The Horror of ‘Honor Killings’, Even in US

Noor Almaleki honor killing

Noor Almaleki

Noor Almaleki was 20 years old and living in Pheonix when she and her friend, 43-year-old Amal Khalaf, were struck by a car driven by Noor’s father. While Amal survived, Noor later died, and her father, Faleh al-Maleki, was later convicted of killing his daughter.

The case of Noor Almaleki has drawn attention, most recently last weekend on CBS’s “48 Hours: Mystery” program, as a suspected case of a so-called “Honor Killing”—one committed here in the United States.

And yet, while the case of Noor Almaleki has made national headlines because it happened in Arizona, so-called “honor killings” happen around the world at an alarming rate, often with little press and no justice for the victim.

Women around the world suffer so-called “honor violence” at the hands of relatives, usually male, in an effort to reclaim family “honor.” If a woman or girl is accused or suspected of engaging in behavior that could taint her family’s status, she may face brutal retaliation from her relatives that often results in violent death.

So-called “honor” crime is rooted in a global culture of discrimination against women, and the deeply rooted belief that women are objects and commodities, not human beings entitled to dignity and rights equal to those of men. Women’s bodies, particularly, are considered the repositories of family honor, and under the control and responsibility of her family (especially her male relatives). And large sections of society share traditional conceptions of family honor and approve of “honor” killings to preserve that honor.

That’s the narrative that is used to justify these brutal attacks on women and girls, but here are the facts:

  • The UN estimates that around 5,000 women and girls are murdered each year in so-called “honor killings” by members of their families
  • “Honor” killings are widely reported in regions throughout the Middle East and South Asia, but these crimes against women occur in countries as varied as Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Like other forms of violence against women, “honor” violence against women may be considered a form of torture, whether enacted by the state or by an individual.
  • While “honor” crime is committed predominantly against women and girls, “honor” crime is also on the rise against LGBT people, particularly gay men
  • In many countries, the punishment for “honor” crimes are inadequate or non-existent—laws either do not recognize “honor” crime or have insufficient sentencing for such crime. And in countries where laws have been passed to curb “honor” crime (for example, in Jordan), such laws often go un-enforced.
  • According to the Iranian and Kurdish Rights Organization, “Honor Killings are on the rise”, especially in Europe and the US.
honor killings protest pakistan

Women in Lahore, Pakistan protest "honor" killings. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Make no mistake: there is no honor in violence against women, and no cultural, social, or religious belief is ever a valid reason to commit violence against women, or deprive anyone of their fundamental human rights.

The murder of women in the name of “honor” is a gender-specific form of discrimination and violence and should be regarded as part of a larger spectrum of violence against women, as well as a serious human rights violation. Violence against women in a global epidemic, and it effects women in every country, at every level of society.

The continued coverage of the case of Noor Almaleki reminds us that women across the world—including our own country—are at risk of such types of gender-specific violence. But so, too, should countless attacks on women’s rights that are part of a culture of discrimination against women.

Any attack on women’s human rights threatens to reduce women to objects or devalue them as less than fully human, and as such, aids and abets in a global culture in which such horrific violence, as happened to Noor and as happens to countless women, is not only possible, but is all too common.

Learn more about violence against women as a human rights issue and take action on behalf of women around the world.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

33 thoughts on “The Horror of ‘Honor Killings’, Even in US

  1. ^Agreed. Become educated about your cause before you advocate anything for it. Yes, raising awareness is great, but is this the root of the problem? Probably not. It’s like pulling over speeders in your city because you have a drastic increase in people not stopping for stop signs.

  2. Franco could not be more right! It is the MUSLIMS and radical Islamists that commit honor killings. It’s a part of their culture. They are a violent religion. Christians do NOT believe in honor killings. Anyone who would say that is obviously a bleeding heart liberal who is blind to the truth. Like it it not, its the absolute truth and a historical FACT they are a SAVAGE culture. If your offended by that and seek refuge from the truth by pointing your finger at Western society and Christian religion, so not to offend the Muslims by what you KNOW is the cold blooded truth, then in my opinion, your no better than them.

