Honour Killing : a drama

Honour killings were the subject of an ITV mini series this week. It was a dramatisation of the real-life case of the murder of a Kurdish Teenager, Banaz Mahmod, by members of her family. Her offense was that she left her husband and then began a relationship with another man. I found it compelling and disturbing viewing. It reminded me of a case in 2003 in Warrington, where I live. That case concerned the death of a Pakistani teenager,  Shafilea Iftikhar Ahmed, whose parents were eventually convicted of her murder.

Honour killing: fiction or fact?

I have also recently read a novel, ‘Love Like Blood’ by one of my favourite crimewriters, Mark Billingham.  Mark’s fictitious hero, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, discovers that a murder he is investigating is one of a series of honour killings.Apart from being a gripping detective mystery/thriller, it is an informative insight into a certain aspect of society. Mark claims the story was based on a lot of research into the subject. This is not something I have covered in any of my novels, but I am glad someone has. I have written about failings by the police and the justice system, but there is a need to expose all kinds of injustice. I hope I can contribute something towards that, as many fiction writers do.

Why ask whether honour killing exists?

In both the cases I mentioned above, and in many others over the years, there is one thing in common. The police and almost everyone else found it very hard to believe that people would murder their own children, even if they had broken a social or cultural norm, one allegedly part of their religion.[Mark Billingham says this phenomenon is not peculiar to Islam and that not all Islamic scholars and leaders believe it to be a requirement of the faith]. In both the cases I mentioned, the detectives were looking for a long time for some other explanation for the victim’s disappearance. Many members of the victims’ families and friends insisted that honour killings never happen, certainly not in this country. Many people still make that assertion, regardless of the evidence.

Who else denies honour killing exists?

Some women’s groups, especially those consisting mainly of women from Islamic backgrounds, argue that the perpetrators of such killings are not defending their honour (not all have any). They say it is about male domination. Some men are afraid of losing their status if they lose control of their families. On the other hand, some men from certain cultures argue that we in the West have no honour and do not understand those who do.

What do I believe about honour killing?

I believe in honour and I think a lot of people in this country do. It involves honesty, justice, protecting the weak and admitting our own failings. It does not involve killing, least of all killing people who dissent from our beliefs or who undermine our status. So in that sense, there is no such thing as honour killing. Murder is not honourable.

Tape saying 'Police Line Do Not Cross'. Honour killings do get investigated nowadays.

Honour killings do get investigated nowadays