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This Byte contains depictions of violence against women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people, and may be triggering to some readers.

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Imagine a young woman from Pakistan. After years of hard work at university, she finally gets an internship in Germany and convinces her strict parents to let her go.

Within a few months of arriving in Berlin, she finds a job, starts learning German, makes new friends, and falls in love with a German man. She also starts dressing differently.

One of her relatives sees her new life on social media and reports it to her parents. They feel shame, embarrassment, and disgrace in their community. They think all of the other girls are getting married, dressing modestly, having kids, and being good wives.

They call their daughter back home on the pretext of missing her, but when she arrives in Pakistan, her brother, uncle, and father take her into a room from which she never comes out.

Crimes like these, known as honor killings, are an all too frequent injustice that threaten women, girls, and LGBTQ+ around the world.

What is honor killing?

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Honor killing is the murder of a woman or girl by her own family members. It's a crime supported and justified by the family and done to "protect" the family name or prestige.

Most honor killings go unreported, are hidden away, or are called accidents or suicides. They occur everywhere around the world but are most prevalent in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and North African countries.

Why do honor killings happen?

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Honor killings can happen from simple to multilayered reasons. Recent ones reported have been for the following reasons:

  • Wanting to study or get a job

  • Marrying someone of your choice

  • Going abroad or somewhere that your parents or family don't agree with

  • Having an interfaith or interracial relationship

  • Having male friends or having a social media presence

  • Socializing with friends

  • Refusing to marry someone in the family

  • Refusing to have sex with someone

  • Dressing in a way that your family disagrees with

  • Seeking a divorce

  • Homosexuality

  • Dancing in public or in a way that's considered provocative

Are only women and girls victims of honor killing?

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Absolutely not! Men, as well as transgender and non-binary people, are often forgotten victims and don't have help available to them. Many gay and bisexual men have gotten death threats from family members and many have even been murdered for who they are.

In 2008, 26-year old Ahmet Yildiz came out to his family and friends in Turkey. When he received death threats from his family, he immediately filed complaints with the police but within three months he was shot five times by his father while Yildiz was simply on his way to buy ice cream. His father flew a great distance to commit this premeditated murder.

Does it only happen in developing countries?

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Honor killings have happened all across the world in Italy, Germany, UK, and US, often in immigrant families. According to UN estimates, 5,000+ women and girls are honor killed.

In some countries like Pakistan, honor killings were only officially outlawed in 2004 and even now legal loopholes allow perpetrators to be forgiven by other family members — for example, a father forgiving his son for killing his daughter.

Is honor killing supported by religion?

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While honor killings are common in communities practicing Islam, Islamic law doesn't support this practice. These honor crimes are a deeply cultural issue and not a religious one.

Quiz

Which of the following statements are true about honor crimes? Select all that apply.

Take Action

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How can you raise awareness about honor killings in your community? And how can you help people find safety?

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This Byte has been authored by

SK

Saba Khalid

Founder & CEO at Aurat Raaj