Aggregator • Mideast Youth • ID=80094
Haneen Baker is a Jordanian activist for the movement ‘No Honor in Crime' (لا شرف في الجريمة), She is 22 years old and She is studying Architecture at the University of Jordan. She starts her collaboration with this feminist group since two years; together They are making campaigns against Honor Killings in Jordan and for equal rights. Despite She comes from a conservative family She has strength and courage to fight against the society and laws which segregate women in a rule of submission to men.
I'm Michele Nicoletti, freelance journalist and Interpreter in Arabic language. I'm 25 years old and I got graduated from the University of Salento (Italy) in Foreign Languages. I spent the last year studying Arabic Language in Cairo for eight months and in Amman where I met Miss Baker. When I spoke to her the first time I suddenly thought to make an interview with her.
As a woman how do you feel when you think about the society which you are living in?
- if we are talking about feelings I'm sad. When I look at the society I see things supposed to be going forward, but because of a lot of traditions and old mentality we are standing at the same point or just going backwards. It's very sad to see a woman's position in our community like this because we have a lack of rights and certain limits of freedom, so it's really sad.
Do you think a woman has the same rights and freedom as a man who lives in this society? If not, what are the most significant differences between men and women in everyday life?
- For sure not, we do not have the same rights or freedom as them, the most significant difference in daily life is the freedom of choice, for example we do not have the freedom to choose when to go out, with who, where, for how long, we do not have the freedom to choose if we want to go for studying in university, or to choose who you want to marry, or to travel. So basically that happens every day; as a woman you are not free to choose in general because there is always someone sponsoring for you.
Is this person, who is responsible for you, a member of the family?
Yes, and of course mostly is the male, like the father, maybe an old brother or an uncle.
How can you become independent from your family?
I don't think there is a way to be independent from your family by choice, a woman cannot choose to be independent. It's almost impossible unless of very rare situations and even there it's very risky. Sometimes if a girl has a job, she might have a little bit more space, but that is not really independence.
So even if you find a job which enables you to live alone or with other people who are not your relatives, would your family allow you to do that? If not why?
No, that is almost impossible, because it is a question of honor, and a woman represents the family honor. But even if they do not mind, or they trust their daughter and enables her to go and live alone, there is another problem putting a lot of pressure: the society itself.
A family that would just let their daughter work, live alone or travel would usually be seen less honorable by the other people.
What is the meaning of the word honor in Jordan? And when is someone retained honorable?
Honor is defined by the females of a family, your honor is your sister, your mother, your cousin. So the word honor is just connected to the females. Also honor is something that a man should protect, it's something that he owns and which should be protected. We can say that honor can be compared to a white page and nothing can just come over it. Nothing, not even a dot.
How can a woman break the honor of her family?
Several things, but actually there is not exactly an answer for this question because it depends on the family, on how much they are conservative or strict. For some of them a girl can break the family honor by having a relationship with a guy, not necessarily a physical relationship, it can be of any kind. For example let's say that a girl decides to stop wearing the hijab, that means for some family breaking the honor as well, however in general it's about having a physical relationship.
Not wearing the hijab, not following family orders, maybe leaving the house, trying to leave the country or sometimes very silly situations like desiring to marry someone who the family does not agree on. All those are also cases of breaking the honor.
If she breaks this honor what will his father, brother, uncle or cousin do?
In most of the cases, where there is a relationship between a man and this female member of the family, it will end up by killing her.
I've never hear someone killing because of hijab, because, to solve this kind of problem they will not let the girl go out, so she will be forced to wear it.
Here honor crimes go under relationships mostly, I read a newspaper article where it was written that 80% of the victims of honor killings are virgins, so as I said is not even about having sex.
In the case of honor killing what does the Jordanian law say?
There are two laws, one says that if someone catches his wife while she is having a physical relationship with another man and He kills her, He cannot have the same punishment of a murderer, so He can get out of jail after a period from 2 to 6 months.
The other law says that a man can't get a life imprisonment or 15 years, only a couple of months if he killed his wife because of anger, and under this law there are some scenarios in order to give you examples of justified murders. The first one says that there is a woman who kicked out her husband from the house, locked the door and said that he could not see his children. So he brought a knife, broke the door and stabbed her until she died. Here there is an excuse for him because in the religion she can't do this and is also against the traditions so he has the right to be furious and kill her without having a strict punishment.
Do you have statistics on how many women in Jordan die yearly because of honor killings?
Official statistics from the government we do not have, we have personal statistics, like in our movement we have on the website an archive for the killing that we know about and we know about those murders through the media, we never contact the victims' families to have more information. This is the only official thing we have. And it's also complicated; sometimes cases of honor killings are not even reported.
