Saturday, July 21, 2007

Not Enough Honour

The three men convicted of the so-called "honour"* killing of Banaz Mahmod have been handed lengthly prison sentences. Those sentences are: 23, 20 and 17 years (which for overseas readers means realistically with good behaviour, etc they'll serve 10-15 years each). Which is long, but I guarantee if the victim had been white and blond the sentences - for two hours of rape, sexual degradation, torture, including stamping on her neck, and ultimately drawn-out agonising murder - would have surely been "life" with a substantial minimum tarrif.

But for me regardless of sentence-length - I still feel that the response is NOT ENOUGH. There are three other defendents who should be in the docks today too.

1. The Community

Look at the quote in this report from Judge Brian Barker: "You are hard and unswerving men to whom apparently the respect from the community is more important than your own flesh and blood." If we accept that respect in that community** here in the UK is best gained by murdering your own daughter, then we have to face up to that. Going back to the first report (linked top), we read "Relatives weep as three men are sentenced". That may well be bad reporting, perhaps they in fact wept at the details of the murder and/or the relief of seeing justice done. The way it's explained though it sounds as though there were people present who believed the men did the right thing and were bewailing the 'injustice' of their convictions.

Encouraging crime like this is itself a crime, as is harbouring the criminals and covering up the crime. We need to let people know that the law comes first, not religious or cultural considerations.

2. The Police

As the BBC reports "Ms Mahmod had asked police for help four times but her claims were said not to have been taken seriously." Apparently on one occasion she called the police after being trapped by her father at her grandmother's house, having broken a window to escape, and they threatened to arrest her for breaking the window. Police need better training to identify those who may be at risk from this kind of thing and to be able to offer such women immediate protection and assistance in escaping the community.

3. The Government

Attempting to control the behaviour of someone through acts and threats of violence infringes on their human rights. We need to make sure everyone in our country knows that. We need safe houses for those who wish to leave communities who are mistreating them in this way, and we need to make sure everyone knows what to do if they believe themselves to be at risk, or if they no longer wish to live in these communities.

Mahmod Mahmod in prison or out poses a limited threat to others. Of his two daughters, one is dead and the other has run away from him. Other women in the community however are still at risk and until all three of my suggested co-defendants address that head on, they will remain that way.

*Using the term "honour" to describe someone raping, torturing and murdering their own daughter is clearly the wrong term. We should find a better one.

**And I don't mean "The Muslim Community", because many Muslims are as horrified as I am by the murder. I don't believe that we can treat Muslims as a single amorphous group. Besides which there are other religions within which the concept of "honour killings" exists.

6 comments:

joanne said...

You may be pleased to note that the sentences you mention are minimum terms and therefore whatever good behaviour they exhibit Mahmod and Ari will not see freedom until they are old old men.

Cruella said...

Ah that's good - that wasn't the way they put it in the Indie or the BBC. Cool.

Zenobia said...

If she was white and middle-class we would have heard how her boyfriend was completely stricken with grief, and how she was an amazing person, star athlete, with a great future in her career, and a wonderful wife and mother.

Except that her boyfriend is a muslim man so we can't possibly identify with his pain according to the media, and Banaz Mahmod herself didn't have kids, wasn't married, and we've no idea if she had a job or not. We just don't know anything about her except her marital status and the fact that she was brutally killed.

If she was white we'd know her favourite colour and the name of her pet kitten.

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Paul said...

Erm,

In the link you give to the Guardian article, "handed lengthy prison sentences", maybe you missed the following:

Ari, a respected businessman whom the judge described as "the force behind the enterprise", was told he would spend a minimum of 23 years behind bars, while Mahmod will serve 20. Hama will serve a minimum of 17 years.

I suppose it's easy to miss details like that when you're already outraged by the end of the first paragraph, but at least own up to your mistake.

Cruella said...

Did I miss that? Ok - owned up to! Glad to discover they will be serving decent sentences.