    • actually amanda its not….. this is a pre-islamic issue… I am actually not Muslim and my community commits these crimes… Muslims are not as bad as you assume them to be. The media have a way in portraying people in a certain way. Islam, Judaism and Christianity derive from Abraham. There are crazy people in all religions but by you pointing your fingers and ridiculing people who are just as hurt as you are for the killings of innocent people, thats not fair. I had a muslim friend growing up and we both attended a private catholic school. Her parents were fine with that and they also practiced Islam. THey were fine with her attending mass and church. She is actually doing her masters now and her parents where her biggest supporters. They told her your 18 go away to college and see whats out there. They used to invite my family over for dinner and never ever did they impose thier religion on me or anyone. She has friends who are athiest, gay, straight, indian, black, jewish. She says , I'm American and my duty is to protoect America, this is her country. Her parents died and her dad told my dad… you know I took alot of heat from my community for my daughter going away to college and being on her own. but I do not care…. God is not against my daughter being educated and I am not going to listen to those who are not educated and have radical views islam is not about making a woman feel less… Islam is against honor crimes… but those that interpret the religion radically are the ones we ought to be worried about.. Her dad said that… you don't need to take what I am saying… but I just really wanted to share this with you, not every person is the same and its not ok to stereotype…

      My research is on Honor Killing: and my mentor is not Muslim but a Jewish anthropologist and I would be happy to further explain the act of Honor Crimes…

      you will be surprised to hear radicals across different sects and religions commit these acts.

      What happened to diversity? I sure hope you are not a teacher with this attitude because you will discourage students from trying to assimilate to Western culture. Do not judge people… you sure did not create them… and if you believe in god or not… we are all created the same… Same insides. Some body features, THERE IS GOOD AND BAD IN EVERY CULTURE and EVERY RELIGION!!!!!! Remember that……..

    • Well said Amanda…although it is rife in hindu and sikh communities as well. The thing about Islam is that it is a far bigger religion and that it promotes the objectification of women as property and child-bearers – the opposite of what they claim….It doesnt matter that there are strong muslim women out there, their book says that they HAVE to obey their husbands ultimately and under law…Unlike christianity (the bible also has a very dubious attitude to women),the people of Islam have not had an age of reason where the faith is openly questioned by large numbers of followers. I welcome muslims to my country so that their women can have the freedom I have….not so that they can bring their cruel and archaic culture with them.The suffragettes would be appalled that after nearly a century, there are worse things happening to women in britain than ever…

    • Americans might believe they are far removed from the barbaric actions of bad treatment and so-called honor killings; yet, a significant number of American women have suffered and continue to suffer violence similar to their Middle Eastern sisters. Courts in the US, particularly in the mid- Atlantic region and the South, began adopting the "chastisement "doctrine articulated by Blackstone and accepting the English "rule of thumb." Until 1970, United Stated of America has honor killing code in four states Utah, Texas, New Mexico, and Georgia broke the Common Law traditional rule of mitigating the punishment and makes the killing in case of adultery and infidelity justified and the victim can walk free after the crime if he kills his wife and/or paramour

  3. Christians may not believe in honor killings, but they are often guilty of emotional abuse towards the ones they should be loving and accepting, as their religion preaches. Modern Christianity has a history of putting unwed mothers away in convents and stripping them of their babies, or rejecting children because they are not “acceptable” (unwed and pregnant, gay, interracial relationships, etc.). It may not be murder, but it very wounding and simply wrong.

  4. Honor violence is digusting…..but I will not let a violent woman beat on me either. Sorry, ladies, but that’s where I draw the line.Thats why my ex is my ex.

  5. The article was confusing to read. I did not feel it gave enough information about who or what religions participates in the honor killings. What does LGBT mean? Not all violence against women is connected to honor killings. I wanted more information about who, why. I assume not all honor killings are done by Muslims, or are they? I would like more information about who, instead of ending the article with a blanket platitude that it is a world crisis. Also not all Christians are bullies.And not all crimes against women are honor crimes.

  6. source:
    Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings
    by Phyllis Chesler, City University of New York
    Middle East Quarterly
    Spring 2010,
    http://www.meforum.org/2646/worldwide-trends-in-honor-killings

    “Although Sikhs and Hindus do sometimes commit such murders, honor killings, both worldwide and in the West, are mainly Muslim-on-Muslim crimes.
    In this study, worldwide, 91 percent of perpetrators were Muslims. In North America, most killers (84 percent) were Muslims, with only a few Sikhs and even fewer Hindus perpetrating honor killings; in Europe, Muslims comprised an even larger majority at 96 percent”

  7. the truth is Christian “men” beat their wives to death EVERY SINGLE DAY, all over the world. In South American and Latin countries, most men (almost all of them Christian) serve a very short sentence for this crime and then walk free. Talk to anyone who is worked in a woman’s shelter and have them tell you about the crimes they have seen. Is this better than an “honor” killing? The fact is these crimes have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with misogyny, culture, ignorance. They are wrong regardless of the faith of the man that commits them, but it is said to see people so blinded by hate and bigotry that they can’t see through it.

