'Everybody has a responsibility for the eradication of murders in the name of honor'

22 Nov 2005

UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund and UNDP, United Nations Developmet Programme launched the "The Dynamics of Honor Killings in Turkey: Prospects for Action" Report on the most shameful type of violence against women, honor killings.

The research was conducted by the Population Association of Turkey. The report was prepared with the idea of analyzing the social structures, life syles and the mentality structures behind these actions to develop policies to eradicate violence against women including honor killings. The report lights the way for the social structure and understanding behind the notion of honor and honor killings.
"Honor is the reason for our living now. That means we live for the cause of honor now. I don't know, but without honor life has no meaning It is okay if you don't have money, but you must have dignity. (Sanliurfa, from a group interview with male university students, age 19-22)

This quotation, highlighting the importance of "honor" within society, is taken from a report prepared by the Population Assocation of Turkey and supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The research was conducted in four cities-Istanbul, Sanliurfa, Batman, and Adana-with 194 group interviews through group interviews with a cross-section of society: youth; public officials including teachers police officers; lawyers; media and NGOs. The findings brought up the perception of honor within society, the factors and actions that constitute this perception; and the meaning of "dishonorable" conduct. The report also cites the reasons behind the honor killings: 1) socio-economic deprivations and underdevelopment; 2) patriarchal relations as a consequence of men establishing control over women; 3) role of the family within the society and how people raise their children; 4) social pressures which render men helpless; and 5) personal factors.

The analysis of these findings point to four key messages that may shape recommendations for future action for Turkey to reduce honor killings within society.

  • While honor exists as an important concept within society, honor itself should be de-linked from acts of crime and violence
  • The younger generation are actually more accepting and supportive of killing in the name of honor than their elders. This finding is reinforced by recent findings that %63 of the young women aged 15-19 expect to be beaten as part of their married life. These two findings show that the young generation needs to be trained profoundly for combating violence against women.
  • Some public officials actually contribute to honor killings by create an environment and a set of attitudes in which killing in the name of honor is tolerated within society despite its violation of a women's ultimate freedom and rights.
  • At the same time, there are signs of hope as some public officials actively work through initiatives and policies to eradicate the notion of "honor killings" as acceptable within Turkish society.

According to the research, in spite of different perceptions among people, the strongest tendency in all cities is to consider honor as a woman, her body, sexuality and the control of women. Honor is mainly related with women, sexual relations between men and women, girls' chastity and marital infidelity.

This is usually how it is formulated by men and some of the women in more traditional circles and some professionals. Within this context, honor is the wife, that is, the 'lawful wife', the sister or the mother of a man, the other women in the family and even women in his immediate environment. A man is obliged to keep a "protective eye" on all these women. Such an understanding expends the men's responsibility and increases the pressure on women.

The findings of this research also shows that in the society there are different perceptions of how honor related murders, forms of differentiating honor / custom related murders and reasons for the commission of murder in the name of honor. According to the research another important finding is that people tend to differentiate between murders committed with the motive of honor and those committed as a result of family council decision or so-called custom related killings.

On the other hand, people in places where such events were experienced more frequently, especially those who were involved in or closely witnessed such events, did not differentiate between honor related murders based on customs and others. In the report what emphasized was the understanding of honor underlying these events. They used expressions such as 'it doesn't matter whether it is honor or custom related, they are both the same anyway, they both mean honor'.

The report suggests several recommendations to address and eradicate honor killings. This report raises the need to have a social agreement to eradicate honor killings. It seems that the initial phase of the social agreement should be actions to be taken for breaking the chain of hopelessness and helplessness for preventing such events. Statements by many people and organizations that are sensitive in this subject and consider themselves to own the problem are crucial in order to eliminate the atmosphere of hopelessness and helplessness. The examples in the report shows that sometimes only one individual's action can make significant difference.

As it was stated in the report, the democtatic institutions of Turkey should be fully committed to the rule of law and universal principles of freedom and equality for protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls. To eradicate the mentality behind the honor killings, state must introduce a ZERO TOLERANCE policy which should be supported by all the social institutions including all state employees (such as teachers, policemen, religious leaders, legislators, prosecuters, judges etc), NGOs, community leaders, families, education system and the media.

In the report there are examples of public officials who are committed to actively protect the rights and fundemental freedoms of citizens, as well as examples of publis officials who support beliefs and promote honor killings which is the extreme violation of women's human rights.

"Why should a person work? Why should he live anyway? This is first for his honor and second for daily bread. If a person has hunger, he can eat something small and feel satisfied. However, if one loses his honor, there is nothing to be done, no returnwhat is honor? It is your wife. [The word used here is 'helalin', meaning someone over whom you have a right; someone permissible for you] (Istanbul, male, age 25, police officer)

"We helped her to be sent to a hostel. She went to a hostel in Ankara afterwards. They make them go from one hostel to another in order to make the family lose her track. After a certain time, if the girl wants she can leave the hostel." (?anlyurfa, male, indeterminate age, police officer)

The report proposes below mentioned actions to develop a zero tolerence policy; (1) Establishing shelters, station services and hotlines to protect the women and girls in danger; (2) Training state employees in gender equality and the social and personal ill effects of honor crimes; (3) Restructuring the national education system to promote gender equality; (4) Training young people, men, women, NGO activists, related professionals on honour killings; (5) Establishing local "discussion centers", especially for families; (6) Working with religious leaders and community leaders; (6) Empowering women and girls through education, training and social activities; (7) Working as a pressure group for the implementation of the recent legal changes.

According to the report media has critical role; the media, and particularly local media, should: have an informative, critical and transformative role in raising public awareness; provide people with accurate information about both NGOs and other organizations; try to show that violence and murder for the sake of honor violates human rights through the use of social leaders, religious officers, people liked and respected by that society and popular people from the world of science, the arts and sports; introduce good examples in the fight against violence, including training and NGO activities.