Archive | January, 2014

Syria Update, January 14-15, 2014. Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur

15 Jan

Syria Update, January 14-15 2014.  (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies.  By Sherifa Zuhur)

Tuesday’s death toll:  183 killed including 40 civilians, and of those 7 were children.

UN aid teams abandoned delivery of aid to Yarmouk after the Syrian government insisted that it use a dangerous route to the southern entrance of Yarmouk.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Jan-15/244117-un-abandons-aid-delivery-after-syria-insists-on-dangerous-route.ashx#axzz2qUVMvXzW

At least 10 and perhaps as many as 26 people were killed Wednesday morning in a car bomb in Jarablous in Aleppo province  attributed to ISIS http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/15/irans-fm-discusses-peace-talks-with-syrias-assad/

 

 

Starvation as a weapon of war in Yarmouk (and elsewhere) https://www.oximity.com/article/About-the-death-of-Palestine-at-the-ca-1

 

SANA reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today (Wednesday) in Damascus Syria.  The two have been speaking about the United Nations conference scheduled for next week in Montreux, Switzerland.  In the meeting Assad slammed Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/syrias-assad-slams-saudi-ideology-as-threat-to-world.aspx?pageID=517&nID=61082&NewsCatID=352

John Kerry’s message to the Friends of Syria  – http://m.state.gov/md219697.htm

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/13/us-syria-crisis-raqqa-idUSBREA0B0MX20140113

Refugees and Relief:

UK gives amnesty to 1500 Syrian refugees.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10555821/UK-accepts-1500-asylum-seekers-from-Syria.html

 

Bulgarian neo-Nazis attack and threaten immigrants in Bulgaria including Syria’s estimated 10,000 refugees. http://muftah.org/bulgarias-neo-nazis-wage-war-syrian-refugees/

 

Oxfam says donor funds must go to Syria and the impacted neighboring countries. http://beta.syriadeeply.org/op-eds/oxfam-kuwait-donors-funds-syrians-neighbors/#.UtbKMGDGtGk

 

 

 

Aleppo  provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

At least 10 and perhaps as many as 26 people were killed Wednesday morning in a car bomb in Jarablous attributed to ISIS http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/15/irans-fm-discusses-peace-talks-with-syrias-assad/

On Wednesday morning, violent clashes took place between ISIS and Islamic battalion fighters and rebels near the town of Ratian, Jarablous, areas near the city of A’azaz, and the eastern countryside of Aleppo province . 3 mortars fell on Hrietan.

 

Tuesday, Islamist and rebel (other FSA) battalions took over Kafar Kalbin and Kafra, after clashes with ISIS.  The regime’s security services tortured to death one man from Darat Izza  A rebel attack killed 2 regime soldiers stationed at a checkpoint in the Salaheddin neighborhood, of Aleppo.  Regime forces bombarded areas of Bustan al-Qasr and a mortar fell on the Meridian area.

 

Damascus province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

So far, 49 civilians reported to have died from malnutrition or lack of medical supplies in the besieged Yarmouk camp; which has been choked by the regime for several months. Several mortars fell on Halab street, the Qusoor neighbourhood and the Adawi area causing injuries.

 

Also on Yarmouk (English and Greek subtitles):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcDQ4alZbu4

 

Dara`a provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

There was an airstrike in Dael (by the regime) here is a video of the aftermath:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ443XO6GdI  There was fierce artillery shelling of Jiza, and rebels destroyed a Doshka at the Nawa road frontline.

 

Regime shelling wounded a fighter at Inkhel:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tanUb5wgDns

 

 

Deir az-Zur province:

 

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Dayr+Az+Zor+province+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1548153314d3dbad:0x9d5a68804221c27f,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

 

Regime forces bombed the city of Deir az-Zur after midnight yesterday.

 

 

 

 

Hama provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

 

Regime forces are launching a raid and arrest campaign in the village of Zor Assors and shelling the village of al-Jwayz.    Violent clashes took place today (Wednesday) between the FSA and Assad’s forces at Muwak on the outskirts of Hamah and there was artillery shelling in the area.

 

Hassake province

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=AlHasakah+Governorate,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

39 fighters of the YPG were mourned today in Qamishli.  They were killed in clashes against ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamist rebel fighters near Tal-Brak and Tal-Hamis in the countryside near Qamishli from the end of December to the 7th of January 2014.  The YPG has retreated from the area now controlled by ISIS and other allied groups.

