Press Release: Wikan, In Honor of Fadime

May 5, 2008
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According to Human Rights Watch, honor killings are acts of murder committed by men against female family members who are believed to have brought shame upon their family. A woman can be targeted as such for refusing to enter an arranged marriage, for being the victim of a sexual assault, for seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or for even allegedly committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that dishonors her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life. And that’s tragically far too often the case. The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 women each year fall victim to honor killings.
In this unflinching exploration, Unni Wikan places this heinous phenomenon beneath the lens of one case study, the notorious murder of Fadime Sahindal. For choosing a lover outside of her Kurdish community, Fadime was brutally shot and killed by her father at point blank range in front of her mother and younger sister. Wikan uses this murder and the sensational trial that followed to upset our pat assumptions about honor killings and to bring the factors that inspire them into clearer focus.
Here Wikan argues that these killings are too frequently linked to Islam: honor killings have been reported to take place among Christians as well as Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and even Buddhists. These are not crimes motivated by religious zealotry; nor are they crimes of passion or jealousy; rather, these are acts motivated by fear, for a family shamed brings even greater shame onto its community, and faces intense scrutiny and ostracization until honor is restored. Only until the cultural forces driving such tribalism wane will honor killings begin to cease.
But ultimately, this heartbreaking story belongs to Fadime. This is a tragic portrait of one brave woman who as soon as her life became endangered used her plight as a platform to increase awareness about these abhorrent crimes, exposing their shocking prevalence (and in some nations acceptance) before a stunned Western world.
Read the press release.

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