Reprinted from the San Diego Examiner.
Only a month after an eight-year old girl from Yemen died on her wedding night after suffering massive internal injuries from her 40-year-old groom, a Yemini father has been arrested for burning his 15-year-old daughter to death because she committed the “crime” of talking to her fiance before their wedding, reported Reuters on Oct. 23, 2013.
In Yemen, burning his 15-year-old daughter to death is a father’s right. It is called “honor killing.” An “honor killing” is the murder of a family member for allegedly “shaming” the family with un-Islamic behavior.
According to traditional tribal customs in some parts of Yemen, fathers marry off their daughters at an extremely young age.
“In 1999, the minimum marriage age of fifteen for women, rarely enforced, was abolished; the onset of puberty, interpreted by conservatives to be at the age of nine, was set as a requirement for consummation of marriage,” reported Human Rights Watch.
“According to a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study released in 1999, there were four hundred so-called honor killings in 1997. This was probably a conservative assessment, since such crimes often went unreported and uninvestigated.”
While the latest incident of a 15-year-old girl having been burned to death by her father occurred in October of 2013, and not in 1997, it shows that “honor killings” are still a widespread custom in Yemen — and around the world.
On Tuesday, Yemen police said that the 35-year-old father had been arrested for having burned his 15-year-old daughter to death in a remote village in the central Taiz province.
While Yemen police are not providing any specific details in the case, local news websites report that the father had caught his 15-year-old daughter talking on the phone with her fiance.
However, strict honor codes in Yemen prohibit contact between the sexes before marriage.
While the details of the girl who was burned to death by her 35-year-old father will most likely never make it into the international media, other stories of horrific honor killings do.
The film “Banaz A Love Story” won an Emmy earlier this month and it is the “honor killing” story of a 17-year-old girl who lived not somewhere in the middle east but in London, England.
At the age of 17, Banaz’ parents married her off to an “illiterate chap,” Ali, who was “literally just off the plane from Iraq” and whom she’d only met once. From the beginning, he routinely beat and raped her. When she complained to her parents, they took his side. After three years of abuse, Banaz left Ali and went to the police in London. But the western police didn’t quite understand.
As FrontPageMag describes, “… after leaving her husband, Banaz found a boyfriend, Rahmat. They tried to keep their romance secret. But one day a fellow Kurd spotted them kissing on a street. A phone call was made; a family ‘council of war’ ensued. And the family dishonor was dealt with in the usual fashion. Only a few months after her police interview, Rahmat reported Banaz missing. The police investigation was led by detective Caroline Goode, the documentary’s main talking head. Although over fifty people had been involved in Banaz’s murder, and although ‘dozens, if not hundreds,’ of Kurds in London knew what had happened to her, ‘not a single member of the community helped us,’ recalls Goode, who states flatly that there was a widespread conspiracy ‘to pervert the course of justice’ by giving false testimony and providing false leads. … Banaz had been strangled to death by three cousins, and at least one of them had also anally raped her – a fact about which he afterwards bragged in a phone call taped by the police. Banaz’s father, uncle, and the three cousins, including two who’d fled to Iraq (and who, according to the film, were the first Iraqi nationals ever to be extradited anywhere), were given life sentences.”
Besides “Banaz A Love Story,” the Kurdish film “Honor Killing” won the European Prize. “Co-writer and moviemaker Mizgin Mujde Arslan believes the topic is an important one: Every year, 5,000 women are murdered in so-called ‘honor killings’ around the world.”
Honor killings are not limited to some remote areas in Yemen. Unfortunately, honor killings occur even in the western world among cultures who believe that going against a tradition or a father’s wish — justifies a girl’s death.