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Book Discussion of Murder in the Name of Honour by Rana Husseini (Winter 2009/2010, at the Soros Foundation in New York City). Rana Husseini is a senior reporter at the Jordan Times.

Honor killing is an international phenomena happening mainly in impoverished and uneducated areas. In most of the cases, the crime of honor killing is committed by close relatives of the victim, who is found guilty of tarnishing the family image or reputation by her behavior. Most killers, based on Rana’s experience, are not in peace with themselves after committing such a crime because they were themselves victims of social pressures leading them to do such acts.

According to official figures, 31 women are victims of honor killing every day in the world. But Rana stated that based on her experience, the number is much higher as in many instances these crimes are not investigated by the authorities due to the taboo attached to it.

When Rana started working as a reporter for the Jordan Times in the 1980s, she realized that the crime of honor killing was a taboo subject in Jordanian society and was not reported in the media. In addition, she noticed that the perpetrators of such crimes were mostly never brought to a court or if so, faced minor prison sentences ranging from three months to a year. Therefore, Rana used her position at the Jordan Times to publish on a regular basis stories of women subject to “honor killing.” Her aim was to raise public awareness on the issue by reaching out intellectuals, officials and general public trough the Jordan Times. The newspaper received numerous letters to the editor from Jordanian citizens supporting her work and officials started to look at the issue more closely.

In 1989, she started a grass-roots movement to collect 150,000 signatures, the minimum number required by the Jordanian law to propose a change in law. Her aim was to increase the minimum prison sentence penalty for perpetrators of honor killing. Thanks to her dedication, the grass-roots movement was able to collect the required number of signatures by reaching out remote areas of Jordan. Thus, she presented to the government her proposed change in law regarding honor killing. Despite the fact that the law was not changed due to a strong resistance from religious leaders, Rana is proud to say today that her initiative broke the taboo of speaking about honor killing in Jordanian society and brought awareness to the general public. As of 2008, there were 8 reported victims of honor killings in Jordan, which is a clear victory of Rana’s awareness campaign.

In addition, Rana’s work has been and is still supported by the Royal Family of Jordan, who never stood on her way while conducted her research and work.

Jordan is currently examining the option of a special court dealing only with honor killings, as studies show that different courts in different parts of the country were interpreting the law in a non coherent manner.

According to Rana, changing the law is a first step to decrease the number of honor killings in a given country. She also highlighted the need to improve the educational system and the image of women. In addition, she is advocating for religious leaders to speak out on the issue of honor killings and to condemn such crimes which are against any religion. Furthermore, she indicated that awareness campaigns should be broader to include domestic violence against women and should be conducted in every country regardless of religion.

Finally, Rana pointed out the necessity to tackle difficulties faced by gays and lesbians in the Muslim world, which is a taboo in the Muslim religion.

Rana’s book Murder in the name of Honor is today available worldwide in English and Arabic.

Written by Linda Bouzembrak