Homs province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

On Tuesday,  mortars hit the Alawite village of Fella, injuring at least 3 civilians.  Regime bombardment on the Houla area,killed 2 men and others were injured.  Clashes between rebels and regime forces supported by the NDF took place near the town of  al-Usiya.  Gunfire was heard on the Homs – Tartous road near the town of al-Mazra’a, followed by regime gunfire.  Regime forces hit the town of al-Ghento with heavy machine-guns.

Regime forces carried out raids and arrests in the Ghouta neighbourhood.  Regime bombardment on the al-Wa’er neighborhood killed one man.

40 (here given as 65) died trying to break the siege of Homs.

http://eaworldview.com/2014/01/syria-the-65-men-who-died-trying-to-break-the-siege-of-homs/

Rebel mortar attacks on the 12th of Jan. in Homs.   http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/syrian-government-shelling-kills-20-21502907

Idlib province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Islamic fighters carried out an ambush on ISIS on the north side of Saraqeb killing a Belgian commander in ISIS, known as the Amir of Saraqeb was killed, and another foreign ISIS fighter.  A third foreign fighter was injured and transported to Turkey.

Islamic movement fighters were killed and 10 others seriously injured (late Monday) by a large ISIS suicide car bomb explosion targeting a checkpoint and military motorcade between Ram Hamdan and Zardana   Assad’s forces shelled several areas in the northern neighborhood of Ma`arat al-Nu`man.

Latakia province: 

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=latakia+governorate+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15241c8bc2bf561f:0xdbb2edac5c45c32b,Latakia+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=ghv_UOaOOMGW0QH88YDYDw&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

Regime forces bombarded villages near the town of Salma  on Tuesday. One ISIS fighter was killed in the northern countryside.

Quneitra province  https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Quneitra+governorate+Google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x151eb4afcd3e069f:0xbcbbd63808a65623,Quneitra+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=Ch77ULCILuyP0QG67YDoDQ&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

On Tuesday, the villages of the southern countryside of Quneitra were bombarded by regime forces, killing at least 4 civilians and injuring 17.  Clashes resumed near the town of al-Samadaniya al-Sharqiya, and regime forces continued bombardment there and brought in reinforcements from the National Defense Froces militia. There were reports that regime detained 15 civilians from the village of Shura, near Sa’sa’ town, and that regime forces were stationing themselves in houses there.

 

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

On Wednesday, it was learned that ISIS executed 2 civilians from Yabesa, five days ago. The two had been traveling from this Kurdish village to Tal Abyad to buy bread when ISIS took them.  Their bodies were found near the village of Talsolah, with their hands tied behind their backs and they had been tortured.

The ISIS has released many Islamic fighters today.

Further ISIS attacks:  http://syriahr.com/en/index.php?option=com_news&nid=1330&Itemid=2&task=displaynews#.UtY0BWDGtGl

On Tuesday, regime forces have advanced towards the western barrier of the 17th division, the base was under the control of an islamist movement but it retreated days ago. Members from the division were observed planting landmines by the western barrier. ISIS has granted control over the Tal Abyad border crossing to a local council from the city (Turkey had closed the crossing earlier. Meanwhile ISIS took full control of the city Raqqah city following several days of clashes.

On Sunday, ISIS recaptured much of its territory.  http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/12/us-syria-crisis-qaeda-idUSBREA0B0JD20140112

International:

14 Syrian rockets hit Arsaal in eastern Lebanon yesterday.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Jan-14/244020-14-syria-rockets-hit-lebanons-arsal-source.ashx#axzz2qUVMvXzW

Gordon Brown speaks about the education aid needed for Syria’s refugees:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3a0ZR_PbFA

Lebanon’s prime minister, Najib Mikati calls for safe havens inside of Syria and for help with Syria’s refugees inside of Lebanon.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Jan-15/244125-mikati-pleads-for-help-with-syrian-refugees.ashx#axzz2qUVMvXzW

NGOs pledge 14 million in Syrian relief campaign http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/01/ngos-pledge-400m-syria-relief-campaign-201411522535504457.html

Western countries’ intelligence representatives have reportedly been meeting with representatives of the Syrian government, despite the sanctions on Assad’s government in efforts to stem any backblow of jihadists to the West (or perhaps in the other direction?) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/world/middleeast/syria-western-intelligence-cooperation.html

Human Rights Watch issues a warning that Islamist fighting groups in Syria are eroding the rights of women and girls, enforcing Islamic dress rules, and disallowing free movement of women to work or school.  http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/13/syria-extremists-restricting-women-s-rights

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon warned that nearly half of Syrians needed humanitarian aid in his address to a one day donor conference being held in Kuwait City:  http://www.afp.com/fr/news/topstories/1242951/

Donors have pledged nearly $1.3 billion at this meeting:  http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2014/January/middleeast_January168.xml&section=middleeast

A new academic book on Syria’s television.  http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/16019/new-texts-out-now_rebecca-joubin-the-politics-of-l

 

 

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“Why Muslims (and Others) Should Talk, Write and Do Something About Honor Crimes.”

