A Man Is Valued By His Sister’s Behaviour: Ruling On An Honor Crime

The story is as follows. A wife and mother tells her husband that she’s been sleeping around with other men in exchange for money and wants a divorce. So they go to a lawyer’s office and she writes down the names of all these men, for what reason, I cannot possibly comprehend. Then she’s taken to her parents’ home where her father ties her up so she won’t leave. She was made to rewrite the list in front of her family, for what reason, I cannot possibly comprehend. Her 17-year old brother comes home to find out what’s happened, goes to the kitchen to grab a knife and stabs his sister to death while his father watches, only to congratulate him on a job well done afterward. The brother was given 16 months in jail but was recently let go for having served those months while awaiting trial, while the father was acquitted of premeditated murder charges.

So far this reads like a textbook honor crime. Outrageous but nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to honor crimes in Jordan.

Now here’s the court ruling:

In its ruling, the court decided to amend the premeditated murder charges to a misdemeanour as stipulated in Article 98 of the Penal Code because the defendant committed the murder in a moment of rage.

“It is obvious that the defendant did not plot the murder and his actions came immediately after reading his sister’s confessions,” the court said, noting that the defendant benefits from a reduction in penalty because his sister was involved in extramarital affairs in return for money, which led to her divorce and “brought her family shame and disgrace”.

“Her actions hurt her parents, brothers and unmarried sisters’ honour and reputation and are considered by the court as dangerous and unlawful, especially to the defendant, since in our customs and traditions a man is valued by his sister’s behaviour and honour among his community,” the court ruled.

The tribunal comprised judges Majid Azab, Mohammad Khashashneh and Hayel Amr. [source]

With recent debates on the blogosphere about the rule-of-law in Jordan, and how it can be abused by authority figures for the sake of pushing personal values and beliefs on everyone – which is obviously no way to run an objective judicial system – I can’t help but wonder if the same can said here.

Here we have a group of judges who essentially condone the actions of this young man based on their interpretation of local customs and values; justifying his taking of a life for a lesser crime his sister committed. The judges become the perpetrator’s defense team. They did not commit the crime themselves, but, like the father, stood watch as it took place, quietly nodding in approval.

It only serves to emphasize a point I’ve tried to make before: the problem is not only with the loophole in the law itself, but is essentially in the way that law is used by judges.

In a country where the minimum age for being a judge is 27, we are dying for some judicial reform.

Literally…dying.

41 Comments

  • this is horrific and utterly disgusting!
    these so called honor crimes have yet to stop! screw such overburdening honor that is define and protected by dishonorable men!!

  • Whatever one may conclude from this story; it just shows how we continue to shut ourselves from the real lives of real people living in this country. Whatever their circumstances are, whatever their fears, their real problems. It may pass as a casual news line to a many of us, living in our own bubble, worrying about our own welfare, but it is really happening out there!
    Just outside a few kilometers of Ammani-haven is the real Jordan, may be unknown to most Jordanians and foreigners living in Ammani-haven, but many other foreigners and real Jordanians know about it.
    Apparently there are communities and communities of people unbeknownst to us, living in a meager life of fear, poverty and frustration. Honor crimes are as casual to them, as is eating out for most of us. While we continue to ask for more freedoms given to us, and thus increasing the gap between our world and theirs, have we thought that some people out there have no freedoms at all!

    And yeah, while the two distinctions of Jordanian lives are distinctively different as black and white; our judicial system is as grey, flexible and stretchable as anything!

  • obviously is very confusing for any person to read such horrific news.

    i wanna ask, though, Naseem: are you against the principle of the death penalty for prostitutes, or only against the obvious: the brother taking care of the punishment himself and the father not preventing him?

    would you approve it if the court sentenced her with death penalty, or rajm for example being zaniyah and the 7okom carried out by a government official?

    i am curious!

  • “brought her family disgrace and shame” …. and a lot of cash too that only her ffamily will be using.

    Even if she was a real prostitute, doing it for fun, she doesn’t deserve any of what she’s gone through.

    But the story sounds very fishy to me,
    first, it’s really uncommon for a woman to work as a prostitute sleeping with different men without her husband knowing it,
    I assume he wanted to get rid of her, forced her to sleep with them to get the cash, and then forced her to write this down to tell the judges…. see, she’s a hooker and that’s why i’m killing her, or maybe wont kill her but just let her under-age brother kill her so he can maybe get away with a lighter punishment.

