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The Sad Story of Zahra al-Azzo
September 25, 2007 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Zahra al-Azzo was murdered by her brother last January in a horrible, but all-too-common Syrian honor killing. Public outcry at her murder is growing.
posted by felix betachat (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I don't understand the concept of honor killings. Is it really more honorable to have a murderer in the family than a rape victim?
posted by mullingitover at 6:03 PM on September 25, 2007


Well, most rapes are not seen as rapes. The girl "asked for it", and that is how she besmirched the family's honor.

The idea of avenging honor through bloodshed is a long one that crosses all cultures. Dueling in Western societies, seppuku in Japan, avenging the deaths of one's family members or lords, whether you're killing yourself or another spilling blood to cleanse a wrongdoing is a very powerful image that can be incredibly difficult to uproot. Even in Western countries you can see violent retaliation for wrongs done, if only in the form of schoolyard brawls.

Poor Zahra. Poor Fawaz.
posted by schroedinger at 6:10 PM on September 25, 2007


And Zahra's father having an affair... ? No family honor issues for her poor mother, no. Nothing about Zahra naively trying to help her father, who didn't deserve her sacrifice.
posted by bloomicy at 6:28 PM on September 25, 2007


Up to a point I can forgive people and their weird religious ideas. I can explain away some pretty questionable practices and ideas as being byproducts of poverty or a lack of education. However, when your culture sanctions murdering women in cold blood because they were also raped, it's a good sign that your culture has no place in the modern world. I look forward to future generations reading about this practice in the history books between the sections on slavery and cannibalism.

The crazy part is that part where the 'average guy in the street' in Damascus is talking about Syria's head cleric. He points out that if the change to the law goes through, the people will rise up and murder the cleric.

So fuck the Syrians. If Dubya wants to 'liberate' them, I could actually get behind this.
posted by mullingitover at 6:36 PM on September 25, 2007


If Dubya wants to 'liberate' them, I could actually get behind this.

The world does not need another bloodbath.

That said, every single traditional culture is dedicated to oppression, and sometimes murder, of women. That's why multiculturalism, if taken to an extreme, is such a bad idea.

How can you make sense of this terrible tragedy? At least it's getting attention. It sounds like this sort of thing is far from unheard of there.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:19 PM on September 25, 2007


Violence against women statistics are depressing no matter where you live.
posted by chunking express at 7:31 PM on September 25, 2007


What I found interesting in the Zoepf NYT article was the way she distinguished carefully between Islam, Syria and conservative cultural mores in the course of her diagnosis. If the Grand Mufti is speaking out against the practice of honor killing, and the man on the street is claiming that such a stance merits his death, it should be clear that something other than simply Islam is the problem here. If she's to be believed, the backlash that is beginning to form is developing on socio-economic lines, with educated and urban elites decrying the backward practices of their rural countrymen.

So, it's a little more complicated than "hurf durf falafel eater". But given that those same elites have tolerated this sort of behavior for far too long, it might not be that much more complicated.

In any case, Zahra's husband Fawaz is a courageous man. I hope he sees some justice.
posted by felix betachat at 7:34 PM on September 25, 2007


Shouldn't the word honor be put in ironic quotes in this instance.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:57 PM on September 25, 2007


Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings has a characteristically sensible, sensitive and intelligent take on this case. Excerpt:
If this is right, then the intense focus on female sexual morality is a response to the collapse of most other forms of honor. When you live in a corrupt dictatorship and you cannot uphold your own dignity by refusing to participate in corruption, by speaking up for what you believe in, by being honest and noble and brave and true, then perhaps you might think: well, at least there is this one thing I can still control: my daughters, my sisters. It's not much, but I think I can imagine, somewhat dimly and without sympathy, why that might look like the only possibility you have when all else fails you, and why you might cling to it all the more if you knew, in your heart, that being honorable in any fuller sense was beyond you. When everything gives way and you have no solid ground to stand on, holding fast to almost anything can look like a good idea. Thus a person who has lost his job and cannot find another can stake everything on whatever small shred of dignity remains to him, and people whose neighborhoods are crumbling around them can take meticulous care of their own rooms and furniture, using their fastidious vacuuming and polishing and dusting as a way to ward off the chaos that is slowly swallowing everything around them.
posted by Kattullus at 9:00 PM on September 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


For the record, I don't think this practice has anything to do with proper Islamic practice, hence my saying "Fuck the Syrians" and not "Fuck the Muslims." I understand that an accurate interpretation of the Koran probably doesn't support murdering innocent women, and this is probably a practice that has been shoehorned into the religion by people who want to keep doing what they've been doing all along. Much like Catholics celebrating Saturnalia and other pagan rituals in the guise of religious holidays.
posted by mullingitover at 9:38 PM on September 25, 2007


mulling: Don't forget EU-candidate Turkey.
posted by Ljubljana at 11:32 PM on September 25, 2007


I understand that an accurate interpretation of the Koran probably doesn't support murdering innocent women, and this is probably a practice that has been shoehorned into the religion by people who want to keep doing what they've been doing all along.

