Mona Eltahawy has in in her latest article”Why do they hate us” discussed the situation of Middle Eastern (Arab) women. For those of you who do not know Eltahawy, she is an Egyptian-American columnist who in November 2011 was detained by military intelligence in Egypt for 12 hours. She was severely beaten and sexually assaulted.
Eltahawy comes to the conclusion that women must be hated for the vicious crimes against them to be accepted, institutionalised and upheld as they are. Naturally, with her article came a flood of criticism against her for allegedly portraying women in these countries as weak, powerless and also for connecting Islam to the crimes against them.
That was three days ago. The same day as a young girl named Maria was stabbed to death, allegedly by her 16 year old male relative for having stained the honour of her family.
The girl who is of Kurdish origin had been found stabbed to death in a city in the south of Sweden. The media is quick to label it an “honour crime” although these are the most unfitting words to be used to describe an act together.
While the investigation into this murder is ongoing (another suspect, this time a woman, was also arrested earlier today) I cannot help but see the discrepancy in the debate about women’s rights in the Middle East.
As a Kurdish woman myself, I was also 19 once and lived in a household with my parents (first generation political refugees) who were slowly acquainting themselves with the new country which was now our safe heaven. I however remember these times as joyful times filled with new discoveries, both within and outside my family frame. I remember my first time moving out to a flat on my own, with my dad helping me and I remember that first cold beer after the move was finished, also with my dad. I do however also remember my friends who were not as lucky as me and who had to hide their interests, views and souls from their families.
There were also those who did not make it. I remember Blesa who was stabbed by her father, in the park across the road from our house, after he had killed her younger sibling. I remember her and I remember my own life.
We were both young, Kurdish women with ambitions, hopes and plans for the future and we were neighbours as well as classmates. She is however not here anymore and I am and that difference is the best way to describe the vicious and horrible act of murdering women, which many call honour killings.
It is Eltahawy’s article and it is Blesa’s life story. It is Maria’s life story and it is my personal experiences. It is not black and white and the more efforts are put into making it so, will only derail us from helping more young women escape the vindictive knives of scorn families.
We must stop labelling women who speak up about these crimes as racists, Islam haters, Kurd haters and as women who have forgotten their roots and where they come from.
I am speaking up about this and I know where I come from. I come from the land of a people who do not kill its women systematically but a place where some due to societal pressure, religious fundamentalism, illiteracy (many times not though), war trauma, disdain towards women and their sexuality, fear of losing power etc do kill young and old women. I can do this as I know that it is not a Kurdish thing, or a Muslim thing or a Northern/Western thing.
It is a “women being killed thing” and that is enough for me to stand against it. It must be said however that there are many with Eurocentric views out there who do everything they can to label the murders of young women, especially in Europe, as just that to promote their own xenophobic ideas and political programs.
I will however not keep quiet about a crime that affects so many young, talented women to prove that I am patriotic or Muslim etc as a reaction to that. Xenophobia must be answered with knowledge, knowledge about extreme life styles and beliefs, away from the everyday religions and ethnicities.
If you want a more analytical aspect as to why there are so many Kurdish “honour killings”, I suggest you read up on how masculinity is shaped and developed. There are many good books out there on the subject. Then look for how that masculinity is shaped and developed in war struck regions. Read up on how a man is deprived of his ethnic identity due to assimilation policies, his identity as a provider due to poverty, his identity as powerful due to the occupation of his land and the effects of that on his psychological development. Then read some more about how all of these deprivations are handled by a man with nothing to gain or to lose and how he maintains power in a world where he is told he has none. He takes it from the ones around him, the ones the society always is depriving of basic rights. The powerless man is always powerful in relation to the women of the society. What he cannot change in the society and the aggression he cannot unleash at the powerful, he unleashes at the powerless. This is not defence- these are facts.
This is a far bigger issue to be reduced to a discussion about ethnic or religious belongings.
I can read Eltahawy’s article and criticise it for not mentioning the position of minority women within the spectrum of the Arab spring but I should not criticise her for merely pointing to the current situation of women which by the way should be history when we now are more than a decade into the millennium.
The women who live to get a pat on their shoulder from the groups that wish to uphold honour killings, have lost their souls. It is with them as it is with the village guards who sell information about Kurdish refugees in the villages in Turkey, and it is just the same as one stepping on you to reach a new step on the career/societal/family latter.
We must stop protecting ourselves from evil by upholding evil itself or we might read about the tragic murder of yet another young woman, maybe one who herself or her female relatives once were patted on the shoulders as well?
If we do not want to ask ourselves why they hate us, let us at least ask why we hate ourselves?