Jordan Honour Killings of Women

National Jordanian Campaign to eliminate the so called "Crimes of Honour"*

We are a group of Jordanian citizens who have no personal, political, or racial interests, but are gathered with one unifying issue as free individuals, which is our right to a good and safe life, free from violence in a society that protects the rights of all, which abides by the rules of the Constitution which assures equality to all in front of the law in rights and duties.

Through the years, our country has witnessed abhorrent crimes that are refused by every clear-thinking and honest Jordanian. These crimes were committed in the name of honour, and those who have committed them received very soft sentences, which in turn has encouraged their belief and that of others that the crime they committed is socially acceptable.

Since the victims have no longer a voice to raise, and since we jealously guard the life and the safety of all Jordanian citizens (men and women) and the right of each Jordanian to live in peace and harmony based on the respect of human dignity, individual rights, justice, security, fair trial and defense and because these crimes contradicted Islamic LAW (Sharia), the Constitution and the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), we express our support of the decision of the Minister of Justice Hamzeh Haddad and the government, who, in moving to abolish Article 340 of the Jordanian penal Code, have acted according to the spirit of His Majesty King Abdullah's directives to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

Based on these principles, we decided to organize this campaign to practice our civil rights to demand that legislative, judicial and administrative authorities and the various national official sectors take all necessary measures and use all legal, democratic means at their disposal - judicial, legislative, educational and media - to eliminate this ugly phenomena of the so called crimes of "honour."

In the name of our sisters, daughters and mothers who do not have any voice, in the name of those who this minute unjustly suffer different forms of violence and injury to protect honour, with no one to protect them and guarantee their human rights, we raise our own voices.

We call for the immediate cancellation of Article 340 in its entirety, which gives reduction and exemptions to those who kill or injure in the name of honour.

We stress the need to implement the law so as not to waste any chance to punish killers and to show society that these crimes will not be tolerated. We stress the need to implement a fair and preventive punishment against anyone who commits crimes against women or a female in the name of honour.

We call on all the concerned citizens of this country to share our work to ensure that this initiative is a national effort which allows Jordanians to express their opinion and help the authorities to become aware of the public's directives in order for the authorities to take the appropriate and necessary decisions to protect the safety of dozens of innocent women who are victims of traditions and social norms that are outside the rule of Islam, the Jordanian Constitution and basic human rights.

We announce that we have prepared numbered petitions which contain five columns including the name, date, number of official document, phone number and signature. Jordanian citizens only, who are legally eligible to vote, will sign these petitions.

Our aim is to collect thousands of signatures to emphasize the desire of a large percentage of voters to cancel Article 340 of the Jordanian Penal Code and to work intensively with all means available to abolish this inhuman practice.

We launch our campaign by appealing to all citizens to take the initiative and sign this petition. We will also announce some of the names of the first groups who lent great support to this national effort, which helped to strengthen our convictions of the necessity of this campaign.

Jordanian citizens in living in Jordan or abroad are invited to join a national effort to abolish crimes of honor in our society. Those who wish to lead their support to this campaign may send a fax. The fax should include your first, middle and last name, your birthdate, your phone number, your identification number (national ID, passport or driver's licence) and your signature. the fax numbers are: (++962-6)5682735 (++962-6)5699171

For additional information about the campaign to abolish honour crimes: e-mail:[email protected] or [email protected] or call: (++962-6)7-9545776 (++962-6)7-9554511

Jordanian Parliament Supports Impunity For Honor Killings

(Washington DC, January 27, 2000) -- Human Rights Watch today condemned the failure of the Jordanian Lower House to end impunity for men who murder female family members in the name of preserving the "honor" of the family.

"For too long, men in Jordan have been getting away with murder," said Regan Ralph, executive director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. "This vote is a slap in the face of Jordanian women who have been organizing to stop the killings." Since August 1999, women's and human rights activists have gathered over 13,000 signatures calling for an end to honor killings. An estimated 25-30 women are killed in Jordan every year to protect family "honor."

This is the second time in two months that the Jordanian Lower House has failed to abolish Article 340 of the Penal Code, which provides for lenient sentences when men kill their female relatives in the name of "honor." Parliamentarians justified their defense of honor killings as protection of Jordan's traditional and moral values against western influences. The Upper House last month had agreed to abolish Article 340. The Upper and Lower Houses will meet for a final vote before the end of the parliamentary session in March.

Jordan is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which proscribe discrimination based on sex. The UN Committee on Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination Against Women criticized yesterday Jordan's performance on "honor" crimes.