6 Jan

“Why Muslims (and Others) Should Talk, Write and Do Something About Honor Crimes,”

Sherifa Zuhur, Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies

I wrote this in response to a confusing discussion about honor crimes which causes me to fear that the anti-feminist and pro-Islamist bent of academia is diminishing our ability as scholars to come up with new approaches to longstanding social problems.

Some years ago, I discovered a wonderful body of volumes on Islamic law and legal codes in modern Middle Eastern and other Muslim countries at the Cleveland- Marshall School of Law library, thanks to the collecting of David F. Forte.  In it were some invaluable sources about Islamic criminal law and the formation of modern penal codes in various Muslim countries, and I also found and read Lama Abou Odeh’s dissertation which focuses on honor crimes. Her work was very helpful to me in writing a summary of information for a very interesting Turkish group of activists working on legal reform in the Middle East as part of a network called Sexual Rights are Human Rights (note the controversial title & the product written to help them is available here: http://www.wwhr.org/category/research-articles-and-reports/30314/gender-sexuality-and-the-criminal-laws-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa-a-comparative-study-2005-in-english  )

The discussion of honor crimes began predictably by claiming that Muslims are no worse than anyone else in their oppression of women, and meandered to the inquiry: “Is Islam to blame for this situation?”

Since the practice of honor crimes continues to impact Muslim women, let us instead ask what can be done to impact this community and others like it to mitigate this practice. And since activists have recommended changes to laws, creating shelters or using protective custody, police training and more, we should continue to examine whether these endeavors are fruitful — now that police receive trainings (if they are) – and ask why these crimes continue.  Islam is not a person and cannot approve of the wickedness of human beings in misusing its name.   If people believe that “Islam” allows family vengeance for sexual misbehavior, then those misapprehensions must be addressed from childhood on.  If people instead believe that it is their Arab (or Pakistani, or Ethiopian, or Yemeni, Bangladeshi, etc.) “local values” which have been violated, then the error in such enshrined values must be addressed.

When a community posts a petition in five mosques in Deir al-Ghusun demanding that a family “reinstate the cultural and religious morals in his family” in complaint of his daughter’s behavior, everyone in that community and that family understood that an honor crime was demanded and would occur.  http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/12/19/anatomy-of-an-honour-killing-why-a-palestinian-community-demanded-a-father-murder-his-divorced-daughter/

Yet I now respond to scholars who take on the discourse of defense attorneys and argue that the community did not specifically call for a murder.   There was no need to do so, their intent is clear as daylight in the community’s definition of family honor which is constraint of females’ sexual behavior and reputation – all of which show how serious this problem is.  No police training, shelters, no harsher laws, media coverage were able to convince the family or community that their daughter has rights as a human being that outweigh their need to restore their honor.

This specific form of femicide linked to beliefs about women’s sexual behavior should be  a grave source of concern for those who study Muslim or Middle Eastern societies.   It should not be regarded as an unpleasant and unavoidable encounter which they revisit each year in classrooms or dismiss in publications.  Religion, culture and statutory discrimination under modern as well as tribal laws and shari`ah all combined to failed to criminalize, or wrongly exonerate the act of killing a female “antecedent” for honor (defined as sexual honor).  Just because Islamophobes like Pam Geller or the owner of the Atlas Shrugged site,  ‘Orientalists” or “neo-Orientalists” highlight or use women’s issues including honor killings in Muslim societies as a way of castigating “Islam”, we scholars should not cease analyzing these phenonena.

To some of the points raised:

** No, we cannot call these “intimate partner” murders because  they are often premeditated, carefully planned and enacted by brothers, fathers, and even mothers, and not only spouses, or spurned fiancés.

**There is a definitional problem with the term “honor killing”  in that a) killings of young women suspected of sexual activity before marriage (please note:  many are found to be virgins after being murdered as rumor and gossip are as damaging as actual zina`) b) those who try to escape from an arranged or impending arranged marriage and c) wives who are alleged adulterers (or again, merely breaking some other restriction like going outside the home, or being seen with another man) are all victims of honor crimes.  This confusion is relevant to the laws which exonerated or diminished sentences in cases of crimes of passion/or honor.

