties with posting lately, so here's a second try.

To begin with, QuoterGal, thank you for taking this idea and running with it! I've linked to this and a few other places over on my blog, where I wrote about this topic a few days ago, following the initial post by Joss.

While QuoterGal's passion is quotations, I get into what names
mean (try being a girl with the name "Dale" and that'll happen to you. :et's just say I laughed long and loud at the line, "Jayne's a girl's name."). Anyway - I researched the name "Dua," figuring that it had to mean something. Sure enough - according to two separate sources, "Dua" is Arabic for "prayer."

Sweet Christ, I didn't think I could get more depressed.

They killed a prayer. They celebrated and they filmed their blasphemy.

It's a huge problem - I've been talking and posting and I'm shocked and saddened by how many people are either (a) indifferent or (b) hands off. Guess we're not our sister's keeper as much as I thought we were. And I ran across a horrible story about a gang sexual attack that was broken up by two girls at the party - according to them, what were the victim's first words?

"I'm sorry."

Shades of Joss.

Oh, here's the link on that one.;bp=t

There is so much work to do. And maybe a blog and T-shirts aren't huge things, but they're starts.

You know the old saw about throwing a stone (stones again!) into a pond and seeing the effect of the ripples? Let's hope that was one big honkin' rock Joss flung in
the Whedonesque pool.

Tonya J said...

Thanks for the links Sunfire and Mockingbird. Mockingbird, it is quite sad that people seem dismissive and indifferent about the issues we've all been talking about.

I posted the following at Whedonesque and my MySpace blog, and a friend there said she wished a man would respond to it. No one but her has:

It's kind of amazing that someone you sort of know at a website, for years even, comes up with a statement that absolutely floors you. I've done my bit posting the link to Joss' piece at the few places I frequent online where it can be shared, including my own movie forum. After a statement he made saying the only way to make Dua's murder right was to basically form a task force, go in, and kill everyone involved, I wrote: "I understand your anger about Dua's murder but I'd rather not lower myself to their level by killing them. Rather, it is consciousness raising that really needs to keep being pushed to the forefront."

I can't ethically share his verbatim reply, but he compared consciousness raising to reducing us to the standers-by and killers' level. He went on to say that consciousness raising is nothing more than emotional catharsis.

I equate consciousness raising with nothing more than gaining knowledge and awareness. It really is an odd experience to see that certain thoughts and words just set people off.

I could do no more than state that I disagreed and said that with a certainty there are people who read blogs and websites online who may not have been aware that honor killings even existed, or the extent of suffering caused by misogyny and violence. For me, Joss has just raised the consciousness of thousands upon thousands of people in the world.

I've seen other almost unbelievable things being said in blogs. Like the disbelief that women are targeted for violence MORE than men are. I refuse to argue and I'm not much of a debater, especially when people make it purely a political issue.

It seems that fear must be a big motivator for dismissiveness and indifference, and even the backlash of anger and criticism. There are many people for whom this must be outside of their comfort level to discuss. But I think about the quote QG posted at Whedonesque:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

In the face of all the negativity I've been reading and have already experienced myself, there are those who are truly grateful and enthused about Joss' message. These are not people who have simply jumped on what I call "the back-patting wagon," they truly do care.

We can only do what we are willing to do. Hopefully, if we keep the faith we'll start to see some changes being made.

I got my t-shirt in the mail today and it's lovely. How quickly this has all transpired. It's rather awe inspiring. Barely a week ago Joss wrote something out of great personal need, and look where we are now ...

cabri said...

I did write something on at cabri729's LJ and will be cross-posting it to my BC and myspace blogs. I plan on buying tees for myself and my sister's family as we are all going to Toronto for CStS and I want us to wear them there. I'm afraid that's as far as my pocketbook will stretch. :(

silvius said...

Thanks for doing this QuoterGal - I just wanted to offer this site my support.

Toronto Can't Stop The Serenity said...

Just finally wrote a blog on our screening website about Joss' post and about this blog.. I've already mentioned it on myspace. I've bought the shirt.
We have just begun.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for setting this blog up!

I started by posting Joss' post on MySpace. I have ironed on Lexigeek’s design to a tee shirt but it didn’t work very well so I will ebay something so that I can buy a shirt from him. Not that this singed crinkled unreadable blob shirt isn’t somewhat gothic horror meltdown interesting but it really isn’t the look I was going for when I make office visits to my Congressional delegation. I have two planned for but I need to take a copy of the video in with me and I have to work myself into a place where I can get that done. I have dial up and have not watched the video of the murder and I dread having to go watch that someplace less private but I have to do it and soon. I can’t very well talk about it with out having seen it.