    The problem is that our society approves this,
    if you really run a poll in our society, you’ll find a great proportion probably a majority including women supporting what the teenage boy did. Maybe it’s not only the judges whose thinking is twisted, maybe it’s our whole society.

  • This story hurts!

    I am so outraged by the verdict of those judges! You are totally right Naseem, we need a jurical reform.

    First of all, we need to remove the stupid honor crimes law. No body should benefit of it anymore!

  • “would you approve it if the court sentenced her with death penalty, or rajm for example being zaniyah and the 7okom carried out by a government official?”

    let them bring four witnesses first.

  • Societal change takes time and i don’t expect cultural behaviors, whether postive or negative to change overnight.

    What i believe we should focus on though is the state and its institutions, if Jordan wants to continue turn a blind eye on this joke of a court ruling, maybe then we need to revoke our commitment and international obligation to the protection of rights and perhaps revise our constitution. Perhaps also join the list of countries who implement literal Sharia law (according to whichever mthhab we follow as a Sunni state).

    At least “citizens” like myself would discontinue making an argument on the obligation of this state to protect its citizens and provide them with the means and space for fair trial as opposed to this law of the jungle and taking matters into one’s own hand.

  • Salaams:

    //are you against the principle of the death penalty for prostitutes//

    Does the Jordanian law assign the death penalty to prostitutes?

    ///would you approve it if the court sentenced her with death penalty, or rajm for example being zaniyah and the 7okom carried out by a government official?//

    Nobody brought their four morally upright male witnesses. That is the thing with the killing of women here — no one brings anything but innuendo and rumors. That’s because half the time the killing is done in the name of honor so that someone (a male of course) can claim her inheritance. If I were a betting woman, I would bet that this whole story of her running to her husband and bragging about being a prostitute and then telling a lawyer on top of it was made up by her family and her husband, to justify what they have done. No matter what you think of men or women who have sex for money, the crime pales in comparison to taking a life.

    Did anyone else notice that this woman had been married off when she was *eleven,* a mother since she was *twelve?* Clearly a family that values women and their honor. Disgusting.

    God bless Rana Husseini.

  • The strange thing is that this horrible law is not existing in the Gulf where they are considered more fanatic regarding “customs and traditions”. I think, sadly, most of Jordanians support this inhuman law and I remember there was a debate about it, some time ago, in the national assembly and the proposal to delete this law was not passed.

  • I have to say it was a shock for me when I read the verdict then reported this story to The Jordan Times, which Mr. Tarawneh thankfully posted on his bog….I have to say this is the first time I read such statements concerning the value of honour that was written by judges in their verdicts to justify a murder….it is really frustrating and shows that we really still have a long way to go in so many aspects regarding the problem of so-called honour crimes in Jordan.

    I really do hope that what came in the judges’ verdict, with all due respect to the justice system in Jordan, will push the concerned officials to take genuine and concrete steps towards amending the mentalities of the judges and people in general.

  • Ok I am not in favor of the ruling , but the judges have nothing to do here , they have no call regarding the law , lawyers stand in defense and district attorney stands as an opponent , things are not like in the movies , please understand that Judges are like computers they judge regarding on the arguments opponents give, fa this could be “as usual” General’s attorney’s mistake , this works as all cases do , there is no blames on the judges, any crime could be based on insanity in order to get a lighter ruling.
    Anyway , eveybody in the girl’s family was mistaken and they as in Sharee3a should be punished , no accusations of Zina should be allowed unless four witnesses see it eye to eye and they should describe all the details in order their words match together , if one little small detail was wrong they will all be wiped 80 times as 7ad el Qathef.
    But this girl confessed.
    Anyway we should not accept this for reasons of fairness and dignity , we have things as such in our history which shows that Patience is the best way to deal with these situations.
    Her brother at the time of the crime was probably proud , but he had something unleashed in his head which is the killing mode , this in criminology means that life for him will be easy if anything comes his way elimination is the best solution, where real men take this with care and understanding , no one has any right in killing any one else , but people do mistakes and they tend to go to extremes , its the Laws’ job to keep such incidents and exception .

  • The mistakes we speak of have been under the microscope for over a decade now, with annually reported figures unchanged. With all due respect to the justice system, there is NO justice when it comes to “crimes of honour”. There is no honour either, there are only crimes, and crimes should be dealt with using justice and the legal tools made available by the law that we should all respect, equally. Irrespective of our affiliations or belief systems.

  • Oh my God. What a blow.

