Monday, December 3, 2007

Heartache and revelation in 'honor killing' trial


Where’s NOW? Where’s the United Nations? Where are all the European Human Rights organizations???

How come none of them are coming to the aid of these poor women! They are being slaughtered by their own family members, but no one can help them?

I guess the women’s groups think it is “part of their culture” and they shouldn’t intervene, or they might not look politically correct??

By Roni Singer-Heruti

After hearing four hours of testimony, police and state prosecutors alike were in a highly emotional state: Two female members of the Abu-Ghanem family had broken their silence and testified in court against Kamal Rashad Abu-Ghanem, suspected of the murder of his 19-year-old sister, Hamda, in an "honor killing." Another female member of the Arab Israeli clan was declared a hostile witness after she refused to answer the prosecution's questions; a fourth is missing and feared dead.

Born into the Abu-Ghanem family from Ramle, numbering over 2,000 people, Hamda was the eighth female relative in six years who is believed to have been the victim of an "honor killing" - a murder carried out by a relative to compensate for loss of family status caused ostensibly by the victim's actions. Hamda's murder was preceded by that of seven others - Naifa, Susan, Zinat, Sabrin, Amira, Reem and Shirihan - all killed in similar circumstances. To date, only Reem's murder has been solved. Police have not been able to make progress in their investigations because of lack of cooperation.

Hamda's murder, however, seems to have spurred a real change within the family toward such killings: In its wake, female members have decided to speak out and openly cooperate with the police investigation.
Police questioned 20 witnesses concerning Hamda's murder and were surprised by their cooperation. Four women, including the mother of the victim and of the alleged murderer, have been particularly important in the case. Three of them showed up at court yesterday to testify, but the fourth and most important, Y., who had been close to Hamda and gave incriminating evidence against the suspect, has mysteriously disappeared.

Keren Wexler, a lawyer on behalf of the state prosecution, told the court certain "unlawful measures" had prevented Y. from appearing; police said they were making efforts to locate her.

During her questioning, Y. had repeatedly told police that she feared for her life. "Leave me alone, I don't want to be killed," she said. "It's my turn now ... I don't trust the police in Ramle or anyone ... Why are all our girls being killed?"

A short time later, Y. returned home to Ramle and has not been seen since. Police suspect she may be being held against her will, and fear she may already have been murdered.

Despite the risks, Hamda's mother took the stand to testify against her own son.

"I'm not scared of him," she told the judge. "I told the judges that he is dead to me. I did so much for him, gave him so much, as I did for Hamda as well. Who killed this charming girl, the neighbors? It was him! He told me once, 'There will come a day when Hamda will die.' And I told him that when that day comes, he can forget he ever had a mother."

On the reasons that spurred her to leave Ramle, the witness said she "has no faith in anyone. Everyone's hanging around my house carrying weapons and guns. I know I'm in their sights. I'm scared they'll ambush me."

The last of the three women to take the stand, S., was emotional during her testimony. When she left the court she seemed to be empowered, full of adrenalin and courage. She even mustered the strength to smile at relatives who stood by the hall's entrance.

Two of the women who gave testimony told the judges that they believe the suspect killed Hamda. The third appeared in court, but was declared a hostile witness after she refused to answer the prosecution's questions. She seemed shaken and claimed not to recognize anyone - even her own father.

Hamda's bullet-riddled body was found lying on her bed in her parents' house last January. She had taken refuge in a women's shelter for a long time because she suspected that her brother would try to harm her. According to eye-witnesses, the defendant was seen entering his parents' house, accompanied by a number of men, shortly before Hamda was killed. No one witnessed the murder, but the suspect was seen fleeing the scene immediately after shots were heard. Traces of gunpowder were found on his clothes.

"There's a body of evidence that leads to the conclusion that the suspect murdered his sister," the prosecution said.

During the women's testimony at court yesterday, male members of the Abu-Ghanem clan waited outside. They said they were surprised to have been removed from court. "What does the prosecutor think? That they're scared of us?" one of them said. "Until recently, [Hamda's] mother lived only three meters away. We know where the rest live and nothing has happened to them. We too have sisters and educated women, and no one is killing them. This is all a police fabrication: Rashad is innocent."


  1. Why has it become politically incorrect to stand up for our sisters who are being slaughtered in cold blood in the name of family "honor?"

    We must speak out for the women whose screams have been silenced by murderers. If not us, who? If not now, when?

    Every life is precious.

    Good men and women everywhere cannot hide behind the flimsy veil of political or cultural relativism.

    We must speak out, loudly and long.

    Karen Tintori, author
    Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family

  2. Michelle, good questions, all.

    I've initiated contact with all of the above in my work on "honor" killings, and not one has bothered to reply in any meaningful way. The message I've gotten loud and clear is complete and utter apathy.

    And, yes, I do share your suspicion that it has everything to do with cultural and moral relativism and political correctness. And, yet, doesn't the U.N. have a declaration about universal human rights?

    Anyway, this seeming lack of caring by the obvious organizations means there is a much greater onus on the rest of us to do all that we can. It is just not okay to allow the slaughtering of women. Nothing could be more black and white.

    Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
    "Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

  3. B"H

    WOW! I am so honored that such amazing women, so dedicated to the correct road, to Tikkun Olam, in the greatest sense, have come to visit my blog.

    May your efforts on behalf of these women be blessed, and may you know that many of us join you in your sincere concern for these women.

    Please post where readers can make donations toward this cause.


  4. Michelle,

    You may be interested in the work of one of the organizations speaking up for victims of "honor" killings and speaking out in hopes of saving more lives. They even have sample letters on their site for those of us who wish to write the leaders in Saudi Arabia to demand freedom for the young woman who is sentenced to 200 lashes because she was raped.

    Founded in the UK, ICAHK -- The International Campaign Against Honor Killing -- has tons of information on their website:

    "If you save one life, it is as if you have saved the entire world."

    I pray we can save lives.

    Karen Tintori


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