Joss’ comment “Even just learning enough about a subject so you can speak against an opponent eloquently makes you an unusual personage,” has great resonance with me. I could see how not having language at hand and not having already seen how counter arguments can be framed, stymied some posters and limited some potential discourse on Whedonesque. So I am going to go back even though it makes me grind my teeth and repost some responses that I found counter-productive and address those on MySpace. I am also working on a paper based on Joss’ post and the replies and what it says about the current wave of Feminism.

I convened a CodePink group here (where I live) a few years ago and I have not been as active as I could be in organizing public events outside being present at our local daily vigil although I am not there every day any more. That vigil has stood at the county courthouse every day for the last five years. Its time to put together a day or more to address the increasing murder rates of young girls due to So-called-honor killings- and I will start that discussion specific to Iraq. And finally I am thinking about starting a BrownCoat group for my city and a screening of Serenity for next year, (I don’t think I can get it together fast enough to make Joss’ birthday this year) If I find that I can show the film later in the summer and send the profits to Equality Now then I might go for that.

silvius said...

Some commentary I found interesting.

Tonya J said...

If you go to:

you can copy their symbol to your blog, website, etc. You can also download their program for your desktop (works only Internet Explorer unfortunately) so that when you go into one of hundreds of stores, that store will give a percentage of your purchase to your favorite charity, and that could be Equality Now, Amnesty International, or another charity you wish to support.

Keep fighting the good fight, Tonya

Ellen said...

Dear QuoterGal and readers of this blog:

I am the author of a recently published (i.e., March 2007) book on "honor" killings entitled "Reclaiming Honor in Jordan," available on the American version of Amazon:

When Dua Khalil was murdered and Joss Whedon published his impassioned commentary about it, I was out of the country, so really pretty far out of the loop on everything. CNN International contacted me to be a subject matter expert on one of its programs about Dua's murder, but I didn't receive its message until after the program had aired.

I am now back in the States and was just this morning doing some additional research on "honor" killings when I stumbled upon Joss's commentary on the Whedonesque site. I was supposed to go to the opera today, but I became so engrossed in reading the comments to Joss's post that I've blown off the entire opera and desperately wish to respond to some of the members' comments while they are fresh in my mind. However, I am not a member of that site, and it is now closed to new registrations. Perhaps you could help me spread the word.

I am really impressed not only with the volume, but also with the quality and the passion of the posts. Clearly, there is a yearning among people to understand and to be part of the solution. Some have a wonderful understanding of the problem; others are at the beginning of their learning curves in understanding it (e.g., it is not Islamic. . .in fact, "honor" killings entirely predate Islam and are believed to have their roots in misinterpretations of pre-Islamic tribal codes). I just spent 18 months working on "honor" killings in Jordan (have been working on them from afar since 2000), all on my own time and nickel. No one will fund this problem at a level that actually helps these at-risk girls and women. It is a crying shame, for there is an obvious need. While I have nothing against Equality Now, it isn't even on the radar screen in Jordan. . .nothing it is doing is having an impact where the rubber hits the road. There is a definite need for advocacy at the policy level, which is what Equality Now seems to do, but women in countries like Jordan also need more immediate assistance. This particular problem is urgent. . .lives are hanging in the balance.

So one of the things I would like to share with you is the importance of working both ends of the problem. . .not just the policy end. In Jordan, for example, there is only one real women's shelter, just recently opened, but it explicitly won't accept women who are at risk for "honor" killings. And this is a tragedy, for they are the very people most likely to lose their lives to violence. I would love to see someone fund a women's shelter for them. Right now, they are warehoused at Jweideh Correctional Centre (a prison). . .average stay at the moment is seven years. Meantime, the people who threaten them are walking free. It's completely bass ackwards.

I would also like to encourage people to educate themselves before doing anything that is just knee jerk, for many of the outside "solutions" often fail to address any true need within these developing countries and waste valuable time and resources. We in the West already have credibility issues in the region. So it's important to look before we leap, act only when we are armed with the best possible information.