    I guess there’s nothing new about the idea of valuing a woman solely based on her reproductive organs, while the organs themselves are quite literally owned – first by her father and her brothers, then by her husband – it comes up over and over again. The true amount of lives it has ruined and/or ended prematurely, we will never know.

    The evil logic of this phenomenon dictates that if this is REALLY the way God wanted women to be, he would just have them exist as brainless wombs.

    Of course, some people think we’re brainless wombs already, with a little dazzle added on top to have us as convenient mating partners.

    As a religious person myself, I’d still have to argue that having religion too closely entwined with law is exactly what aids such thinking and behaviour along.

    Quite frankly? Religious law and its interpretation are mostly too complex for your basic penal code. People’s brains are not up for it. People (present company excluded) are mostly stupid. The longer I live, the more I am sure of it.

    Obviously, this case is influenced by tribalism – but I don’t think that the flip-side, a case influenced heavily by holy law, is any better.

    You can never quite take religion out of the public sphere, but you sure as hell can neuter its presence, especially by distilling it down to its essentials: like, “murder is bad,” for example. .And you know, I think that’s a good thing. Because the public sphere takes everything good and complex and beautiful about religion and turns it either into a joke or a tragedy.

    /rant.

  • And WHY THE F*** aren’t men who do it tied up and stabbed? It’s all over the country. Men do it and tal t their buddies about it like it’s a trophy to sleep around!

    So, a girl shames her brother and family by having sex, and a boy doesn’t shame anyone for doing the SAME DARN THING.

    I don’t buy the religion excuse. Men have the same one. OR tradition. Men have the same ones. OR family honor. Men have the same f***** one.

    THIS is why countries like this will never make it past the barbarian stage.

    We can build all the towers we want but they will still be filled with this kind of scum.

    Honestly, f*** that.

  • 1. Law is not supposed to be carried out by the people. There is “supposedly” a system in place for that.

    2. Nas good point on the four witnesses, but the Victim “The woman” did confess to committing adultry! I believe this negates the four witnesses argument.

    3. Tradition must no be confused with Religion. In our society a lot of things end up being blamed on religion while it actually has nothing to do with it! Just like in this case.

    My verdict, and I’m no Judge is:

    1. The boy is a criminal, and should be punished for murder proper.

    2. The father is an accomplice

    3. The judges are… Well, the word doesn’t even fit!! But of course if they ruled otherwise, my guess is that they would’ve been killed too. For dishonouring the honourable brother.

    4. The woman. Well, I really don’t know… Did she really confess, or was did something else actually happen? Either way, her punishment was hastily executed.

  • Rana Husseini: Thank you for the comment and, more importantly, your endless and tireless work in this field day in and day out. I can only imagine how frustrating it can be to fight for a cause for so long. I share your hopes for our judicial system.

    Ehab: it is highly unlikely that a woman would confess to such a thing knowing the consequences of such an action. she could have just as easily left out the other nine men, and the money part. the claim is so exaggerated that i have no doubt in my mind she was forced to sign such a “confession” to justify her murder, which is not out of the ordinary in Jordan

    Worth reading: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5h5r-5iGd2uDl-WbAAy3HgXUigyYA

  • @ Amin Matalqa
    I understand your noble reason for wanting to expose this on film. But do we really want another “forbidden love” stigma attached to our Jordanian name and also documented on film. I’d much rather we campaign and fight locally. The western audience is hungry for such stories from our part of the world, that I’m not sure if it will do us real good in the end!

  • One battle is with the judicial system. The other is with society. And we should be screaming out on both fronts. Waiting for the judicial system to honor itself is a long and painful path filled with rivers of blood and a lot of motherless kids swimming upstream with a bitter taste in their soul.

    How does a grandfather put his 8 year old grandson on his lap while a brother looks into the eyes of this kid whose mother they slaughtered, saying to him, “ma3lesh habibi, biddak itkoon zalameh!”

  • ““would you approve it if the court sentenced her with death penalty, or rajm for example being zaniyah and the 7okom carried out by a government official?”

    let them bring four witnesses first.”
    They don’t need to…Her husband’s testimony is the equivelant of four testimonys, Read the Quran 🙂 So for her not to get stoned to death she needs to swear that she didn’t commit adultery which in this case won’t happen because she confessed (whether it was coerced or not is a moot point here, the judge won’t know that) so in the end she would be stoned to death.

