Page 30

REUTERS/ALI JAREKJI

PHOTOGRAPHS OF THREE JORDANIAN WOMEN, THEIR FACES COVERED TO HIDE THEIR IDENTITY, AT THE QAFQAFA JAIL IN NORTHERN JORDAN. THE WOMEN, WHO WERE RAPED, ASSAULTED, OR HAD RELATIONSHIPS OUTSIDE MARRIAGE, ARE BEING KEPT IN JAIL TO PROTECT THEM FROM “HONOR KILLING” BY THEIR FAMILIES.

editors-in-chief since I began working at the Jordan Times more than 15 years ago in 1993, and they have all been supportive. None of them have ever tried to stop me from reporting or tried to change my interests. On the contrary. Have there been threats made to you? I have received many emails sent to me from people living abroad, Arab men living specifically in the US. There are a lot of people in Jordan who are very supportive and there are people who are against me. They want to keep the issue under the covers, they want to keep women under control, they think what I am doing tarnishes the image and reputation of Jordan. We have our culture and traditions and these people live in the past. You began writing about honor killings in 1994 and almost immediately brought attention to the issue, not just in Jordan but internationally—long before Norma Khouri’s book came out. A movement began to come together in Jordan to address honor crimes. Yes, it was called The Jordanian National Committee to Eliminate the So-called Crimes of Honor. Changing the laws in Jordan was one of many issues we addressed. We understood that changing the law alone was not going to help. We had to work on changing people’s attitudes, improving services for abused women, finding solutions for women whose lives are under threat—not just to put them in prison. The law is very important but it is not the only solution. Religious figures should openly speak against these crimes, the education system needs to be worked on, and the media needs to work to portray the women in Jordan in a much more balanced manner.We were working to bring awareness, traveling from one governorate to the other talking about the issue, holding lectures, distributing flyers, and going to talk to people in person. It was a very important and interesting experience, for us and the movement.We also broke another taboo. People in the past were scared to sign any petitions. We managed to get 15,400 signatures on a petition that demanded that Article 340 of the Jordanian Penal Code, which reduces penalties and exempts those who kill or injure in the name of honour, be immediately cancelled. However, it was not enough. But we were able to raise awareness, the media covered us extensively both in Jordan and abroad, people started to understand more what is a honor crime, that innocent women were in prison, and what the laws are. So it has become a very known topic now among people who did not know it existed before. Attitudes are changing. I did a public lecture last year. Several men stood up at the end of the lecture and told me, “We know that killing our sister is wrong, but sometimes we are forced. How 28 NEWS & POLITICS CHRONOGRAM 4/08

can we avoid doing this?” In the past, when I would give a lecture, men would raise their hands and say, “I would kill my sister, so what.” But now the average person is becoming more aware about this issue.Things are moving. Of course, they will not change overnight. Especially since honor killing is so embedded in tradition. Exactly. In the parliamentary debate regarding changing the laws, critics say, “We don’t want any Western interference. These are Western ideals interfering in Jordanian law and our traditions.” But isn’t the tradition of this law itself Western? Yes. It was a Western law that was imposed. Legislators took it from the Ottoman and Napoleonic Code.This Article 340 exists in almost all the penal codes all over the world. One part of the law addresses adultery. When a man walks in and finds his wife with another man and kills her—a wife in the rest of the world but not in Jordan, where any female relative is subject to being killed—it is called temporary insanity. My argument with the Jordanian women’s movement is that female lawyers are still insisting Article 340 be abolished even though it is rarely used. But another law, Article 98 is very elastic and could be attached to all the cases I mentioned earlier allowing killers to walk free. A man can say, “I had an argument with my sister because she dated a man, so I killed her.” He can claim he killed her in a “fit of fury” as allowed under Article 98. Article 340 is very specific—if a man walks in and finds his wife with another man and kills her—which is almost impossible to actually happen. Ferris Nesheiwat has written that, “Jordanian society has demonstrated wilful ignorance of the true principles that govern crime and punishment under Islamic law. If true principles of Islamic law were followed, not a single woman would lose her life because of fornication and no woman would be extra judicially killed.” That’s my point! Article 340 is very specific and is never used. Article 98 is what needs to be addressed. Also, these crimes happen in Christian societies in this part of the world as well. So it is not exclusively an Islamic crime. There is also the issue of the time frame. If the husband walks in and sees his wife with another man and kills her, this can be claimed to be a moment of insanity. But in the cases in Jordan, the family actually comes together and plots to kill the female family member. It is a premeditated murder. Exactly.

Chronogram - April 2008  

A regional magazine dedicated to stimulating and supporting the creative and cultural life of New York's beautiful Hudson Valley. - April 20...

Chronogram - April 2008  

A regional magazine dedicated to stimulating and supporting the creative and cultural life of New York's beautiful Hudson Valley. - April 20...

Advertisement