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Rana Husseini - Jordanian writer and activist

A young Jordanian girl walks home. She finds her father waiting with a rope and an axe, posed to kill her.

Murder in the Name of Honor

Fighter for dignity

In a society that looks down on those who raise their voice against certain traditional practices, only a few manage to put up a fight.

Rana Husseini, a Jordanian journalist and author of Murder in the Name of Honour: The True Story of One Woman's Heroic Fight Against an Unbelievable Crime.

Her book, which has sparked off a controversy, talks about the horrors of honour killings in Jordan and why they must be stopped.

Rana Husseini was born in Amman and began working as a journalist in 1993, focusing on social issues, especially those concerning women and violence against them.

"I have been documenting and reporting cases of 'honour crimes' for the past 16 years. I have learnt a lot from my work. I am sure my work has helped save lives," she says.

Husseini has won eight awards in journalism and human rights for her work.

They said she was washing Jordan's "dirty laundry" in public. "In 2000, I decided to write a book that would serve as a reference and as documentation of the problem. At that time, there was hardly any book on this issue. I wanted my book to serve as an advocacy tool for activists in other countries.

"It is about the honour murders and violence taking place against women worldwide. In my book, I have included cases of women from many faiths who were killed," she says.

"If a female member does something that tarnishes her family's [deemed] reputation and honour, they find no other solution but to kill the woman so that they can be rid of the shame.

It is all about fear. People fear what others might think of them and their daughters. "I believe killing of women happens all over the world. The only difference is that in other parts of the world women get killed by their family members as a result of jealousy, possessiveness, control and financial reasons.

"These crimes are certainly not restricted to society, religion or nation. They are universal," Husseini says.

"The mentality will change," Husseini says. "History has taught us that things will change but they do take time and a considerable amount of effort."

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Another girl is tied up and shot by her own brother.

The murderers receive minimal punishment when they claim the murders were done to protect their family's honor.

RANA HUSSEINI - HONOR KILLINGS

Honor killings occur when a female's relative decides to murder her because she has "tarnished" the family reputation, according to Husseini.

Examples of "dishonorable" actions include the women being involved in pre-marital sex, losing one's virginity, adultery and running away from home.

"The practice of honor killing has been occurring worldwide for thousands of years. In prehistoric Peru, adulterers were executed, a woman who lost her virginity before marriage was buried alive, her lover was strangled and the village he belonged to was destroyed."

"However, in Tibet, a woman could be killed for adultery but a man would not be punished. Even today, female genital mutilation is practiced in several countries, including the United States."

WRONG CULTURAL BELIEFS

Rana says honor killings are based on the wrongful cultural and traditional belief that blood cleanses honor.

"No religion gives a person the right to kill someone. It is a lie that has been spread through tradition."

And the injustice does not end with the killings.

"Even when a woman survives an attempted honor murder or escapes the family, she may be put in prison for an indefinite amount of time."

"I was very shocked to hear this"

"Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't the person who is committing the crime be punished?"

SOMETHING SMALL MADE SOMETHING BIG OUT OF ME

Rana first became became interested in investigating these crimes when she heard the story of a 16-year-old girl in Jordan who was murdered by her own family.

"Something small made something big out of me"

When she discovered the girl had been murdered after she was raped by a brother and became pregnant she wrote a story for the Jordan Times and soon began to regularly report honor crimes.

"When I started reporting on honor murders, the topic was extremely taboo. It was considered a family matter and was to be dealt with privately."

GRASSROOTS

Rana Husseini began a grassroots movement in Jordan in the late 1990s to end honor killings. In the last 10 years, several political changes in Jordan have significantly reduced the number of honor murders.

Thanks to her work, the taboo has been broken and honor murders are now actively reported by the media.

Jordanian police and judiciary officials also now investigate honor crimes and punishments for convicted honor killers have become more severe.

But while circumstances in Jordan have improved, there is still room for advancement.

RELIGIOUS LEADERS NEED TO SPEAK OUT

Rana stresses that religious leaders should speak more openly about the issue and more men need to be involved in campaigning against the crimes.

Above all, she say people need to educate themselves on the matter and to spread the word.

"It is no big deal to me when a student says that I am their hero. However, it is a big deal to me that they may be inspired to make a difference themselves as individuals."


Rana's website

SOURCES

Main article adapted from BreezeJMU.org

Gulf News

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