My book is about a nationwide survey I conducted in Jordan about attitudes and opinions surrounding "honor" killings. It is an eye opener, even for the Jordanians, but also for people who live outside the country. While "honor" killings are often labeled a women's issue, I have come to see them as a basic human rights issue (i.e., the right to wake up and breathe another day. . .to me, the most basic human right of all). In Jordan, there aren't very many gender differences in how these crimes are viewed. Easy as it is to blame it on the boys/men, sadly, girls/women are part of the problem, as one of the Turkish members of Whedonesque pointed out. While women are >90% of the victims in Jordan, they are often complicit in the crimes. It can be mother against daughter, sister against sister. . .the dynamics are extremely complex. I was getting concerned reading some of the posts on Whedonesque, for it seems some people lack this fundamental understanding of the problem and, thus, some of their proposed solutions seem quite off the mark. And it would probably stun people to learn that the only hate mail I got while I worked on this sensitive issue in Jordan was from women. . .the very women in Jordan who are either directly tasked with solving the problem or best placed to work on it (i.e., the women's nonprofits and the so-called upper class women of Amman, the capital city). I suppose it is a rather Western quality to assume that all people are basically just like us, but on this issue, it is far more complicated than that. Some people have a stake in maintaining the status quo, and not all of them are men.

In my empirical research, the primary demographic differences in people who believe in these crimes versus people who don't were: (1) educational level (as some of posters correctly surmised, but this includes education for men as well as for women); (2) age (older people are more likely to believe in "honor" killings); and (3) employment status (retired people are more likely to believe in them, but this is probably correlated with #2, age). There were some differences between various cities, towns, and villages in Jordan, but not in such a way as to allow me to say, for example, the cities are more progressive than the villages. Gender, while I searched and searched and searched for it, was not a factor on this variable. Nor was income. No statistically significant differences, as we researchers like to say.

Another point that needs to be made is that, in many countries, these crimes are actually state sanctioned. In Jordan, there are three penal code articles that offer leniency to the perpetrators. The average sentence is six months, but can vary from three to 24 months. These crimes are misdemeanors. Pakistan and Turkey have criminalized "honor" killings, but left in some loopholes that benefit the perpetrators. In addition, some of their judges are still looking the other way and being very soft on these crimes. As one poster on Whedonesque correctly pointed out, in these countries, "honor" suicides are beginning to take place where, to get around the newly-stiffer penalties, the perpetrators are forcing their victims to kill themselves.

While "honor" killings pre-date Islam and, thus, are un-Islamic, it is factually correct to claim that most "honor" killings occur in Arab/Muslim countries and among Arab/Muslim immigrant communities outside the Arab/Muslim world. The Jordanians in my survey recognized this. Hated it, but admitted it is so. In addition, approximately 20% of the people in my sample erroneously believe Islam condones these crimes, so there is an opportunity in the mosques to correct this misinterpretation of the Qur'an.

In 2000, the UN estimated that there are 5,000 such crimes per annum worldwide, but most people who work in this area believe this figure is vastly understated (I am among them) due to the very nature of the crime. Often they are unreported, disguised as accidents, disguised as suicides, lied about (e.g., the family will just say their murdered daughter has moved to, say, Saudi Arabia or somewhere), minimized in the official statistics (for obvious reasons. . .most of these states where these crimes occur are headed by dictators who don't allow transparency, free speech, free press, anything that might reflect poorly on them). . .this is just the way it is. I believe the true figures are unknowable, though the estimates are useful to the extent that they give one an idea of the relative frequency/rate in countries where these crimes occur. So Pakistan has the highest absolute numbers (but also a large population), Jordan has one of the highest per capita rates.

One opportunity/need I see in all this is to urge our lawmakers and executive branch to tie our generous aid packages to countries where these crimes exist to legislative reform (viz., remove the legal distinction between "honor" killings and plain ol' murder in the penal code) and to objective, measurable improvements in human rights in general. The U.S. government and the West keep a country like Jordan afloat. America is their largest donor, with the EU and certain EU member states closely behind, and without our aid, the country would be even more impoverished than it already is. So we have that economic clout, and I don't see anyone here urging our government leaders to make better use of it. In Jordan, the U.S. Embassy and USAID (the State Department's aid distribution arm) gave me no assistance whatsoever, not just economic, but assistance publishing or distributing my book, moral support, nothing. With all the millions they disburse in Jordan (very little of it is to be seen in actual improvements in the lives of the people there. . .most of it seems to be going to intelligence and security), why hasn't some of it gone to help build a women's shelter?! This just boggles my mind. Where is the accountability?! Where is the transparency in how these hundreds of millions of dollars per year of our money are actually used?! Why aren't more people here pretty ticked off about this?!

Tying our aid packages to real quality of life improvements in Jordan would also serve the useful purpose of letting the Jordanian leadership know we are watching and measuring and expecting more of them. Right now, the leadership says one thing to the West, but does quite another within Jordan. It is sometimes very difficult to reconcile the two. It gets away with this because we aren't holding them to proper account. The king in Jordan is an absolute monarch. He says to us that he is against "honor" killings, and he has the power to issue a royal decree to overturn the penal code articles there that offer leniency. Lacking the political will to do that, he could also use his Hashemite legacy to influence the tribal leaders and use more traditional methods to effect reform. And yet he doesn't. So why isn't anyone who represents us asking him to use his power to reform these laws?! I don't know the answer to my own question. But it haunts me. To the extent that we are settling for this lack of accountability from our own leaders and funding regimes that don't appear to truly care about "honor" killings and other human rights abuses, we are complicit in the problem.

