Honor Killings as Caste-Based Phenomena

I have blogged quite a bit about honor killings in the past, but mostly, I have pointed out the gender aspect of it as part of maintaining a patriarchal structure. In the case below, there is an additional aspect to honor killings:

In this story, the killings are used as a means of enforcing caste-based boundaries and as social sanctions, inflicted by the dominant group, against those who dare to trespass from below on the social ladder. In this case, the gender dimension is eclipsed by the social necessity to retaliate against, and sanction, the entire group rather than just the individuals directly involved.

In previous stories, the girl is usually the one who’s murdered by a male relative. Here, it is the family of the boy who is killed for caste boundaries crossing. Mass violence is then exercised as a planned form of social control. The deviant behavior that is sanctioned is that of the boy’s family. In this sense, the sanctioning of deviance serves the social purpose of reminding everyone in the community that caste boundaries are not to be crossed.

It is still a case of patriarchal system if by that we use the meaning of patriarchy as outlined by Goran Therborn, as NOT male power but as the rule of the father. This case also underlines the persistence of of the idea of individual relationships as collective and community matters where privacy has no meaning. IT is a Western idea to treat such relationships as private and dyad-based… except when it comes to commercializing and commodifying them… then it’s a social matter as well.

In this sense, community-based life also constitutes a transparent / surveillance society without the high-tech gizmos, but through the reliance of traditional networks of information circulation and where interactions are strictly monitored for their conformity to the norms, especially caste-based norms that underpin the social structure.

The Bush Legacy in Iraq – $100 for An Honor Killing

Remember how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were really wars that liberated women from oppression? Well, I have already posted on the Taliban throwing acid in school girls’ faces in Afghanistan, and now this:

Totally unsurprisingly, the police is not to eager to arrest the perpetrators and the courts can’t be bothered to convict them even when faced with definitive evidence. After all, women are property and if the sluts would stop shaming their families and accept their chattel status, everything would be fine.

Of course, if there had been any Post-war plans to make sure that there’d be no power vacuum and if religious militias had not been accepted as de facto regional governments, these things might not have happened. And if the reconstruction focus had been more on institutions like education, rather the market and oil production… you get the drift.

The creation of yet another theocracy in the Middle East at our expenses… that was all worth it. And then, we’ll leave, of course, and the women of Iraq will be left to fend for themselves.

A Gay Honor Killing?

Yildiz Via the Independent,

"Ahmet Yildiz, 26, a physics student who represented his country at an international gay gathering in San Francisco last year, was shot leaving a cafe near the Bosphorus strait this week. Fatally wounded, the student tried to flee the attackers in his car, but lost control, crashed at the side of the road and died shortly afterwards in hospital. His friends believe Mr Yildiz was the victim of the country’s first gay honour killing. (…)

Continue reading

Honor Killings (Again) in Germany

Via Der Spiegel (who has done an incredible job in bringing this issue to light repeatedly):

"Ahmad O. stabbed his sister more than 20 times because the 16-year-old girl didn’t live her life according to his values. Women’s rights advocate Seyran Ates is now calling for German society to intensify its efforts to stop honor killings. "A girl isn’t a whore if she goes out," she says.

Morsal O. was 16, a young girl with joie de vivre. She laughed a lot and she was a go-getter. She was a good student, had ambition and a lot ahead of her in life. But she was murdered on Friday, May 9. Her 23-year-old brother Ahmad, with the help of a cousin, lured her to a parking lot near a subway station in the German port city of Hamburg under a false pretense and stabbed her 20 times with a knife.

If Morsal had known she would be coming face to face with her brother, she probably wouldn’t have gone that evening. The two hadn’t been on talking terms for quite some time, and Ahmed had threatened his sister repeatedly. Just before her murder, Morsal had sought refuge from her family, who moved to Germany from Afghanistan 13 years ago, at a number of city social facilities, most recently living for more than a year in a youth safe house. But she never succeeded in entirely breaking off contact with her family."

But the family thinks that the brother killer her out of love. I guess for some patriarchal communities, love = entitlement to harassment, threats, assault and ultimately murder, and Ahmad had done all of them against his sister. And because Morsal was resistant to her parents’ authority (unusual, for a teenager, I know!), it was her brother’s job to monitor her closely and he outsourced the job to his extended family.

Continue reading