Is That an 'Honor Killing' In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy Not To Be Me?

arvan's picture

There are some crimes that are just gut wrenching to think about.  "Honor" killing, the murder of a someone (usually a woman or girl) by family and friends over sex / marriage is an awful thing. 

I object to it personally.  as a father of a girl, I shudder to think what could bring a father or brother to slaughter their own kin.  It cannot end soon enough for me.

There are some great resources committed to ending 'honor' killing, listed at the end of this post.  If you know of others not listed here, please leave them in the comments field.

What has my mind today is not the 'honor' killings themselves but how the topic itself is discussed, presented and marketed in western societies - the EU and US.  The news reports and accounts of these killings reveal these deaths in terms of the way they are carried out, along with details of religious and cultural practices that seem primitive, cruel and that fly in the face of any rule of fairness, reasoning or legal structure.

Sure, we get upset by such murders, but are these 'honor' killing being used to reinforce a "single story" about the populations where these killings occur?  As Chimamanda Adichie illustrates well, repeated and dramatic negative images about a culture other than one's own, can reduce our own awareness to a "single story" of who those people are.  It lumps people into one-dimensional creations, not as complex and alive in our minds as we hold ourselves.  It strips individuals of identity and reduces people to "one of those people".

Chimiamanda talks about people being framed in a  "patriarchal, well-meaning pity" by holding them in a "single story of catastrophe".

The problem with a 'one story' is that it reduces people to being a stereotype and as Chimimanda says:

"The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story."

So, I ask myself and I'm asking you, the topic of 'honor killing' being used to paint millions of people as helpless, violent, ignorant and incomprensible creatures who are unable to help themselves and waiting  to be saved by us?

'Honor' killings, starving children, mass rapes, civil wars, drug trades, warlords, religious fanatics calling for war and murder...all of these are facts of life.  They really happen, but they are not all that happens.  They are not all that define a group of people and they will never define any one person. 

So, in addition to the 'one story' painting over a group of people and omitting who those individuals are in reality, the story also omits who we are in relation to 'those people'. 

Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Our corporate, political & military foreign policy often has a lot to do with the levels of poverty, education, violence and health of the very people we view through these 'one stories'. 

The goods we consume, use and purchase every day are made from the spoils of foreign lands.  We send arms and ammunition in trade for oil, minerals, timber, medicine, food, livestock and so much more.  We leave behind devastated land, polluted water, destitute and uprooted populations and wildlife extinction.

The 'one story' of 'honor' killing cultures allows us to not hear what people have to say for themselves, about themselves and to us, about our actions.  It is no coincidence that the 'one story' of 'honor' killings is getting the attention while our corporations and soldiers are in those lands which have minerals, oil and drugs that are needed by consumers and manufacturers here in the US & Europe.

Our hands are not clean of the blood spilled in these lands.  But, they can be - if we stop telling ourselves these 'one stories' about 'them' and embrace the many stories of us all.  It ends when we embrace the lives of us all and write the story of our shared future.


International Campaign Against Honor Killings

The Dynamics of Honour Killings in Turkey: Prospects for Action

Amnesty International: Honor Killings


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Great Title; Great Article

Thanks for this, Arvan. The depersonalization of individuals of different nationalities, races, and creeds is what made it possible and continues to make it possible for governments to gain citizen support for war.

But on a very positive note, the recent reinstatement of lesbian Air Force major Margaret Witt by a judge who at first ruled against her in a DADT dismissal case, is a great example of when 'one story' (gays are evil) is overruled by a personal story. Judge Leighton was pushed by a higher court to reconsider his judgment based on the personal story of who Witt is and the value of her service to her team and her country. He was personally moved by Witt's story. When delivering his judgment, he spoke directly to Witt and even choked up a bit. This is how all the one-story issues we face today (immigration, anti-Islam, etc.) can be solved - one personal story at a time. If the media produced small segments about members and leaders of the Islamic center in New York, one by one the American people would hear about real human beings who, spaghetti monster forbid, are similar to themselves. Then, the one story (Islam is evil) loses all of its power.

Thanks Lisa

arvan's picture

That's a great example of what is possible for us all when we listen to people for who they are and not some construct of who we declare them to be.  Thanks for reading and commenting, too.


 My problem with the way that

 My problem with the way that "honour killings" are reported is that they're made out to be something entirely foreign to the West, when it wasn't too long ago that domestic violence was socially condoned here, and was not taken seriously be law enforcement agencies. Depending on where one lives, that may still be the case. The reasons why one kills a female family member are fundamentally the same - desire to control her. And while Western societies are less complacent towards domestic violence, there are still plenty of instances of victim-blaming and apologia for perpetrators. The difference between "honour killings" and western domestic violence is one of degree, not kind.  

Brilliant point!

arvan's picture

That inconsistency and hypocrisy is quite telling.  For any society to point at the oppression of women in another one is like the hangman accusing the murderer of taking a life.

Thanks, MissA for another comment and for reading our site. 


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