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Romeo and Juliet in Muslim Iraq

Posted on November 22 2010 9:00 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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Sirwa Hama Amin, with her son in Erbil, Iraq

Romeo and Juliet are alive and well in Dokan, Iraq—well, not exactly. Romeo (Aram Jamal Rasool) was murdered in an honor killing. Juliet (Sirwa Hama Amin) gave birth to her legal husband Romeo’s son, but was also permanently shunned by her own family—the same family who killed her beloved Romeo. Juliet now lives in a house filled with weapons and is escorted by armed guards provided by Romeo’s family when she leaves the house.

This Juliet can never marry again. She is a dishonored woman. She can never see her relatives again—except perhaps for a moment, when they murder her; perhaps not even then, for her family may send a paid assassin to cleanse its shame.

The honor murder of a man, not a woman has, seemingly, catapulted the case into the American media. Finally, at long last, even the New York Times has written about an honor killing committed in a Muslim country: Iraqi Kurdistan. In the past, the same American mainstream media which has refused to write about honor killings committed in the United States, has only addressed honor killings in India; they do not hesitate to describe them as “Hindu” honor killings if indeed, Hindus have committed the crime.

However, in this latest article the word “Muslim” or “Islam” is never used. But the article, written by John Leland and Namo Abdulla, goes further than this mere omission. Its clear political objective appears in the title and subtitle: “A Killing Set Honor Above Love: A Stern Tribal Code Grips Iraqi Kurdistan.”

Just in case you fail to understand their point, in the fourth paragraph, the journalists quote Qadir Abdul-Rahman, one of Juliet’s uncles as saying, “The girl and boy should be killed. It’s about honor. Honor is more important for us than religion.”

And there you have it. “Muslims” do not commit honor killings—and when they do, it has nothing to do with Islam. The murderers are not described as Muslims. They are identified as tribal elders. When such unidentified people commit honor killings the murders are due to a “deep seated tribal honor code.”

If so, then why not drop “Hindu” and “Sikh” from the articles about Hindu and Sikh honor killings?

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