SANAA – In a country of contradiction and extremes, Yemen stands like two faces of a coin on the one side it aspire to transform itself into a modern civil state and the other a remote tribal country plagued by honor killing associated with cultural and tribal laws, which often contradicts with the teachings of the Qur’an.
“Honour killings are a problem in Yemen, a deeply tribal and conservative country,” Ahmed al-Qureshi, Yemen’s most prominent child advocate and Head of Seyaj organization, told OnIslam.net.
“Most incidents of honour killing take place in rural areas where tribal law is applied.”
|Honor Killings in Non- Muslim Communities|
Last month, a Yemeni father and well-respected member of his community was arrested in the southern city of Taiz for the murder of his 15-year-old daughter.
Upon discovering that his 15-year old daughter, whose engagement had already been celebrated, was chatting on the phone to her fiancé, a father decided to end the life of his child in the most cruel and violent manner possible; burning her alive.
Soon after the news of the crime spread through the community, the authorities intervened and ordered the man’s immediate arrest.
The crime, though deplorable, was not an unusual scene in the land of Sheba, where a centuries-old civilization dominated.
Just as child marriage has been a contentious issue in Yemen, honour killings have as well been the source of much controversy.
Ali Al-Bahri, a Yemeni human rights activist stressed that most honour killings in the country had gone unreported and thus unchallenged due to a lack of political will on the part of the government and strong cultural connotations.
“Most deaths go unreported and killers are allowed to walk free … what we need is for the government to take the matter seriously, then we might see a change,” he told OnIslam.net.
Surgir, a French-based NGO working to promote women rights, which has long campaigned in Yemen against honour killings told OnIslam, “violence against women due to what is called honour crimes didn’t receive interest from governmental and non-governmental institutions concerned with women human rights until 2005 when a study was implemented by the Arab Forum for Human Rights.”
“The disinterest in honour crimes in Yemen is due to the sensitivity of the subject matter and its connection to a set of social values.”
With politicians turning a blind eye to these crimes, tribal chiefs have used the religious card whenever defending honour crimes, ignoring Islamic rules on the issue.
“Islam does not sanction such killings,” Faris Hussein al-Ansi, a professor of Islamic Studies from Aden in Yemen, told OnIslam.net.
“Those who hide behind the verses of the Holy Quran and willingly twist God’s laws are the criminals. They have sullied our religion only to serve their misplaced sense of honour and desire to rule through fear.”
“Nothing in the Quran, supports the death punishment for honour-related transgressions.”
In Islam, there is no place for unjustifiable killing as the case in honor killing.
Even in case of capital punishment, only the government can apply the law through the judicial procedures.
Though portrayed in the Western media as exhorted by Islam, honor killing is a cultural act and has nothing to do with the faith.
Yet, in Yemen’s tribal hierarchal society, moral values are one of the most important criterions that a person is judged upon.
In a traditional society that is not connected to individuals but to groups, a woman's honour is not a matter that concerns her or her family, but it also concerns the tribe or clan.
“The concepts of women as property and honour are so deeply entrenched in the social, political and economic fabric of society that the government, for the most part, ignores the daily occurrences of women being killed and maimed by their families,” wrote Elham Hassan back in 2006 when reporting on honour killings in Yemen. Almost a decade later, her words ring ever so true, depicting what reality Yemeni women have to live under.
Imam Mohamed al-Katiri from the province of Hadhramawt agreed adding, Islam stood strongly against any illicit relations between men and women. Yet, strict rules had to be followed before a judgement could be passed and punishment carried out.
“Any accusation of illicit sexual behaviour [which are often at the source of honour killings] must have been seen by four witnesses; and they must have been witness to the act of sexual intercourse itself,” he said.
“Other forms of intimacy do not constitute zina [unlawful sexual intercourse].”
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