The Palestinian Authority leader leaves open an honor murder loophole.
Last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “scrapped the laws” which guaranteed “leniency” for honor killers. Family honor will no longer be a mitigating factor in such cases. On the West Bank and in Gaza, such barbaric murders of girls and women routinely draw sentences of six months or less.
Abbas was apparently driven to this unusual act by public outrage about an alleged honor killing which took place near Hebron on the West Bank.
Over a year ago, on April 20, 2010, 20-year-old Aya Baradiya disappeared. Her paternal uncle, 37-year-old Iqab Baradiya, and two accomplices had kidnapped her, bound her hand and foot, and threw her down a well, leaving her to die a slow and painful death. Her remains were not found for more than a year.
Aya was a religious woman who wore a hijab. Her university classmates described her as “chaste and noble-minded.”
What crime did she commit? Aya wanted to marry a man. Her suitor went through the traditional channels. Her parents approved of the match but wanted her to wait until she graduated. Her uncle, 17 years older than she was, strongly disapproved of the engagement. And so he killed her.
Although the media are now reporting her murder as an honor killing, it is not a classic honor killing.
For example, her uncle did not immediately confess. Although many honor killings are disguised as “suicides” or accidents and never made public, in general, those that do come to public light often involve proud confessions. Honor killers confess as a way of publicizing that they have “cleansed their shame.”
In Aya’s case, there was no “shame” that had to be cleansed.
In addition, Aya’s parents and siblings did not collaborate in the decision to murder their daughter, knew nothing about it, were haunted by her disappearance, and played absolutely no role in her murder. In fact, when Aya did not return home from university, her parents immediately reported her missing.
One suspects that her uncle may have had a highly inappropriate interest in his niece. His behavior suggests that he had an unnatural proprietary interest in her sexual and reproductive future and acted as if his niece was more like his daughter over whom he had the power of life and death.
How ironic that President Abbas, who has thus far been unmoved by the epidemic of honor killings among Arabs on the West Bank, in Gaza, and in Israel proper (where Israeli police make arrests), has now ostensibly decided to do the right thing vis-a-vis honor killings—when no honor killing has occurred. But is he really doing the right thing?
Aya’s murdering uncle has demonstrated the cruelty of Arab men towards Arab women; this includes the innocent women in their own immediate and extended families as well as women in general. Their misogyny is barbaric. Aya Baradiya was murdered—but it was not an honor murder. Please read my studies on honor killings in order to understand what one actually is. The following are some examples of genuine honor murders among Arabs on the West Bank, in Gaza, and in Israel, which apparently left President Abbas unmoved.
In 2003, Rofayda Qaoud of Abu Qash in the West Bank was murdered by her mother Amira Qaoud, who put a plastic bag over her head and sliced her wrists with a razor. Her crime? Rofayda had been raped by her two brothers and impregnated. According to her mother, the family’s honor demanded that she sacrifice her daughter for the violent crimes of her criminally psychopathic sons.
In 2007, Hamda Abu-Ghanem, 18, was shot to death in Ramle, Israel, by her brother and her cousin because some men in her town had referred to her as a “prostitute.” She was the eighth woman to have been murdered in her extended family in seven years and, in an unprecedented move, the family's women finally went public.
In 2007, 21-year-old Nadia Abu Amar of Jerusalem was murdered by her three brothers and her uncle because she refused to marry the man she was engaged to and because she got her father arrested and convicted for assault.
In 2009, Fadia Najjar of Gaza City, a divorced mother of five, was bludgeoned to death by her father because she owned a cell phone. He suspected that she was using it to call a man outside of the family. The day after the murder, he turned himself into police.
According to Asma Al-Ghoul, an Arab Palestinian feminist who has focused on Arab honor killings, Najla’ A., 24, a divorced woman living in Rafah in Gaza, was strangled by her extremist brother while sleeping because she used to be away from home for long hours, which ignited rumors about her behavior. After the police discovered what had happened, her family bribed the police and they let the brother go. (Al-Ghoul does not date this case).
In typical Arab style, President Abbas has said he has done something but he has really done nothing. He has not yet signed his vow into law or published it. Abbas has used the unexpected outcry against the (non-honor) murder of a young woman who is being called a “martyr,” and whose reputation was above reproach, to stage a symbolic but actually toothless response to the very real epidemic of honor killings among Arabs. According to experts, judges do not rely upon the “mitigating factor” provision when they hand down lenient sentences for honor murderers. According to Haaretz, a newspaper with which I generally do not agree, here are the facts about what Abbas did (and didn’t) do:
[A] review of the draft of the presidential decree indicates that judges in Palestinian courts, who showed leniency toward murderers - handing down sentences ranging from six months to three or four years in prison in such cases - did not necessarily rely on the two problematic clauses mentioned above, but rather, on other articles not even mentioned in the presidential decree.
In addition, there is this: Aya is being presented as a “chaste” and “noble” girl who did nothing wrong according to Arab standards. What about those Arab girls and women who refuse to veil or to accept arranged marriages? Or who are seen as too “Western?” Do Abbas and Arab society still believe that such women deserve to be honor murdered? In what way are their civil and personal rights protected under the rule of the Palestinian Authority or under Hamas’s rule in Gaza?
As usual, the Western and Arab media is not that helpful. In this instance, the Associated Press reporters have further misled the public by failing to understand that Aya Baradiya’s murder, however heinous, was not an honor killing—at least not in the classical sense. They present the facts but fail to analyze them properly.
Furthermore, why did the AP reporters chose to quote Suha Arafat and Hanan Ashrawi, two prominent Palestinian women who masquerade as feminist activists but who have done nothing to combat or expose honor killings in Palestinian society? Suha claims that she tried to persuade her late husband, Yaser Arafat, the terrorist leader, to do something about the problem, but there is no record of this. As for Ashrawi, I searched far and wide for anything that she might have said or done about honor killings before AP quoted her, but there appears to be nothing. Her 1995 memoir, This Side of Peace: A Personal Account, doesn’t contain a single reference to honor killings.
Both claim to have secretly aided would-be honor killing victims. Again, the only networks I know about are Israeli Jewish feminist networks and Christian feminist networks. Like Edward Said, Ashrawi is a Christian, and yet somehow I doubt she would have jeopardized her only-woman status on the Executive Committee of the PLO to help the most vulnerable of her gender in distress. Finally, the only “safe” place an Arab girl or woman can be easily spirited away to is…Israel.
Suha Arafat and Ashrawi are propagandists, ideologues, uber-nationalists who have justified terrorism and demonized Israel. This is their strong suit. They are not feminist activists. Next time, AP should interview Asma Al-Ghoul, who was among the eight female journalists who were arrested, beaten, and tortured by Hamas this past March in Gaza.