Human Rights Watch further called on the Jordanian parliament to provide protection for women threatened by their family members on the basis of "honor," and to abolish other laws that discriminate against women, including the rape law, citizenship

Human Rights Watch Honors Jordanians Opposing "Honor Killings"

Honours awarded to MAHA ABU AYYASH in Oct 2001 NZ Herald 20 Oct 2001

(New York, November 13, 2000) On Tuesday, November 14, Human Rights Watch will give its highest recognition to a group of Jordanian activists working to end so-called "honor crimes" in Jordan. Since its founding in 1999, the National Jordanian Campaign Committee to Eliminate the so-called Crimes of Honor has worked to end impunity for men who murder female family members in the name of preserving family honor.

Some twenty-five women are reportedly killed in Jordan each year in honor killings. In most cases, a girl or woman is killed by a male family member for the perceived violation of notions of family honor. The Jordanian government has to date failed to abolish laws allowing for the lenient treatment of honor crimes. Nor has it taken any steps to punish appropriately those who commit them or to protect threatened women. This inaction contributes to a climate of impunity for this form of violence against women -- a situation the Jordanian Campaign is working to change through public awareness and petition campaigns.

The 2000 Human Rights Watch Annual Dinners, in New York and Los Angeles, will honor five human rights defenders from around the world. Through their perseverance these individuals fought for justice in Jordan, India, Russia, China, and Sierra Leone. Often, they risk their lives to defend their fellow citizens from abusive governments and armed forces. Human Rights Watch works with these brave individuals on the ground as part of our defense of human rights in more than 70 countries around the world.

Human Rights Watch is a non-profit, international monitoring group with headquarters in New York. It accepts no financial support from any government or government agency.

Background on the National Jordanian Campaign to Eliminate Crimes of Honor Consisting of 11 Jordanian men and women, the Committee has launched a campaign to abolish Article 340 of the Jordanian Penal Code, which gives lenient sentences (usually a few months or a few years) to those who kill in the name of honor. Between 25 to 30 women are killed in Jordan this way each year, for marrying someone their family does not approve of, for being raped, for suspected adultery, or for being the subject of a neighborhood rumor. These crimes are committed by a male relative of the victim. The Committee has been gathering national and international support for the campaign, working to break down the silence that has traditionally surrounded violence against women in Jordan. Maha Abu Ayyash and Rana Husseini will be representing the National Jordanian Campaign to Eliminate Crimes of Honor. For more information on the campaign, please visit:

National Jordanian Campaign Committee to Eliminate Crimes of Honor (Jordan): MAHA ABU AYYASH

Maha Abu Ayyash is a member of the committee's Steering Board. Her committee uses novel approaches to address this phenomenon in Jordan. As an artist and educator, her efforts have been useful in writing and designing a mass leafleting and signature collecting campaign, the first of its kind in Jordan. Working on an unpopular issue, the group has been able to spread mass information and discussion, on a hitherto taboo and elite topic. Through employment of a "citizen to citizen" method the group has been able to concentrate public and media attention on the abhorrent phenomenon. The group aspires to eliminate all clauses in the Jordanian criminal code which protect murders of female kin once they invoke honor as their motive, especially the ill-famed "Article 340".


They are killed, and any memory of their "dishonored" existence is deliberately erased.
Do they have gravestones and epitaphs?
You cannot hear the weeping of their mothers.
There are no condolences, no questions nor answers.
They suffer brutal violence - are killed without reason: it is injustice.
The sentence against them is brutal - a punishment for crimes not committed, handed down without
evidence, witnesses, judges or trials.
As a society we endorse the verdict after it is rendered.
Mercy is not a factor weighed on the tilted scales of justice used to judge them.
Their lives vanish into the hell of the forgotten.
We fail to protect them, and their lives are gone in vain.

In Jordan, the Price of Honor Is Women's Blood
Run Date: 11/14/00 By Jamal J. Halaby WEnews correspondent

In a desert nation of conservative Bedouin tribes, activists are trying to scrap the time-honored law that gives men light sentences for murdering female relatives for offenses to family honor. The new king opposes these "honor killings." ZARQA, Jordan (WOMENSENEWS)--It took Ahmad Ismail two months to track down his teen-age sister Haneen who had fled home with a boyfriend two years ago.

When Ahmad pulled the trigger, 19-year-old Haneen was two months pregnant. Ahmad, now 17, spent one year in jail and then was released to a hero's welcome from his family and neighbors.

"I cleansed our family honor," he said at his family home in the dirt alleyways of this town, 17 miles northeast of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

"She disgraced us," he said. "We are a tribe of thousands of men. It was better that one person die, but not the thousands, of shame."

Ahmad's thankful father, Mahmoud, concurred: "Our neighbors and even relatives had stopped talking to us until Ahmad carried out his heroic act."

"Now, we can walk with our heads held high," he added.

In Jordan, One-Quarter of All Murders Are 'For Honor'

Haneen was one of scores of Jordanian women who face, or faced, family retribution in this conservative, tribal-oriented society where men rule on family matters and women, who constitute 49 percent of the 4.6 million population, have little say.

Official statistics show that 25 women--the majority of them teen-agers--are killed each year in so-called "honor crimes," which constitute 25 percent of the annual homicides in Jordan. Most are buried in unmarked graves, disgraced even in death.

