[FOUNTAIN]War, honor and the law

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[FOUNTAIN]War, honor and the law

A baby-faced boy, 17-year-old Akmed, found a police station in Baghdad last week. Detectives brought tea and lighted his cigarette. The boy had come in after he fired 20 shots from a rifle at his mother, older half-brother and his younger sister. The detectives comforted him, patting his back. He calmly finished his statement and went to the detention cell. He wore a thin smile, telling a photographer, “I feel comfortable after finishing what I had to do.”
It is an Islamic tradition that male family members or relatives kill a woman who has committed adultery to restore the honor of a family or clan. It is a remnant of the male-dominated nomadic culture that is said to have helped people survive in a barren land through moving, plunder and war. Honor killing emphasizes the tradition of favoring males in a culture where the chastity of woman was an absolute value. Female chastity was regarded in the same light as the chastity of the group, and damage to that chastity was an insult. A custom still persists in which a groom’s mother boasts of the first-night bloodstains in the bridal bed to her neighbors.
Akmed began to dream of murder three years ago. He saw his mother having an affair with his half-brother, but did not tell anyone about it. Because his father died last year, he struggled with the thought that he had been summoned to solve this problem. When Saddam Hussein was ousted, his chance came. As security broke down and illegal weapons became rampant, he was able to buy an AK-47 rifle and 30 rounds of ammunition for only $35. He may face confinement of only a few months to a year before being freed.
The honor killing trial in London last Monday was totally different. A Muslim father stabbed his 16-year-old daughter because she fell in love with a young Christian man. The media thundered that cultural traditions cannot justify murder, and he was given a life sentence. The police also plan to prosecute his Muslim neighbor, who shielded him from the police, for interference with law enforcement activities.
The responses in the two countries were as far apart as the distance between them, but honor killings are increasing in both Iraq and in Great Britain. Muslims from Iraq are swarming to emigrate to the country of their old colonial master to escape the unrest in their homeland after Saddam’s ouster. War always brings an unexpected and destructive aftermath.

by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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