  8. Honor Killings are just a continuation of family violence–which affects one in four women in the US. Whatever your religion, socioeconomic status, race, or ethnic background you know somebody being affected by family violence. Women in the US are most likely to be murdered by a member of their family–regardless of their religion or background. Our organization is working within the US Muslim community to combat all family violence–which includes domestic violence, “honor” killings, forced marriages, FGM (part of child abuse) elder abuse, and child abuse. We are not alone in this regard–there are many community organizations working to fight this. Honor killings are also carried out as homophobic killings as well–often with gay and lesbians as targets. It’s a broad issue and falls under family violence.

    In general, however, while the intentions are good, I find that articles like this simply spur more Islamophobia and do nothing to really help the organizations who are working on the local level to combat these things. And yes, as mentioned above, honor killings are not unique to Muslims–they are practiced by Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Druze, etc. throughout parts of South East Asia and the Middle East.

    • Except women in the west have the law on their side and are able to escape their families and marriages if they are emotionally able….I wonder how many honor killings in the east actually result in convictions?….Islam in fundamentally anti-women ,whatever muslims would have us believe.The koran is a specific guide to life and you dont have to look far into it to find evidence of this misogyny…

  9. Thank you all for reading our blog and engaging in this discussion. I want to remind people that in the discussion forum, this is an opportunity for us to debate ideas and issues, not to make attacks at other people’s religions.

    Violence against women is not particular to any one religion, and neither is so-called “honor” crime. Such extreme types of violence against women are, as we have noted, present in cultures and countries across the world. The root causes of violence against women are not rooted in one specific religion or culture; they are, unfortunately, pervasive throughout the world. Find out more at http://www.amnestyusa.org/women

  10. Just like every act of terrorism — but lets face facts and simple math. Noor Almaleki is dead cause her dad was a radical islamist that believed his daughter dishonored the family. His religious beliefs drove him to murder. You are just spinning your wheels on this issue if you refuse to acknowledge and educate.

  11. Its always a bit of a dilemma debating issues that touch on Religious and Socio-ethnic divides. The truth is that in many cultures, people who “dis-honour” their family by “shameful” conduct and usually ostracized. This happens to a higher number of women than men, ’cause naturally woman are the weaker sex and tend to get the short end of any negative law. There is a tendency for Honor Killings amongst and culture with strong values be it Christian, Muslim, Hindu, et al. Its just that statistics are based on crimes that are actually committed and not the presence of a propensity to.

  12. All girls and women are precious and should not be targeted. Every women should feel safe and secure. Those who commit violent acts towards others cannot blame their victim, culture or religion. To live righteously we must live for justice. The justice that women will not be oppressed and dominated by men.

  13. So is there a pandemic honor killing phenomena in US? I assume you have figures to state it.
    The article states that “Women around the world suffer so-called “honor violence”; in Italy there have been a couple of cases in last 2 years, far from an epidemic phenomena, and pretty related to a specific culture (religion and ethnic group). I assume that USA figures will not differ so much.
    So I wonder how does it becomes a gender issue, in your mind?
    Basically since you do not dare to appoint to a specific ethnic or religious culture the issue, you do the most shameful thing, make it a gender issue i.e., fostering a culture of hatred against males.

    If there is anything epidemic, than it is misandry.

    Further, look at the figures of suicides and deprivation of fatherhood rights in USA, those are epidemic…

    ps
    also men and boys are as precious as women and girls.

  14. Can you name one example of a Christian father killing his daughter for wearing jeans and dating a boy? Or a Jewish boy that kills his sister because he doesn’t approve of her becoming “westernized”? If you want to post about violence in general against women, domestic violence, etc… that would be wonderful and those are very worthy causes. BUT – If you want to get specifically serious about Honor Killing — get real and recognize where it comes from and what “teachings” cause it.

  15. @fabrizio
    In Canada there have been 17 known deaths of women due to honor killings since 2000, all of which ended in first degree murder convictions. Of the 17 Canadian victims, 12 were killed by Muslim family members and 5 by Sikhs.

    Canada has a very low murder rate overall so yes, for sure this is a significant number of killings of young women statisticaly for Canada.

    One huge misconception I see here in the comments is that this is only a male on female crime. In fact, in nearly all cases, both in North America, the Middle East and Asia, as often as not the mother of the victim is fully aware of the murder plans in advance, the mother approves of the idea of killing the daughter, the mother is often an active participant in the killing. In many many cases the mother of the victim has been shown to be the main instigator of the murder.

    An typical example of maternal involvement in the killing of the children is the horrific Shafia Family murder of 4 female family members, 3 of them just young teenage girls, that ended in the conviction on first degree murder and sentance to life in prison just a few months ago in Ottawa, Canada of the **mother** of the murdered children. The Canadian court found the mother of the murdered children was a full active party to the crime in this case.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shafia_family_murders

  16. I will just say one last thing, which is that trying to put all the blame for “honor” killings on the religion Islam as some of the commentors here seem to want to do is just as wrong headed as the feminists trying to misapropriate “honor’ killing to the feminist agenda by wrongly claiming it is “gender specific” against all the factual evidence.

