A book to read: ‘Honour Killing: Stories of Men Who Killed’
Honor killings are amongst the most shocking crimes in Turkey today. When a girl’s behavior has been deemed to besmirch the family’s honor, she may be killed by a male relative.
Often this is not a heat-of-the-moment crime: the family members may gather together to form a family court, pass the death sentence on the young woman and nominate a young male relative to carry out the deed. He faces ostracism from his family unless he follows through.
These horrendous episodes are sadly not few and far between. The inside front page of many national newspapers — page three, the blood and death page — regularly tells the tale of a wife murdered by her husband, a mother killed by her son, a girl whose life is cut short by her older brother or uncle.
For those who come from the parts of the country where honor is a way of life, the code that dictates a life must be taken is not incomprehensible. But for most of the rest of Turkish society, such events are as horrific, and the mindset that leads to this barbarity is just as impenetrable, as it is to European and American observers.
Journalist Ayşe Önal set out to try to understand what led men to kill their own flesh and blood by interviewing men serving a prison sentence for this crime. As a controversial figure — having been variously blacklisted by governments and appearing on death lists — she experienced some difficulty in gaining the necessary permissions. But granted they were, and over the course of several years she interviewed 18 men.
(…) The strength of Önal’s book is that, purely and simply, she tells the stories. There is no detailed sociological or anthropological analysis of the situations. Just the stories of the families concerned, told by the men themselves. Hearing the crimes recounted first-hand is, as Önal says, spine-chilling. It makes your blood run cold. It is just harrowing.
(…) As to the question, who are the murderers? according to one prisoner, “the real murderers are the ones who tell our women to modernize and break with our ways.” One is left wondering how much it is the men themselves, and how much society. The gossips in the neighborhood, those who broke windows of a “house of a harlot,” those who applauded the gunshot, an uncle who incites his nephew to murder, a mother who gives her chilling approval with the words “my brave son” — all these played their part. Önal herself says, when interviewing one man, “I felt like an accessory to a crime.”