No honor in murder

This past week, Twitter users all over the world rose in defence of Dina Ali. Dina was allegedly fleeing to Australia to seek asylum. While in transit in Manila, Philippines, she was held by airport officials on request of the Saudi embassy as they waited for family members to take her back. 

Dina released a video asking for help in fear for her life and what her family might do to her. Her story is only one that went viral, but she is not alone.

Honor killing is still in practice in many parts of the world today. Dina Ali was able to get her message out, but there are thousands who disappear without a trace. Honor killing is defined as the murder of a person by a family member because of the belief that they have brought shame upon the family or violated some principle within the family or community.

In any developed part of the world, killing another human being would be a serious criminal offence that is punishable to various degrees. However, in certain regions when these killings occur, no one blinks. The victims of these murders are almost always female, and even state officials such as police officers do not interfere. The girls and women are seen as property of their families, and their murders justified. Today, with the use of social media, this injustice is brought to light much clearer than before, but where is the justice? If states and governments do not protect their people, who bears the responsibility?

There are different forms of honor-based violence. Forced marriage, abduction, imprisonment, forced abortion, and honor killings. All of these are ways in which women’s lives are governed and restricted by family members, and all of these kinds of violence exist in the MENA region.

While there are laws protecting women against some of these types of violence, more often than not it happens behind closed doors. There have been reports of honor killings in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. The laws protecting honor killings still exist in several regions, however it is clear that they are not derived from Islamic laws and come more from cultural and societal expectations.

Arab societies are found to generally have a gender biases in favour of males, offering them the upper hand in society. Females are restricted and bound by social rules of morality, and men enforce these rules. Men who do not uphold or enforce social codes of conduct on the women in their lives are deemed as weak, and the whole foundation of their masculinity depends on this. Therefore, the cycle never ends. It is hard to find real statistics for individual countries where these crimes occur because most of the time they aren’t even reported. That is probably the biggest indicator that more needs to be done in protection of women and girls who face these situations.

Human rights organisations all over the world exist in order to end human rights abuses and to create change where human rights violations are taking place. Organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and The United Nations Human Rights Committee all exist to serve this purpose. But where are they? There needs to be further investigation and more pressure put on states to crush honor-based violence and the practice of honor killing. Thousands took to Twitter in the wake of the #IAmDinaAli hashtag. Calls for intervention were sent to many human rights groups and human rights activists all over the Internet attempted to get more awareness for Dina’s struggle. In the end, her family got hold of her and no one has heard from her since.

On a local level this issue is horrifying because there is not much difference between the society I, as an Arab female, live in and the one that girls like Dina live in. This situation could be happening to someone I know personally. On a global scale, this matters even more because organisations dedicated to human rights need to address what is happening and strive to get justice for those who cannot get it themselves. There is something deeply horrific when a girl implores the world for help and gets no response.

Amna al Baker

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