**Other customs such as mahr, expectations of virginity at marriage, the high costs of marriage, long engagement periods, arranged marriages gone awry, and more, (cousin’s presumed ‘rights’ to marry a cousin who might prefer someone else), beliefs that women should not drive, should not work, must wear hijab/niqab etc. also impact situations which develop into honor crimes.

**No, the numbers of honor crimes are not statistically insignificant.

One number frequently cited in many NGO-type of sources is about 5,000 killings per year.  However, this number primarily concerns category a) above because of the confusion over the meaning of honor crimes.  For several reasons their numbers could be as high as 10,000 per year or at least in certain years.   Honor crimes greatly increased in war situations in response to rape or other forms of sexual violence, so consider how many may have occurred in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, etc.  Just recently trials were held regarding the war crimes in Bangladesh in the ‘70s and  Also, in earlier sources authorities/police commented that the main non-natural cause of death for women (in Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, Palestinian territories — but the problem also involve Eastern Africa, Southeast Asia, Muslim states of the former USSR, the Middle East and South Asia) is honor crimes.  However, the police and coroners do not necessarily label such cases; they have to rule many deaths accidental, they can’t always identify victims whose families haven’t reported them missing, not all bodies are found, and there may be political reasons to suppress statistics.  One would have to go over all homicides of women in each country (they aren’t separated out for cause of death).  Like families whose honor has been “blemished” and do not report women missing, communities often know about missing women, and side with the murderers.

**Honor crimes may follow rape.  If rape carried no stigma for the victim, families would not pursue this course of action.  The older laws (and some existing ones) allowed a rapist to marry his victim, surely an unfair solution to the woman.   Defining honor as sexual honor and continuing to put a high monetary value on virginity are also at the root of the problem.

*Islamic or not.  Quite a few people who should know better were taught that honor crimes have no basis in fiqh, but this is really incorrect. Scholars were well aware of honor crimes and understood the links to `urf in all of the secondary categories of crimes in Islam (which demand rights to equal injury, talion or dhiyya.    We can’t be shocked that tribal councils condemn girls to rape when their male relatives offend, insult or molest a woman of another family, or marry them off in exchange marriages.   We cannot say such crimes are not “Islamic” in that the aim to control female sexuality is bolstered by laws and practices believed to be Islamic (whether they truly are or not or should be or not are different questions).  Also there is a definite link to the exonerations provided in modern criminal law for ‘crimes of passion’ as Lama Abu Odeh and others have explained.  Whether the ‘fault’ lies in the tribal/clan practices of killing the women whose honor was taken, or in the Ottoman code- or Napoleonic code-derived laws which allowed men the right to enact violence on female antecedents is by now a very complicated question.

In 2009, I was part of the United Nation DAW’s project on “traditional harmful practices” against women.  Honor crimes have a connection to traditional exclusions of women from public space; or FGM, early marriage, kidnapping.  Data was introduced showing the practice does impact women in Southeast Asia, and Muslims outside of the Middle East – Pakistan and Afghanistan, of course, but also Eastern Africa and other Muslim societies in Africa.  Egregious honor crimes have  also been committed by Muslims against Muslims in the U.S., UK, Canada, Sweden, etc.   Since the practice goes back to `urf, it is not surprising that it is also committed against non-Muslims who live in Muslim-dominant societies (i.e. Egypt, Jordan, Palestine) or in mixed societies (Ethiopia).  This sort of broad-brush discussion is not as useful as examining honor crimes in their local setting, because the response by law enforcement, or the community can’t be well-understood.  My paper from that (and only brief sections concern honor crimes)  http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/vaw_legislation_2009/Expert%20Paper%20EGMGPLHP%20_Sherifa%20Zuhur%20-%20II_.pdf

*Are Islamists discouraging the discussion of honor crimes & other violence against women? I mentioned a little about Islamist groups’ approaches to honor crimes and violence against women in Sadiqi and Ennaji, ed. Gender and Violence in the Middle East (Routledge 2011).  For ex. the Hamas govt. instituted a hotline so women could call in to request police assistance with physical abuse.  For the most part, Islamists who enacted any type of programs to address violence against women did so by using techniques or programs used in the West.

