Noor Almaleki was a beautiful 20-year-old woman who always had a thousand watt smile on her face. She had high hopes for her future, wanted to get a college education and have a career. But that was not to be. Noor was of Iraqi descent but was raised in Arizona since she was a young child. The older she got, the more Noor's father, Faleh Almaleki, got upset at how Westernized she had become. He forced her to quit her job at a fast food restaurant and tried controlling every aspect of her life. She rebelled. Noor just wanted to be what in America would be considered normal. Her father secretly arranged for her to marry a total stranger, an Iraqi man she did not know, and tricked her into going to Iraq. Once there, her dad said she couldn't return to the states unless she married the man. So she did, and she returned to Arizona without her husband. And then Noor fell in love with another man. The young lovers moved in together. Her father was furious that she had brought such dishonor to the family by her immoral actions.
So furious that he killed her by running her over with his Jeep.
Once he had committed this incomprehensible crime against his own daughter, Faleh Almaleki attempted to flee from the US on a flight to London. Upon arrival in England, he was refused entry and was immediately deported back to the United States, where he was promptly arrested. Faleh Almaleki has allegedly admitted to killing his daughter, reasoning that she had brought shame on the family.
"Different cultures, different values. One thing to one culture does not make sense to another culture," said Peter-Ali Almaleki, explaining why his father mowed down his sister Noor in a government parking lot in Peoria, Arizona, killing her.
Peter-Ali's statement is definitely true. I certainly don't understand how murdering one's own daughter is acceptable in some societies when it is believed that she has brought shame on the family with what they perceive to be immoral behavior. How can family honor be more important than a family member's life? What honor is there in killing your own daughter?
Are we not expected to follow the laws of the land that we are in when we travel or live in other countries? Why then does this father knowingly disobey US law and then flee like a coward? Most honor killings are carried out by a male family member against a close female relative. However honor killings directed at men are becoming more common when it is believed that the male family member is gay. It is estimated that an average of 5000 honor killings occur worldwide every year.
Human Rights Watch defines "honor killings" as follows:
Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by individuals within her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband — or allegedly committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.
On New Years Day of 2008 in Texas, an Egyptian man shot and killed both of his teenage daughters, Sarah and Amina Said, when he discovered that they had boyfriends. Last year a young Saudi woman was killed by her father for chatting on Facebook with a man. Recently in Pakistan several young girls were buried alive when they refused to enter into arranged marriages and expressed their desires to marry men of their choice. Sixteen year old Aqsa Parvez was strangled and beaten to death by her own father in Canada over her refusal to wear the hijab, the scarf many Muslim women wear to cover their hair in public. And in a bizarre twist on honor killings, an Iraqi woman was arrested for orchestrating the rapes of some 80 women, shaming them so that she could recruit them into becoming martyrs, suicide bombers whose actions would free them and their families from the shame of their rapes that SHE had arranged in the first place. Other women have been killed for wanting a divorce, for flirting, or just for wearing makeup. Many times her murderer is never charged with any crime, and oftentimes, if they are, the maximum sentence will be six measly months in jail.
But what really surprises the hell out of me is the reaction - and many times the LACK of reaction - from the communities involved when honor killings occur. When mourners at Sarah and Amina's funeral were told by their imam that "all living things are destined to die," as if to just shrug off their deaths as a natural process, and were told by another religious cleric that parents need to work to keep their families strong - they are missing the opportunity to decry and discourage this type of misogynistic behavior and, in reality, are condoning it. I know that Islam does not condone honor killings, but there is no denying that there is a recurring pattern here that honor killings are mainly committed by Muslims against Muslim women.
The killer of Sarah and Amina Said - their father Yaser Said - is still on the run. It is believed that he absconded to Egypt right after killing his daughters. Until men around the world stop trying to control every aspect of their women family members' lives, treating them like children who are unable to make decisions for themselves, telling them how they should dress and behave, or who they should marry, or where they can or cannot go - until men allow women to make their own decisions about their own lives, women like Noor, and Sarah, and Amina will continue to be murdered by the very men who are supposed to love them and protect them. How many more innocent young women must die before this archaic and barbaric practise stops? I concede that immorality is rampant in the West, but killing a child for not wanting to wear a scarf on her head is way worse than any immoral behavior I can think of.
When honor killings occur, does the rest of the community REALLY look upon it as having restored the family's honor? Do any of them view it as wrong? Or do people actually believe that these murders are justified? I don't understand how cultures can claim that their religions are peaceful and say that killing another human being is wrong, and then all these senseless crazy murders like this keep happening. The men of these families have appointed themselves judge and executioner in these cases, but doesn't their religion tell them NOT to judge others? There is something very wrong with the man who would rather KILL his own child than to have her live her life exposing her hair, or having a boyfriend, or marrying for love. I just don't understand this mentality...
UPDATE: 23NOV2009 - Faleh Hassan Almaleki, Noor's father, has pleaded Not Guilty in court to charges of Aggravated Assault. He's been on suicide watch in jail which caused his hearing to be delayed twice. It is expected that he will be charged with more serious offenses since Noor died.