Faten Habash’s father wept as he assured his daughter there would be no more beatings, no more threats to her life and that she was free to marry the man she loved, even if he was a Muslim. All he asked was that Faten return home.
Hassan Habash even gave his word to an emissary from a Bedouin tribe traditionally brought in to mediate in matters of family honour, a commitment regarded as sacrosanct in Palestinian society. But the next weekend, as Faten watched a Boy Scouts parade from the balcony of her Ramallah home, the 22-year-old Christian Palestinian was dragged into the living room and bludgeoned to death with an iron bar. Her father was arrested for the murder.
“He gave me his word she would not be harmed,” said Ibrahim Abu Dahouq, the Bedouin mediator. “He was crying and begging her to come home. They were even telling me that for their daughter to leave their house as a bride would be an honour for them. We never believed that love would lead to death in this ugly way.”
Maher Shakirat summoned three of his sisters to discuss a family uproar after one of them, Rudaina, was thrown out by her husband for an alleged affair. Maher listened to Rudaina’s denials, and her sisters’ pleas that they were not covering up the affair. Then he forced the three women to drink bleach before strangling Rudaina, who was eight months pregnant. The other sisters tried to flee but Maher caught and strangled Amani, 20. The third, Leila, escaped but was badly injured by the bleach.
Maher, a bus driver in his 30s, is in hiding but his parents were arrested for allegedly ordering the murders and his wife was detained as an accomplice. As he was taken into custody, Rudaina’s father, Amin, was asked why his daughters were killed. “Because they dishonoured the family,” he said. “A married woman who goes with another man isn’t good.”
Although honour killings have a long history in Palestinian society, women’s rights groups say the rise in these murders cannot be separated from the resurgent violence of the past four years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Things are breaking down because of the changing relationship between men and women. Increased numbers of women are the main source of income while her husband sits around. That is the kiss of death for that family,” said Mrs Abu Dayyeh Shamas.
“Men feel they have lost their dignity and that they can somehow restore it by upholding the family’s honour. We’ve noticed recent cases are much more violent in nature; attempts to kill, rape, incest. There is an incredible amount of incest.”
Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud murdered her daughter, Rafayda, because she became pregnant after being raped by two of her brothers.
“My daughter fell over and broke her knee. I took her to hospital and there the doctor told me she was pregnant. So I killed her. It’s as simple as that,” said Mrs Qaoud on her doorstep in Ramallah. Mrs Qaoud waited until the baby was born and given up for adoption. Then she presented her 22 year-old daughter with a razor blade and told her to slash her wrists.
She refused so her mother pulled a plastic bag over her head, sliced her wrists and beat her head with a stick. The brothers were sentenced to 10 years for the rape. Mrs Qaoud spent two years in prison for killing her daughter. She has purged her home of all pictures of her older children, and declines to discuss the killing, saying all she wants is to forget about it.
Yes, you can say that this is their culture but I give no pass for this kind of thing. What kind of person would murder their own child for something like this? It’s disgusting and it should not be happening.