Experts say the phenomenon is widespread among poorer, less educated, tribal societies with a tradition of self-administered justice, like Jordan's, and in underdeveloped countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and South America.

Chief Justice Sheikh Izzeddine al-Tamimi, the highest Muslim authority in the country, said Islam prohibits violence against women and "bars individuals from taking the law into their hands, even if a case of adultery was proven."

Nevertheless, women become victims of family revenge for as little as speaking to an unrelated man or dating. Even being raped is seen as having disgraced the family. Premarital sex is prohibited and, when an unmarried woman becomes pregnant, it is not only considered a crime, but also by law her child is taken away at birth to be raised at an orphanage.

Potential Victims Seek Safety In a Jail

In view of the limited legal and other protections for women, the government has set up a shelter inside a jail on the outskirts of Amman. Scores of threatened women have found refuge there in the past three years. Many women who have given birth out of wedlock remain there, fearing for their lives if they leave. Others have taken part in state-sponsored "rehabilitation" programs and are said to be living productive lives.

Public debate about "honor killings" only began two years ago as a result of the publicity and lobbying by the National Jordanian Campaign Committee to Eliminate Crimes of Honor. The 11-member group has organized seminars, television and radio programs and talk shows and generated international pressure from women's organizations, human rights groups and governments, including the United States and the European Union.

But punishment of women is widely accepted as an honorable tradition not only by most Jordanians but also by the state. Seldom is anyone arrested, but if the killer is apprehended, under an archaic law, dating back to Napoleonic times, men who can prove in court that they killed female relatives in order to restore their family's honor receive, if they are punished at all, a short jail sentence, usually between three months and two years.

"It is imperative to cancel this law," said Asma Khader, a criminal lawyer affiliated with the National Committee. Its members have garnered the signatures of more than 30,000 people in their bid to have Parliament amend the version of the law written in the 1960s and impose harsher punishment on "honor" killers.

Bedouin Lawmakers Demand Tough Laws Against Lewd Women

Jordan's new, pro-western monarch, King Abdullah II, supports the reform, and his younger brother, Prince Ali, and cousin, Prince Ghazi, have taken part in demonstrations calling for harsher punishment for "honor" killers. The government will put forward its own amendment to the Penal Code when Parliament reconvenes on Nov. 25 for its regular, four-month session.

But a similar amendment was rejected twice by the conservative 80-member Chamber of Deputies where influential Bedouin tribesmen insisted that the current law is necessary to prevent decadence and fornication. Jordan also has a 40-member, royally appointed Senate.

"Women adulterers cause a great threat to our society because they are the main reason that such acts take place," said Deputy Mohammad Kharabsheh, a strong opponent of the amendment last year when he chaired Parliament's legal committee.

"If men do not find women with whom to commit adultery, then they will become good on their own," he added.

Khader, the woman lawyer with the National Campaign, acknowledged a harsher law won't put an end to the practice but added, "It is a good step. At least we are able to talk about it now. It was a big taboo."

Woman Journalist Threatened for Reporting on 'Honor' Killings

Although honor killings are now discussed among some urban residents, the issue still stirs powerful emotions. Journalist Rana Husseini, with the English-language daily, Jordan Times, said in a recent interview that she frequently receives death threats. A member of the National Campaign, her reporting since 1994 helped lift the shroud of secrecy from honor killings. "They accuse me of tarnishing the image of Arabs and Islam," she said, "and say the issue is none of my business." Husseini will represent the National Committee and accept an award in New York Tuesday night from the Human Rights Watch.

Adding fuel to the National Committee's outrage, local police officials now say that honor killings are often used to cover up for more serious offenses. An example cited is the case of Ibrahim Massoud. He beat his 16-year-old daughter, Inam, to death last year, claiming she was pregnant. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after it became known that he had molested the girl.

Medics say honor killings are usually based on rumors and that postmortems often reveal that the victims' hymens were intact. In addition, others who undergo virginity tests and are found to be virgins may still be killed.

"On many occasions, simply examining women to check their virginity is considered a license to kill," said Hani Jahshan of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine.

Virgins Murdered by Father, Brothers Who Say They Had Sex

For example, Jahshan said, a man took his two teen-age daughters, 16 and 17, for exams when he heard from neighbors that both were dating. Though the two were found to be virgins, two weeks later both were killed by their father and two brothers--they refused to believe the girls hadn't had sex.

Back in Zarqa after serving one year for murder, Ahmad recalled the childhood good times with his sister Haneen. "We used to have fun when we played football together, but I always won because I am a man," he said.

Any regrets? "I am not sorry. She was wrong."

"Had she been alive and committed the same mistake, I would have killed her again."

Jamal J. Halaby is a journalist in Amman, Jordan, with a special interest in human rights abuses in the Middle East.