However, ‘shaming’ the husband by calling the police could result in divorce or another beating, or even a murder, if the underlying social attitudes are not addressed.   And traditionalists as well as Islamists may believe in negotiating with abusers with the result that women are returned to their communities (and their deaths).  In Egypt, last year the Morsi government went to great lengths to disavow the U.N’s approach to violence against women, which was quite appalling.  The salafists are not supportive of reforms benefitting women, and would like to constrain them further.  Certainly some Islamists are aware that measures should be taken to protect women, but those speaking to their political base more frequently condemn feminists or anything that parallels “Western-style reform.  Would they move against lengthening sentences for murderers? Hopefully not.

*Social attitudes.  We know how individuals and families rationalize such violence.  There are pragmatic reasons:  Where murderers can have their sentences excused or reduced, they will continue to murder, hence the effort to reduce those exonerations which entered either Ottoman law or those laws modeled after French law.  And, peer- or community-influenced reasons:  Many studies have now been conducted showing that people are aware of honor killings and approve of them, just as some approve of physical violence against women and girls (which we now term family violence).  In Eisner and Ghunaim (2013), 40% of Jordanian boys and 20% of girls (N=456 ninth graders in Amman) believed that an honor crime against a daughter, sister or wife can be justified and is “morally right.” Such beliefs correlate with insistence on female chastity and other patriarchal beliefs.  (Aggressive Behavior, 9999, 1-13, 2013 and link on studyhttp://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/belief-that-honour-killings-are-justified-still-prevalent-among-jordans-next-generation-study-shows).  There have been many other such studies.  Also larger studies like Pew Forum’s 2013 study included a question on honor killings indicating that many people in certain countries thought it was justified when a woman committed the (sex-related) “crime.”. This study doesn’t cover all of the Muslim world – but did show high support in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.

Communities are aware of, and many believe women deserve to be physically abused, (women as well as men).    Again, there are multiple studies but here is just one http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/25/3/518.abstract

The fact that families believe they ‘own’ women’s bodies and may abuse them is another part of the rationale underlying honor crimes.  Numerous links show male Islamic scholars recommending ‘physical discipline’ of women (wives, daughters, sisters, etc.).  Many also privilege the male’s position in marriage and cite numerous hadith re. women’s duty to please her husband, put his needs ahead of hers, endure his nastiness and never seek to retaliate “as Allah curses these women.”  https://www.facebook.com/notes/islam-and-life/general-guidance-for-the-muslim-wife/10150347814106018

One begins by claiming Islam “honors” women by instituting beatings.  Is he supposed to beat her heavily, or kill her? No. Of course, this cleric deviates from reality here in claiming men can only beat their wives if they refuse to sleep with them.  Men beat women for a wide variety of reasons; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChnpaMK1oLQ

**Honor crimes are often hideous crimes.

One honor crime detailed in WWHR’s study on the reform of the penal code in Turkey  involved incredible torture of the victim who was pregnant out of wedlock with twins.  One of activists’ strategies there, as in other countries was  to try to tighten laws so that murderers don’t have any certainty of a brief sentences.  My understanding from Turkish activists was that they faced strong opposition to instituting penal code reform by the AKP, but it was accomplished.  How judges and others resistant to changes in their discretionary powers are to be reached is less clear.

Of deep concern is the fact that even when laws are less discriminatory to women, i.e. in the West; honor crimes are difficult to prosecute.  If Palestina (Tina) Issa’s 1989 killing had not been recorded by the FBI, her father might have prevailed with a self-defense argument and her mother might not have been convicted.

*Ten or twenty years after social scientists said honor killings had diminished, they continued.  They are often linked to rape as in this case in Syria.  One argument is that the clan or tribal values are rural-linked; well cities in many Middle Eastern and Islamic countries are full of migrants from the countryside (but it does not appear that long-time urbanites necessarily drop their attitudes concerning women’s honor).   In Syria, before the revolution an estimated 300 girls/women died per year in honor crimes (now the numbers could be much higher)  In this case, a 16 year old girl, Zahra was killed by her brother who said he was ‘ghasalat al-arr, washing away the shame.’  His family held a party the night he killed his sister to celebrate.  He would have erased her memory, but for Zahra’s husband who brought a civil case against him.  Ten months earlier, Zahra had been pressured into accompanying a man because of rumors her father was having an affair.  He took her to Damascus and raped her.   While in protective custody, her brother looked for a husband.  He told the other family she had been kidnapped, and Fawaz married her.  Only 5 weeks later, she was dead.  The case brought to life efforts to reform Article 548 of the penal code.  Fawaz resisted pressured to drop his case.    The journalist in the piece below comments: “In shawarma sandwich shops and juice stalls [in Damascus] most men had heard of Zahra, but more than half of them believed that the practice of honor killing is protected — or outright required — by Islamic law. A man named Abu Rajab, who ran a cigarette stall, described it as “something that is found in religion” and added that even if the laws were changed, “a man will kill his sister if he needs to, even if it means 15 years in prison.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/23/magazine/23wwln-syria-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