As I was traveling back to the States from Jordan, one of the women with whom I shared an airport shuttle ride in Paris told me, if you want the world to wake up to this problem, you should work with someone on producing a powerful documentary about it. . .do for "honor" killings what Al Gore did for global warming with "An Inconvenient Truth." She said the visual is more potent than the word on a printed page (though I think this is debatable). I am a financial services/technology marketer by training. . .what do I know about making a powerful documentary?! But I did note the appeals to Joss and, if he would like to work on this, I would be only too eager to serve as his subject matter expert. I think I know about as much as anyone on this subject. . .certainly among people in the West. So, if anyone has a connection to him, please feel free to pass this on.

Thank you all for caring so much. I have felt the loneliness of the long-distance runner as I toiled away in obscurity on this problem for all these years. But reading your members' posts has given me some hope for this world. Maybe little Dua's horrible death will not have been in vain if it prompts the world to sit up and take notice. Now, if only we can find a way to harness this passion and package it in a way that actually gets results on the ground. Unlike so many problems in the region, this one is solvable. There is reason to hope, but it takes money, time, commitment, and political will.

Ellen R. Sheeley

Ramona said...

Inhumane men worth
Less than the dirt under her
Nails stole life from her.

Laughing, drunk with their
Power, filming her red death.
A tool to spread fear.

I've heard religious
Say that Islam is peaceful.
This belies that claim.

Where's equality?
Religion condoning her
Red Death is unjust.

So many Muslims
Seem to think their religion
Means I'm worth nothing.

Ramona Jackson

Tonya J said...

I wrote asking for permission to post this as a topic at Whedonesque dot com but didn't get a reply, so I've posted this information at in the meantime and now here at Quoter Gal's blog. Time is of the essence, at least for two parts of this.

On May 20, 2007, Joss wrote a stunning essay about Du'a Khalil Aswad's murder, violence against women depicted on film, and violence against women in general. Because of this impassioned plea for sanity in the world, I started doing more, a little at a time. I joined Equality Now awhile back and contribute "X" dollars a month to their causes. I write blogs once in awhile on subjects that are meaningful to me and try to be more aware and compassionate about what is happening to people, every single day.

Joss's essay: Let's Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death

It's also on the main page of this blog.

I received the email below last Friday morning, the 28th. Below the text of the email are three links; one is to a gathering honoring Du'a Khalil and other women who were victims of honor killings, as well as what you personally can do to honor Du'a on April 7th, 2008, the anniversary of her murder. Last is a link to a discussion blog:

From The International Campaign Against Honour Killings


Date: Saturday 12 April, 2008
Time: 5.00-9:00pm
Address: University of London Union (ULU)
Room 3D, Malet Street London WC1E 7HY
Closest underground: Russell Square

A year after the world was stunned by images of a 17 year old girl being stoned to death in Iraqi Kurdistan; an international panel will debate the rise of honour killings, violence against women, gender apartheid and political Islam in Kurdistan/Iraq and the Middle East.

The high profile speakers are women’s rights activists, academics and experts from Kurdistan, Iraq, Iran, Sweden, New Zealand, and Britain and include:

* Dr Sandra Phelps: Head of Sociology Department, Kurdistan University
* Houzan Mahmoud: representative of Organisation Women’s Freedom in
* Heather Harvey: head of women’s campaign-Amnesty International in
* Maryam Namazie: Spokesperson of Equal Rights Now
* Maria Hagberg: Cofounder of Network against Honour Killings in Sweden
* Azar Majedi: Chair of Organisation for Women’s Liberation in Iran
* Chair: Maria Exall, Communication Workers' Union National Executive in

For more information and to confirm please contact the organiser, Houzan Mahmoud: Tel: 07534264481
Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq- Abroad representative


7th April: A day against 'honour' killings - What you can do

Conference in San Francisco: Violence Against Women, Honor Killings

Tonya J said...

I remember Du’a Khalil Aswad

A beautiful young woman, aged 17
Murdered in Kurdistan, Iraq
By relatives including her uncle
And others

While hundreds watched
And cheered
And did nothing

She never got to fully
Live her life
Taken from this world too soon

Du’a, I will remember you
The rest of my life

Rest in peace now