Do you think these deaths are related to a lack of education? And do you think they occur more frequently in the rural area?
Of course I believe that education will limit these acts, but at the same time Jordanians are well educated compared to other Arabs, in fact our education level is the highest of the middle-east but despite that, we have more cases of honor killings. So I think is more a cultural thing, for example It can happen that a professor killed his daughter here, because of tradition and culture, it's not only a matter of education. In fact even educated people who would be more open-minded can commit an honor killing because of cultural reasons and traditions.
What is the most recent case of honor killing that you have heard about?
It was on the 16th of July (2012) in Amman, a 25 year old woman was slaughtered by her father with a knife. She was a divorced woman and there is a lot of pressure on divorced women because they already broke the honor of the family. Anyway there are two versions of the story: in the media the journalist said that she was pregnant, but her father did not know about it, so she gave birth to her child and then she threw her child somewhere to hide him from the father, but because of a discussion he discovered it and killed her.
How can a father not notice his daughter's pregnancy?
The other story which comes from the neighborhood, which is not 100% the truth but I think it is much more close to the reality than the other one, says that her father discovered that she was pregnant and decided to kill her.
The worst part is that usually people have no sorrow for the victim, no one is sad for the girl, but everyone is sad for the father because he is in jail. You cannot imagine how disturbing it is to hear people who feel sorry for the murderer and have excuses for him.
He just washed his honor with her blood, actually we have a saying in Arabic: 'You can't wash your honor except with blood'.
”La sharaf fi el-Jareema” (NO honor in crime) Is the group that you’re helping. What are they doing about this issue?
We are working on two sides: the legal side to change the laws in order to have a longer period in jail for the murderer, and the other side is cultural awareness, which is the most important one.
Personally I believe that if you do not change the mentality of the people they will not care about the law, because someone who killed one of his relatives because of honor already considers himself a strong and respectful person who did something great. I do not think that he will care if he goes to prison for 6 months of 5 years, because he is sure that that killing has to be done.
What kind of difficulties have you and your group found ?
One of the major problems is that we have been accused of coping with the West, and therefore we are ruining the culture and the concept of honor. It's very difficult to convince people that is not the aim of our campaign.
For example if I argue and ask why you have to kill someone to feel honorable and I support the idea that there is no kind of honor in murder, they will say that our culture is different, and they will accuse me of imitating western women, who are very often separated from their husband because of the freedom of sexuality. That is the problem. They do not see the human perspective, they just care about the woman's sin as something against the culture.
Do all or most of the Jordanian women agree on the fact that honor killings are not honorable at all?
Unfortunately not, and this is another problem we have when we are trying to raise awareness. Actually several women defend this perspective of honor, they protect it, and also when an honor killing happens they would blame the victim saying that if she had done something wrong her relative would not have killed her. So usually women defend honor killings, because they were raised in this way, they grew up with this kind of education and they are fully convinced about that. It's very difficult to change an idea in someone's mind which is rooted since the childhood, and it is also hard to make these women realize that they are not happy and they do not have freedom.
It is more difficult to speak about this issue with a girl than a guy, because she is in a defending position.
While researching on the internet, I discovered that several Islamic groups and spiritual leaders condemned any kind of violence against women. Do you believe that a lot of people are still using religion as a way to justify honor killings?
In religion there is nothing called honor killing or honor crime, but people use the religion to make an excuse for these killings not directly. For example when I ask to someone if he agrees on killing a female relative in the situations that we mentioned before even if it is forbidden in the religion, he will agree that killing is not from the religion but he would say that it is forbidden in the first place for her to leave the house, or it is forbidden for her to have a relationship, to travel, it is forbidden for her not to pay his orders. Those excuses justify and explain, for them, why a man loses his temper .
What changes would you like to see in your country in the coming years?
I would like to see the law changing against that, if I know that people will still not care. But I will feel that there is somehow more justice for the victims, for their rights and for the respect of the life that they lost. This is what I really want to see soon, and that is why with our movement we're collecting signatures to change the law and show that several people agree on this.
Unfortunately the process is really slow because we want to be sure that before signing the person has understood and realized what is really the point.
I know that someone will just sign it but if he finds himself in a situation that lets him kill a relative he will do it even if he signed against honor killing, because these people do not think that such a situation can occur to them, but if it happens to them, they will have excuses. So this is why the signature campaign is not as fast as we want because we are trying to make people aware of the women's rights first.
SPECIAL THANKS TO NINA EWING FOR REVISION.... more