Dishonorable laws

The vision of the young girl who was murdered in Iraq in an “honor” killing still haunts me. The idea that a mob, a group of men, believed that they have a right to be the judge, jury and executioners of this young woman shocked me to the core. I guess I forget what its like sometimes. I forget that in today’s 21st century Middle East and neighboring countries, some of the most archaic, brutal and uncivilized tribal laws are still upheld and defended.


There is something inherently wrong with a system that nullifies and abuses the rights of the most vulnerable. No religion in the world allows for this brutality– but our political and religious leaders support it by refusing to condemn it.


One of the first acts the new Iraqi government did was to restrict and change laws that empower women. That was a priority for todays Iraq. According to a UN report - in January and February of this year-more than 40 women were murdered in honor killings in Iraq – a sharp increase.


Globally, it is estimated that around 5000 women are killed every year from honor killings. The status quo will not change without a social, political and religious outcry against laws that protect and pardon those that are involved in honor killings. Every Middle Eastern country makes amends to honor crimes, including progressive countries such as Jordan and Morocco– a fact that totally baffles me.


Of course - domestic violence is a serious issue in every culture – but at least there are laws that protect and punish, and support systems to help and empower. Many women are killed and abused by their batterers – but those batterers are tried and sentenced. There is still much more to be done in terms of justice for victims, but at least we are working towards a better system – not going backwards. I refuse to accept that nothing can be done.


As Arab Americans our voices can be heard and our condemnation of such injustices to our representatives might help get more money and funding directed towards legal and social reforms that make a real difference and help create a true civil society in the Middle East.


We might forget the cell phone video of a young girl lying on the ground beaten, terrified, humiliated and murdered by her own, life goes on. We are reminded the next time this happens.


Her name was Duaa Khalil Aswa. She was 17 and she was killed because she dared to fall in love.

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About Lena Alhusseini

Ms. Alhusseini joined the Arab American Family Support Center as Executive Director in April 06 after a number of years at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), where she served as international outreach project manager on issues of child protection, abduction and child trafficking. Prior to joining NCMEC, Alhusseini worked for the Gateway Battered Women’s Shelter in Denver, Colorado where she developed the Shelter’s children’s program and worked with immigrant populations including Arab-American women and children. Before coming to the U.S., Alhusseini served with a number of international organizations around the world on issues pertaining to child protection and human trafficking, including USAID and UNICEF. Most notably, she established the Jordan River Foundation’s child protection unit under the direction of HM Queen Rania Al Abdullah. That organization was the first in Jordan to address the issue of child abuse. Born in Jerusalem and raised in Saudi Arabia and the UK, Alhusseini is of Palestinian origin.

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