    All is well that ends well, I guess 🙂 /Sarcasm/

    As for the reduced sentence because it is in a moment of rage this is found under many “modern and civilized” laws that we aspire to follow just under different names…For example in the US a lawyer can argue that this was just an act of temporary insanity and since the crime was reported (I am just assuming here since it wasn’t mentioned in the article) then the father won’t be charged for hiding a crime so he would walk even if he encouraged the son to kill his sister and the killer would get a reduced sentence because he was temporarily insane…

    All of this under the civilized laws of the all modern and powerful, though now almost broke, United States…

    Go figure

  • @ Rana Husseini
    In your website http://www.ranahusseini.com/abouthc.html in the image to the left “Al maw2ooda” is written incorrectly it is missing a “waw”. Please correct it….or simply remove it because that’s a completely unrelated topic to yours…”Al wa2d” is simply killing girls when they are born because they are not boys, even if it still horrific it is not the same thing as what you are defending and is misleading…

  • …then the father won’t be charged for hiding a crime so he would walk even if he encouraged the son to kill his sister and the killer would get a reduced sentence because he was temporarily insane…

    Nope.

    First of all, in a comparable situation in the States, a father would be charged as an accessory to murder.

    Just because you report something doesn’t mean that you’re innocent and uninvolved.

    It’s an old trick, and the cops and DA’s rarely fall for it.

    Second of all, it is EXTREMELY hard to prove temporary insanity. A case can be pled down from murder in the 1st to murder in the 3rd, for example, meaning it’s not premeditated, but you still get to serve hard time.

    And if the victim had time to make a list, and the list was shown to people? That pretty much disproves the idea of it not being premeditated right there.

    People who get to plead temporary insanity are usually very ill to begin with – and their illness is documented.

    Obviously, sentences do get reduced all the time, but in the States, if you commit such a crime, you’re not going to get out after a few months or whatever.

  • They don’t need to…Her husband’s testimony is the equivelant of four testimonys, Read the Quran 🙂

    Uh, actually maybe you need to know your religion better. The husband’s testimony is NOT the equivalent of the testimony of four witnesses.

    If a man or woman finds his or her spouse in bed with another person and do not have three other witnesses that can testify to it, he or she can enter a “mola3aneh” with his or her spouse. “Mola3aneh” carries no punishment in this life, but severe ones in the after.

  • I don’t know, but my gut-feel (and it’s merely a gut-feel) tells me that the story reeks of BS. As you suggested Nas, why would she write down all of the names of the blokes she slept with? Plus, I would imagine, that it would be quite a difficult task to do (when you are a prostitute), not to mention that I don’t think that a prostitute would be so interested in getting acquainted with her clients (again, just a gut-feel). Give me a break, all this and the husband did not know?

    Why do I feel that most supposed honor killings in Jordan are BS? Because I really think, that if a family is so conservative, that it would take away the life of their daughter/wife/sister for having sex outside wedlock, then chances are that this girl would probably have lesser freedom to go around having sex in the first place. I would suppose that she would have a tight curfew, not allowed to have male friends, dress modestly, etc. and thus, she wouldn’t have an opportunity to sleep around in the first place!

    Finally, I love how in such stories, normally the “hero” barges in at some point, only to discover the “wrong doings” of his sister or daughter, and then picks up some desired weapon of choice and kills the girl. It’s so Hollywood it’s not funny. But this is all besides the point: What’s most sad about these stories, is as you suggested, how the judges employ tradition and family values to reach a verdict, with total disregard to what the law stipulates, and what basic common sense dictates. I mean really, why do we need a constitution, and why do we need a parliament if each judge will just reach verdicts based on whim and tradition? It’s a charade and sadly, we won’t be getting anywhere as long as this parody continues.

  • 27 Hameed on Sep 24th, 2008 said:

    “They don’t need to…Her husband’s testimony is the equivalent of four testimonys .”

    I just want to clarify this here , the Husband if he doesn’t have four witnesses and is accusing his wife the he will have to swear four times that he is right and the fifth is that Allah may curse him if he was lying , and in her defense she would swear four time that he is lying and the fifth that May Allah Curse her if he was not lying , then after that divorce will take place… Please Don’t say things that you are not sure of regarding Quran it is really dangerous and 7aram…

  • I found this shirt today and it reminded me of this post. For those who don’t care to click the link, the shirt says Tradition: Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.

  • Why did the woman behave in that way? She knew the customs and laws of her country, her people and her religion. She brought it all on herself.

  • Hi All,

    When I hear about these sad stories the following always comes into my mind, WILL WE EVER COME OUT OF THE STONEAGE? With the current mentality of some of our public servants I really doubt it, even after a 1000 years.

    Fadi

Your Two Piasters: