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Honor Violence

What is honor violence?

Honor violence is a form of violence against women committed with the motive of protecting or regaining the honor of the perpetrator, family, or community.  Victims of honor violence are targeted because their actual or perceived behavior is deemed to be shameful or to violate cultural or religious norms.  Conduct such as resisting an arranged marriage, seeking a divorce, adopting a Western lifestyle and wearing Western clothing, and having friends of the opposite sex have resulted in honor violence.

Honor violence involves systematic control of the victim that escalates over a period of time and may begin at a young age.  Honor violence can be perpetrated by one individual or can be a group campaign of harassment and violence committed by an entire family or community.  It can take many forms, including verbal/emotional abuse, threats, stalking, harassment, false imprisonment, physical violence, sexual abuse, and homicide.

How is honor violence different from domestic violence?

Although honor violence involves violence by one family member against another, it has characteristics that make it unique and warrant a different approach by social service providers and law enforcement.  For example, a perpetrator of honor violence believes that his conduct is justified because of the victim’s actions.  Because this perception is supported by deeply ingrained cultural mores, he is generally not alone in this belief and often has the support of his family and community, either in planning and committing the violence or fleeing from law enforcement afterwards.  Additionally, a victim of honor violence is likely to be shunned by her family and community because she is believed to have caused the violence through her own behavior.  For a victim of honor violence to leave the abusive situation, she must not only part from her abuser, but often must be ready to leave her entire nuclear and extended family, and perhaps even her cultural community.  She will face immense pressure to change the offending behavior so as to bring peace to the family and restore the family’s honor and will be made to believe that she deserves the abuse she is suffering.

Does this happen in the United States?

Yes. There are numerous recent examples of honor violence and honor killings in the U.S., a few of which are described below.

Aiya Altameemi

In Arizona in February 2012, 19-year-old Aiya Altameemi was physically assaulted by her mother, father, and younger sister because she was seen talking to a boy.  Her father put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her, while her mother and sister tied her to a bed, taped her mouth shut, and beat her.  This incident followed a previous incident in November 2011 when Aiya’s mother burned her on the face with a hot spoon because she refused to consent to an arranged marriage with a man twice her age.  During an interview with police, Aiya’s parents stated that they had abused their daughter because her behavior violated “Iraqi culture.” Aiya’s mother, father, and sister are all facing charges related to these incidents.

Sarah and Amina Said

In Texas in January 2008, Yaser Said shot and killed his teenage daughters, Sarah and Amina, because he was enraged by their Western lifestyle, particularly that they each had boyfriends. During a vigil held for the girls after their deaths, their brother took the microphone and suggested that his sisters were responsible for what had happened to them, saying “They pulled the trigger, not my dad.” Said fled after the murders and has not yet been apprehended.

Noor Almaleki

In Arizona in October 2009, Faleh Almaleki murdered his 20-year-old daughter, Noor, by running her down with his vehicle because he believed that she had shamed the family by becoming too Western and refusing to marry a man he had selected for her in Iraq. In February 2011, Almaleki was convicted of murder and sentenced to 34 ½ years in prison.

Fauzia A. Mohammad

In May 2008, Waheed Allah Mohammad stabbed his 19-year-old sister, Fauzia, outside of their home in Henrietta, New York. The stabbing occurred during a heated argument between Fauzia and a number of family members over Fauzia’s plan to move to New York City with a friend. Mohammad told investigators that he had stabbed his sister because she had disgraced their family by going to clubs and wearing immodest clothing and was a “bad Muslim girl.” Mohammad pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Our Work

The AHA Foundation depends on the generosity of individual donors to do our life-saving work.  Thanks to your support, we’ve made great strides in fighting forced marriage in the United States.  Our achievements include:

  • The AHA Foundation has educated numerous professionals on the issue of honor violence. We hold an annual conference on honor violence and forced marriage at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, including the first ever conference in the United States covering these issues.  Each year, the conference features a distinguished panel of speakers and is widely attended by professionals likely to encounter victims of these crimes.
  • The AHA Foundation has commissioned a study with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to determine the incidence of honor violence in the United States, which is progressing at an exciting pace.  Once completed, this study will provide key data on the frequency of these crimes, which will aid the AHA foundation as we work to convince legislators of the need to enact laws, or strengthen existing legislation.  The data will also be a tool to show law enforcement, prosecutors, teachers, and other professionals the importance of taking these issues seriously.
  • The AHA Foundation helps girls who come directly to us seeking assistance in fleeing situations of honor violence. We have had great success in referring each of them to appropriate services and helping them achieve safety.