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Syrian laws 'too' lenient with honor crimes: advocates

Features | 2018-09-30 16:45:00
Syrian laws 'too' lenient with honor crimes: advocates
(Zaman Al Wasl)- The murder of a teenage girl in the southern province of Sweidaw who was  shot in the head by her father a few days ago brought to mind the issue of crimes of honor that have spread horribly in Arab societies during the last few years. Girls at the spring of their lives become victims of suspicion due to their behaviors, emotional involvements or, in the worst cases, due to a moment of recklessness and foolishness.   

Statistics done by organizations that support women’s rights, confirm that 5,000 people are killed every year around the world for reasons of honor protection. These crimes are committed especially against females, while unofficial statistics in Syria indicate that the number of the same crimes themselves ranges from 200 to 300 per year. 

The organization Human Rights Watch defines "honor crimes" as "acts of revenge, often a murder committed by a male family member against a female member, on the grounds that she has brought shame upon her family." 

But does a girl’s emotional involvement with a young man justify the commission of murder; which is the situation behind most of honor crimes committed?  What is the nature of the crime of honor, is it a custom, a law, a habit or a tradition?

The 22-year-old victim Maryam Mohammed never thought that her end would be at the hands of her brother who agreed on marrying her to someone she did not want in one of Homs villages. When she declared her dissatisfaction with marrying this stranger, her brother Adnan who was twenty four years old, first started violently hitting her with an electric cable. And then, he warmed an iron bar on a burning fire until it glowed with redness and used it to burn her body in front of his wife, until she lost her last breath. 

This wasn’t all; the young man dug a hole in the garage of his own house to bury her body. And then he put the "concrete" to fill the pit hole and hide the traces of the crime.

A few weeks later, he floored the entire garage including the area containing the grave pit. He claimed that his sister had married outside the village. But his obsessions with the crime did not stop, it was as if he felt a continuing movement inside the pit that stirred his restlessness and worry; which prompted him, a month after committing this heinous crime, to break the tiles again until he reached the depths of the hole containing the body but found nothing except the bones of the deceased. He collected the bones and buried them in an abandoned place. Then he re-mixed the dirt surrounding the body and scattered it around the farm before re-piling the garage over the hole again to hide it.  And that’s when he let himself exhale and relax believing that the crime has passed peacefully. 

Samar Husain, a 19-year-old girl who was brilliant in her studies, and who was dreaming of and preparing for entering medical school, was treacherously surprised by death. Her brother, who heard that she has been having a romantic affair with one of the neighbors, was her killer. When he saw them walking side by side drowning in laughter, he rushed towards them carrying a knife he had hidden under his shirt and stabbed her to death. 

The young lover boy fled the scene leaving his beloved one drowned in her blood, while the brother turned himself in to the nearest police office to get the punishment he deserves. 

27-year-old Maher al-'Ali strangled his sister Najat who was only 18 for the same reason. He threw her body in the Asen River near the village. On the following morning, a number of children, heading to school, gathered in front of a body floating on the surface of the water. Confronted with the available evidence, her brother admitted to having killed his sister because of her romantic involvement with the young man.  

Social researcher Faten Mohammed told Zaman al-Wasl that "the social environment plays an important and dangerous role in the spread of this type of crime, especially since the simple uneducated man in general and the rural man in particular is deeply affected by his environment because he believes that his reputation depends on what people say about him".

She added: “when the girl strays from the ‘rightful path’ traced by society of course, people start speaking untruthfully about her reputation which prompts the family to put a stop to what they consider as the shame brought upon them. That’s when the brother, under the pressure of moral scandals, decides to save the renowned honor of his family by shedding the blood of his deviant sister.” 

It is noticeable, as indicates our interlocutor that “deviant women” is an issue that concerns primarily the brother and not the husband who is rarely asked to wash off the shame brought upon the family’s honor. Even in cases where the husband overlooks the betrayal of his wife, the brother does not and takes care of killing her himself.

For his part, the lawyer "Abdel Moneim Radwan" asserts that 75% of the crimes of honor are committed by the brothers of the victims, whether the victim is a cheating wife a daughter who deviates from proper behavior and he notes through the list of crimes that the father comes second in washing the family disgrace followed by the uncle and the cousin and finally the lowest percentage goes to the son of the victim. It is equally noticeable that more than 80% of the perpetrators of so-called "honor crimes" are illiterate people who cannot read or write, and that the average rate of those who have been tried for a crime of honor is very low. This phenomenon can be explained, as Radwan say, by the family’s decision to make the youngest of its members commit the crime since they don’t have an income and they can benefit of the mitigation factor of being of young age. 

Our correspondent pointed out that the Syrian law is one of the most tolerant and lenient laws with perpetrators of these kinds of crimes compared to the majority of the Arab countries. The Syrian Penal Code was organized under the title "Crimes and Misdemeanors on the Life and Safety of Man", specifically the fourth section under the title "excusing murder and victimization" Article 548, in addition to Article 192 on the motive of honor. 

Sheikh Haitham Mansour links the crimes of honor in Arab societies to the phenomenon of domestic violence that has emerged, as he claims, since the beginning of creation and which is often reinforced by social accumulations and their like. It has also emerged due to the weakness of faith in God Almighty which causes, as he puts it: "a deviation from the straight path and the virtue of Islamic law that God ordered us to follow.” 

"Mansur" indicates that: “all three heavenly religions did not allow people to take justice in this criminal way, assuming of course that they have the right to react. As good treatment, proper education and guidance, as God commanded us, are the ingredients for elevating our societies towards reconstruction and away from violence and its devastating effects at the level of the family, society and human life as a whole ". 

Zaman Al Wasl
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