Nah. If "accurate" means true to the intent of the authors, then it's not unlikely that the Koran prescribes the kind of violence we see here. So does the Bible. It's not surpising that the people who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago did not share our values. The difference is that some religions and/or cultures have made progress, and others have not.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:58 PM on September 25, 2007


Up to a point I can forgive people and their weird religious ideas. I can explain away some pretty questionable practices and ideas as being byproducts of poverty or a lack of education. However, when your culture sanctions murdering women in cold blood because they were also raped, it's a good sign that your culture has no place in the modern world. I look forward to future generations reading about this practice in the history books between the sections on slavery and cannibalism.

Agreed, but bombing the shit out of a country where people are murdering women in cold blood because they were also raped belongs in the same chapter in those history books, so I'd kindly ask you to reconsider getting behind Bush on this.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:52 AM on September 26, 2007


A grandmother who ordered the so-called "honour killing" of her daughter-in-law has been jailed for life.
posted by Huw at 6:23 AM on September 26, 2007


Up to a point I can forgive people and their weird religious ideas.

So fuck the Syrians

Just for the sake of clarity here, the "all too common" link talks about a previous killing of an Iraqi Yazidi woman killed by other Iraqi Yazids most likely in Syria. That would be a cultural practice that is neither Islamic nor Syrian even though it was perpetrated by refugees in Syria.

See also.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:05 AM on September 26, 2007


So fuck the Syrians

Yes, we certainly should judge all Syrians based on the actions of a few.

Fucking brilliant there.

FARK FARK FARK
posted by chunking express at 7:21 AM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


mullingitover said: So fuck the Syrians. If Dubya wants to 'liberate' them, I could actually get behind this.

Well, good. So, you won't mind if we liberate Pakistan, where over 1000 honor killings happened last year, or Jordan where there were hundreds, India where there were close to a thousand, or any of the following countries that had honor killings last year: England, Scotland, Denmark, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, France, and Germany.

Because after all, the American way to deal with our outrage is too kill bunches of people to teach a few of them a lesson, right?
posted by Peecabu at 8:21 AM on September 26, 2007


Peecabu,

Good point, now fuck off. I guess you're judging all Americans by the statements of one possible American. Hypocrite.
posted by sfts2 at 9:45 AM on September 26, 2007


What a horrible situation. Thank you for the links, felix, I learned something today. Though I wish I hadn't.
posted by widdershins at 11:05 AM on September 26, 2007


How was it honorable for the family to kill her, after expressly swearing that they wouldn't? Throw the whole clan in a cellar and piss on the locked cellar door.
posted by notsnot at 12:31 PM on September 26, 2007


The family then asked one of Zahra's cousins to marry her, which according to tradition would restore honour to the family. Fawaz agreed to marry her first out of chivalry, then because he fell in love with her.

Her family and the family of her soon-to-be-husband all came to the shelter to formalise her marriage, and her father signed a sworn statement guaranteeing that neither he nor anyone in the family would harm Zahra.
So she ran away with the first guy to save her father's life, then followed the rules that were put on her to save her life AND received an assurance from her family they weren't going to kill her.

And then they killed her anyway.

Yeah, someone needs to go away for a long time for this. They speak of doing this to 'cleanse their honor', but I can't see the logic of how they get around the fact she did what they wanted to cleanse the honor, and then broke their sworn word. The kind of mental twisting that needs... I can't even imagine it.
posted by mephron at 1:03 PM on September 26, 2007


Honor killings have more to do with misogyny than a particular religion. The reason that there are people in Syria who claim that honor killing is in accordance with Islamic law (Shari'a) is likely because the Shari'a historically incorporated the customs of the land wherever Islam took root, and contributed to the rapid spread of Islam west to Morocco and East to the Indian subcontinent in under a century. So while something may be un-Islamic, it could potentially be permitted by a school of Shari'a. Don't forget the Shari'a is not divine law, but manmade law in which the Koran/Quran is the main, but not only, source.

Additionally, if the Syrian government wants to send a strong signal to its people, Zahra's whole family should be imprisoned for life ... not just the sons, as they were accomplices to the murder.
posted by Azaadistani at 11:10 PM on September 26, 2007


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