a father's choice: kill son or watch family die, page-3

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    More Guts and honour............
    not like us jewrks!!*******************************************************

    Arab Honor's Price: A Woman's Blood

    ESAIFAH, Jordan -- It took six years for the al-Goul family to hunt down their daughter Basma.

    She had run away with a man, afraid for her life after her husband suspected her of infidelity. Her husband divorced her and, in hiding, she married the other man. But back in this overcrowded, largely Palestinian village, where a woman's chastity is everyone's business, the contempt for her family kept spreading.

    Women accused in sexual misconduct cases in Arab countries, like these three in Jordan, are jailed to protect them from being killed.

    "We were the most prominent family, with the best reputation," said Um Tayseer, the mother. "Then we were disgraced. Even my brother and his family stopped talking to us. No one would even visit us. They would say only, 'You have to kill.' "

    Um Tayseer went looking for Basma, carrying a gun. In the end, it was Basma's 16-year-old brother, just 10 when she ran away, who pulled the trigger.

    "Now we can walk with our heads held high," said Amal, her 18-year-old sister.

    What is honor? Abeer Allam, a young Egyptian journalist, remembered how it was explained by a high-school biology teacher as he sketched the female reproductive system and pointed out the entrance to the vagina.

    "This is where the family honor lies!" the teacher declared, as Allam remembers it.

    More than pride, more than honesty, more than anything a man might do, female chastity is seen in the Arab world as an indelible line, the boundary between respect and shame. An unchaste woman, it is sometimes said, is worse than a murderer, affecting not just one victim, but her family and her tribe.

    It is an unforgiving logic, and its product, for centuries and now, has been murder -- the killings of girls and women by their relatives, to cleanse honor that has been soiled.

    Across the Arab world, in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and among Israeli Arabs, a new generation of activists has quietly begun to battle these honor killings, an enduring wave of attacks prompted by sexual conduct that is sometimes only imagined.

    In Jordan, home to the most candid talk about the issue, the Government under King Abdullah has promised to join in the fight, following the example set by the late King Hussein and Queen Noor, who helped to lift a lid on public discussion of the killings. At a conference in Jordan in early June, delegates from the region were asked to develop ways to respond "sensitively to the situation in countries of concern." But those engaged in the battle say it would be hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the opposition they face.

    Across today's Arab world, modernizers may be wrangling with traditionalists, and secularists with Islamists, but a nationalism overlain by Islam remains a powerful political force. Even leaders like the late King Hussein and Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, long entrenched, have had to balance pro-Western outlooks against the risk of being seen as the instruments of outsiders.

    Activists trying to call attention to honor killings say they face a similar challenge from those who portray their campaign as an assault on Arab ways. "They accuse me of trying to make the country promiscuous," said Asma Khader, a Jordanian lawyer who is a leader in efforts to tighten the laws against honor killing.

    Even in places like Resaifah, a largely Palestinian village of noisy streets and dirt alleyways 45 minutes from Jordan's capital, Amman, contempt for honor killing can be heard. "If you spit, does it come back clean?" said Sheik Ali al-Auteh, 57, a tribal leader, mocking the idea that honor could be cleansed with blood.

    "A guy who kills might think that dishonor goes away," said his daughter, Yousra, 17. "But when he walks past, people will say, 'There goes the guy who killed his daughter.' "

    The Code: Broad Acceptance of Tribal Justice

    et the stories told by the al-Goul family and others, including killers and women who were attacked by their families, suggest a broad acceptance of an unwritten code, one that sees the unchaste woman as a threat. As long as they can remember, girls like Amal al-Goul say, their brothers warned them: If you stray, you die.

    Bill Lyons for The New York Times
    Asma Khader, a Jordanian lawyer in Amman, is a leader in efforts to tighten the laws against honor killing.

    And when a woman like Basma al-Goul is thought to have crossed the line, her family is ostracized, with her eight sisters deemed unmarriageable by the neighbors, and her five brothers confronted with taunts in the street. It was after other boys questioned his manhood, saying that Basma should be dead, the family said, that Mahmoud al-Goul ran to shoot his sister down.

    "Before my sister was killed," Amal, the 18-year-old said, "I had to walk with my eyes to the ground."

    Most often, the killings occur among the poorer and less educated, particularly in Arab tribal societies like Jordan's and the Palestinians, with long traditions of self-administered justice. The killings are rare among the educated and urbane.

    But even among those upper classes, it is rare to hear condemnation of the killings. Across Arab society, a bride is expected to be a virgin, and other people's justice is not a subject for polite company.

    In dozens of conversations in the Arab world in recent months, lawyers, laborers, clerics, cooks, physicians and politicians said most often that, personally, they could not condone honor killing. But most also said they felt the tug of traditions that could lead a man to kill, and some suggested that they would be inclined to act on them.

    "I would do what I have to do," said Bassam al-Hadid, a Jordanian with an American doctorate who spent 12 years as a hospital administrator in the United States, when asked whether he would kill a daughter who had sex outside marriage.

    Even some victims of the attacks said they deserved their fate. "He shouldn't have let me live," said Roweida, 17, who was shot three times by her father after she confessed to an adulterous affair, and, along with dozens of girls with similar stories, is being held for her own protection in a Jordanian prison. "A girl who commits a sin deserves to die."