    First of all, non-Muslim families also do plenty of these killings of daughters too, as has been pointed out above. Just yesterday in Toronto Canada, a non-muslim, a Sikh women was arrested and charged with murdering her pregnant sister-in-law. This is a regional cultural tribal practice, which spans all the religions of the area.

    Secondly, in mant documented cases these crazy killers, even if they are in name Muslim have rarely set foot in a mosque let alone could be considered deeply religious, radical or fanatical. For example in case of the Shafia quadriple mass murder trial that ended in Canada last month with the father, mother and brother’s first degree murder convictions, evidence showed the killer father and killer son had very rarely if ever attended Muslim prayer services in many years, and the killer mother did not even wear a muslim headcovering or veil of any kind. Yet they put 3 of their own young daughters into the grave.

    And thirdly mainstream Muslim preachers across North America, representing the +95% non-radical non-extremist North American Muslim community have made repeated calls from the pulpit in recent years and months condeming in the strongest terms “honor” killings and have issued repeated religious edicts, fatwas, forbidding violence of any kind towards daughters. The vast vast majority of North American Muslims would never dream of killing thier own children for any reason any more than a Christian or Jewish family would, are nothing but horrified and embarassed by the acts of a tiny minority of crazy child killers from within thier ethnic groups and would like to see this practice completely stamped out as much as anyone eles.

  17. Helpful info- i agree with just about everything you posted. However it was your own post and cited source that stated 91percent worldwide were Muslim. Also – AIs credibility and effectiveness combating this problem would improve if they took the same route you claim main stream Muslim preachers take. Good for them for recognizing this is a problem among RADICAL Islam (among a handful of others to a much lesser degree. I salute the main stream Muslim preachers you reference.

  18. Well, Brian – the glass house i referred to in this case, was any society or culture who believes that they have a mandate or “right” to kill, under any circumstance. And I was especially thinking about capital punishment.

    Then you can find situations where killing is ‘understandable’, like in wars, in self defense and so on, but that does not mean that it gives us the RIGHT to do it, only that circumstances made us do it. And society may therefore accept it under such circumstances, like if you defended your children.

    Now some cultures accept honor as a justifiable reason for killing, but the civilized world does not and it is not supported by human rights.
    Neither is capital punishment.

    Now it may seem as I don’t like USA, but that is wrong. I think USA is really great, but it does not mean that I like everything American.

    In Sweden we have our own glass houses, heaps of them. Our late Prime Minister Palme always told other countries how to behave, but forgot our own violations and bad habits.

    But we don’t have this glass house, except for through imported cultures. I like multi-cultured environments, but we have to get rid of some types of behavior (whether they are cultural or not).

    I sincerely don’t know the best way, except zero tolerance and pointing a finger at bad behavior.

  19. No Neanderthals will be allowed into Canada in the future. All Neanderthals in country, born here or not, must move to uninhabited Artic islands.My apologiewto the good Neanderthals offended by this post

  20. Clearly, honor killings are a problem everywhere. I know for certain it is not only people of Islam who perform such acts. American fathers, brothers, and uncles have been known to act violently towards female members under the name of religious and familial honor. I believe what Americans who seem to want to point fingers at certain people should instead work to stop this from happening. Anyone is capable of committing heinous acts. If honor killings were more exposed, especially in the US, perhaps some could be stopped. Every nation should work to stop such things from happening to the women of our world.

  21. Mbenzi: Once again, its Moran, not Moron…sound it out while you practice tying shoes and posting your boring, half-baked drivel.

  22. If Neanderthals don’t exist, how do you explain your existence?…or are you the missing link, i.e. Mbenzi Man?

  23. I am formerly a man, now a she-male. My problem is not honour killing but honour fucking, as in, “It would be my honour iffen you fucked me”, which every second woman says to me in the change room when they see how well-hung I am. Help!

  24. Jesus that was a supreme effort, you managed an article on abuse of women's rights in predominantly 'Islamic countries' and predominantly by 'Muslim men' in the most gutless and unconvicted manner, I have absolutely no respect for you. Why did you bother? Why bring attention to this travesty and kowtow to the perpetrators by not naming them, you are sending a message that is extremely dangerous, as Muslim men they can do whatever they like because even AI won't name them. You do not represent humanity or human rights. I once considered you one of the greatest organizations in the history of mankind.
    ALL I SEE NOW IS SPINELESS COWARDS!