There is no explicit statement in the Qur’an (I don’t know about the hadith) urging or sanctioning “honor killings,” but it’s now become a feature of Islamic culture, and has been justified on religious grounds (in Jordan, attempts to strengthen laws against honor killing were opposed and turned back by Muslim leaders for religious reasons).
Virtually every case (I’ll add here “that I know of”) of “honor killing” is done by Muslims, and is committed against women, either for being raped (the excuses here are that a raped woman must have been a temptress, provoking the uncontrollable lust of men, or that a raped woman is no longer a virgin and thus not a candidate for marriage), for consorting with an apostate, for having extramarital or premarital sex, and so on. Often young members of the family, like boys, are assigned to do the deed, with the idea that they’d get off easier if they were young.
Such women (men, of course, aren’t often the subject of honor killings) are killed in a sick and perverted attempt to restore “honor” to the family defiled by, say, having one of its daughters raped. One would think that if you have to restore honor through violence (something that I do not favor, of course), you’d kill the rapist, or at least men involved in such episodes. But that rarely happens. That’s because it’s women’s sexuality that is supposedly besmirched, not the male’s; and that cult of “purity” also comes from religion.
Now, in Afghanistan, which has become increasingly more radical and misogynistic since the ultrareligious Taliban has made gains, comes one of the most odious cases of incipient honor killing I’ve heard of.
As The New York Times reported on July 19, a ten-year-old girl, weighing just 40 pounds and prepubescent, was raped by a mullah (a religiously educated Muslim man, usually with high standing). His name is Mohammad Amin.
The rape was so violent that it nearly killed the girl. The mullah has confessed, but said that he thought the girl was 17 (yeah, that explains why she weighed 40 pounds and had no secondary sexual characteristics), and has offered to marry her. The girl was placed in an shelter for women to protect her, as her family threatened to “honor” kill her. But, and the idiocy continues, now the police have taken the girl out of the shelter and returned her to her family. Unless somebody intervenes, she’s doomed to die—for the “crime” of being raped by a much older man. One can’t even use the excuse that she “tempted” him.
Here are some facts (these are direct quotes from the Times). It’s unbelievable that people can behave this way:
The girl’s own testimony, and medical evidence, supported a rape so violent that it caused a fistula, or a break in the wall between the vagina and rectum, according to the police and the official bill of indictment. She bled so profusely after the attack that she was at one point in danger of losing her life because of a delay in getting medical care.
- The case has broader repercussions. The head of the Women for Afghan Women shelter here where the girl took refuge, Dr. Hassina Sarwari, was at one point driven into hiding by death threats from the girl’s family and other mullahs, who sought to play down the crime by arguing the girl was much older than 10. One militia commander sent Dr. Sarwari threatening texts and an ultimatum to return the girl to her family. The doctor said she now wanted to flee Afghanistan.
Most of the anger in Kunduz has been focused not on the mullah but on the women’s activists and the shelter, which is one of seven operated across Afghanistan by W omen for Afghan Women, an Afghan-run charity that is heavily dependent on American aid, from both government and private donors.
“People know this office as the Americans’ office,” Dr. Sarwari said. “They all think the shelter is an American shelter. There isn’t a single American here,” she said.
“W.A.W. is not American-run,” said Manizha Naderi, its executive director. “Every single staff member is an Afghan. They are from the communities we work in. Our only concern is to make sure women and girls are protected and that they get justice.”
- When Dr. Sarwari, who is a pediatrician, arrived to pick up the girl at the hospital, a crowd of village elders from Alti Gumbad, the girl’s home village on the outskirts of the city of Kunduz, were gathered outside the hospital; the girl’s brothers, father and uncle were among them. Inside, Dr. Sarwari encountered the girl’s aunt, who told her she had been ordered by her husband to sneak the girl out of the hospital and deliver her to the male relatives outside. “She said they wanted to take her and kill her, and dump her in the river,” Dr. Sarwari said.
- In the hospital room, the doctor found the girl’s mother holding her child’s hand, and both were weeping. “My daughter, may dust and soil protect you now,” Dr. Sarwari quoted the mother as saying. “We will make you a bed of dust and soil. We will send you to the cemetery where you will be safe.”
Dr. Sarwari has accused prosecutors and religious officials of siding with the accused rapist and ignoring the child’s plight.
“There are a lot of powerful people behind the mullah,” Dr. Sarwari said. The girl’s family knows they cannot do anything to Mr. Amin, she said, but “the girl is easy. They can get to her; she’s their daughter.” She said she feared the girl would either be killed, or forced to recant her accusations against the mullah.
Women for Afghan Women arranged for the girl to get medical treatment, and after she healed, she was returned to the shelter in Kunduz, about two weeks ago, until the police returned her to her family last Tuesday. Those caring for the girl said she had been terribly homesick and wanted to return to her family, but no one had the heart to tell her they had been conspiring to kill her.
I don’t see any way that this girl’s life will be saved now that she’s in the hands of her family. The girl is doubly victimized: by a pedophilic imam who uses his position to rape a child, and by her family, who doesn’t care very much about the rapist iman, but really, really wants to kill their daughter. It makes me weep that people can be so bestial—so twisted—that they can do this. And blame religion, too, for this is an endemic trait of Islam, though it’s also sometimes seen in non-Islamic cultures (I’m having a hard time finding cases of honor killings not involving Muslims, but citing one or two won’t disprove the relationship).
The imam has been arrested, but he’ll likely either get off or get the usual very light sentence. All we can do is fight against the forms of religion that sanction this behavior, and donate to Women for Afghan Women. Their numerous programs are described on the site, and this video shows some of the suffering inflicted on Afghan women:
You can donate here; I didn’t hesitate a second.