    The System: Built-In Empathy for the Killer

    mong all Arab countries, only Jordan publishes what are considered credible crime statistics, so the extent of honor killing is difficult to gauge. Often the killings are hushed up, experts say, and disguised as accidental deaths. And, most often, the killings occur outside the big cities, far from government scrutiny.

    Except in Jordan, government officials tend to treat the issue as taboo, at least in response to queries from foreign journalists.

    But the statistics show that honor killings regularly claim 25 lives a year in Jordan alone, about one in four homicides in a country of just four million people, according to Jordanian officials.

    In Egypt, which last reported crime statistics in 1995, a Government report counted 52 honor killings out of 819 slayings. In Yemen, with a population of 16 million, Mohammed Ba Obaid, who heads the department of Women's Studies in Sanaa University, said his surveys found that more than 400 women were killed for reasons of honor in 1997, the last year for which research is complete.

    "The culture does not allow any other choice for males," said Dr. Obaid, who attended the recent conference in Jordan and called the figures "very alarming."

    The killings are also known in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and other Persian Gulf countries, and among Arabs in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The experts say it would be safe to estimate that the number of Arab women killed for reasons of honor amounts to hundreds each year.

    But in most countries, activists and human-rights groups say, most killers receive light punishment, when they are prosecuted at all. Arab judges, who are almost always male, are generally allowed great latitude in sentencing, and most tend to see honor as a circumstance akin to self-defense.

    "Nobody can really want to kill his wife or daughter or sister," said Mohammed Ajjarmeh, chief judge of the High Criminal Court in Jordan. "But sometimes circumstances force him to do this. Sometimes, it's society that forces him to do this, because the people won't forget. Sometimes, there are two victims -- the murdered and the murderer."

    That sense of empathy is built into judicial procedures.

    An explicit exemption in Jordanian law, for example, allows a man who kills a female relative surprised in an act of adultery or fornication to be judged "not guilty" of murder. Another loophole sought out by most defendants allows leniency for those who can persuade the court that their sense of lost honor caused them to act in an uncontrollable rage.

    A Jordanian found guilty in an honor killing can be sentenced to as little as six months as prison. If the killing is ruled to be premeditated, the minimum penalty is a year. No similar forgiveness is offered to a woman who kills, even if the circumstances are the same.

    Those are the laws that Jordan's Government has signaled that it intends to toughen. But, in an indication of the depth of opposition in place around the region, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, Abul-Hadi al-Majali, and the District Attorney of Amman, Tawfiq al-Quaisi, said in interviews that they opposed the effort.

    "There is an internalized belief that the woman is the one responsible for shame, because she could have resisted the seduction," said Zahra Sharabiti, a Jordanian lawyer who specializes in defending those accused of honor killings. In Egypt and in Jordan, convicted killers who opened their doors warily to a Western stranger soon spoke with a defiant pride about the justice they administered and received.

    "We do not consider this murder," said Wafik Abu Abseh, a 22-year-old Jordanian woodcutter, as his mother, brother and sisters nodded in agreement. "It was like cutting off a finger."

    Last June, Abu Abseh killed his sister, bashing her over the head with a paving stone when he found her with a man. He spent just four months in prison.

    Marzouk Abdel Rahim, a Cairo tile maker, stabbed his 25-year-old daughter to death at her boyfriend's house in 1997, then chopped off her head.

    He also said he had no regrets. "Honor is more precious than my own flesh and blood," said Abdel Rahim, who was released after two months.

    In fact, honor is so precious that it is not unusual, experts say, for a victim to be slain on the basis of rumor alone. As often as not, said Dr. Hani Jahshan, the deputy medical examiner of Jordan, his autopsy of a woman slain for reasons of honor will find that her hymen is intact.

    In Jordan, premarital sex is a criminal offense, regarded as equal to adultery, while a girl under 18 who engages in consensual sex is deemed to have been raped. A woman cannot leave home without the permission of her family, and an unmarried woman who becomes pregnant is not merely a criminal, but, by law, her child is taken away at birth to be raised in an orphanage.

    Dr. Jahshan's duties include examining girls and women taken into custody and accused of involvement in breaking sex laws. His findings are reported to the police and prosecutors, not to the girls' families. But three times already, girls he examined alive have been returned to him dead.

    The most recent was a 17-year-old girl arrested as a runaway this spring. Her father had heard that the girl and her 16-year-old sister had been in restaurants with men. Dr. Jahshan found that the girl was a virgin, and she was ordered released by the authorities, who first obtained assurances from her family that she would be safe.

    But two weeks later, the girl was back on his table, killed, along with her sister, by her father and two brothers, who could not believe that they were innocent.

    "Working here is very difficult," Dr. Jahshan said, as he showed forensic photographs of the bruised, burned, battered or punctured bodies of the young women who have come to him as corpses. "We have to solve this problem."

    Honor killings are not exclusively an Arab phenomenon. They are known in India, Pakistan and Turkey, among other places, particularly among poor, rural Muslims. Many Arabs complain that attention to their society's portion of the problem reflects a Western tendency to see them as backward.

    "When a Western man kills his lover or wife, the crime is called a crime of passion," said Mohammed Haj Yahya, an Arab-Israeli sociologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem who is active in efforts to combat honor killings. "But when it happens in Arab societies, it is called a family honor killing, and we are viewed as barbarous." Still, the prevailing tendency in the Arab world has been to leave the phenomenon unexplored. In Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and other places where honor killings take place, newspapers rarely mention such killings.
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