When I was in a visiting position in Cleveland, Ohio one of my students alerted me to two killers of a young woman, Mathel Dayem – -she and they were part-time students on our campus.  http://www.cleveland.com/whateverhappened/index.ssf/2000/07/cousin_acquitted_in_killing.html

The two young men were holding court with their admirers on campus, after murdering her due to mistakes by the prosecutor and the rules of double jeopardy.  This was a working-class Palestinian family and even in the U.S. justice system her family could not obtain remedy.  Had she been living in her area of origin, who knows if her mother and immediate family would have even supported her.  The local imam, Fawaz Damra had married Mathel to her cousin (the one who killed her) despite her and her family’s ambivalence ot him.  She broke off the relationship, returned home and to work, then he and his cousin began threatening her, and then gunned her down in the street.  It really bothers me that Damra, the imam told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that it was Islamophobic to report on “honor killings” — that there ” is no such thing.”

When Amina and Sarah Said’s father killed them in Texas, another community leader, Mohammed Elmougy defended the practice saying  “the way we view it, we don’t look at it as violent … We look at it as a deterrent.”

At least 2 large American Muslim organizations condemned honor killings after Aasiya Hasan’s husband beheaded her. This was supposed to result in a wide campaign against violence against women.  But the topic is simply not discussed in many mosque communities, especially small ones.  Can women call in and report abuse or that they fear being killed?  There aren’t resources and why should women perceive any benefit to this over calling the police.

Aisha Gill, an attorney in the UK was part of a project to further criminalize honor crimes there where they involve girls from a variety of national origins.  http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/vaw_legislation_2009/Expert%20Paper%20EGMGPLHP%20_Aisha%20Gill%20revised_.pdf   Layla Pervizat wrote her dissertation on honor killings, and here also suggests a multifaceted approach to them:  http://www.pagu.unicamp.br/sites/www.ifch.unicamp.br.pagu/files/colenc.04.a06i.pd

I hope that this trend or fad of calling those who engage in research on such ‘harmful practices impacting women “Orientalists” and so forth will cease.  Islamophobes have their information from the media.  Should the media really not report such cases? If 5,000 or even 10,000 deaths (or if we don’t even have the resources to determine the actual numbers) aren’t sufficient to see this as a serious problem, it must mean that (as with the huge death toll mounting in Syria) that the issue has no urgency, or that violence against women has become normalized.

Syria Update, January 1, 2014 – Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur

1 Jan

Syria Update, December 31, 2013 – January 1, 2014   (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies.  By Sherifa Zuhur)

Death toll

On 28/12/13  185 Syrians were killed including 90 civilians,

130,433 Syrians killed from 18/3/2011 when the first protestor was  shot and killed in Dar’a until 30/12/2013.  The dead include 46,266 civilians (including 7,014 children and 4,695 women).

 

Disarmament teams gave up & ships returned to port, #Syria‘s chemicals not destroyed by 12/31/13 deadline. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/527994-ships-return-to-dock-as-syria-chemical-deadline-missed

 

A missile fired by Assad’s regular forces hit a bus in Aleppo today.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Dec-31/242769-10-dead-as-syria-regime-shell-hits-bus-in-aleppo-city.ashx#axzz2p70lwxrj

 

Could the war in Syria last another 10 years? http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/index.cfm/articles/Will-the-Syrian-Civil-War-Last-10-More-Years/2013/12/30

 

Syria’s government said invitations to the Geneva II conference had not been sent out as planned by December 28th. Blamed the delay on oppositions delay in attendance list.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Dec-31/242760-syria-says-peace-meet-invites-unsent-blames-opposition.ashx#axzz2p70lwxrj

 

 

 

An older woman describes hunger, lack of medicine, medical treatment, the cold and deprivation under the siege by Assad’s forces.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ3n5Yohszk

 

Ten videos on Syria from 2013 collected by Brown Moses which made a difference

http://brown-moses.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/a-year-of-conflict-in-syria-in-ten_31.html

 

Syria is the deadliest country in the world for journalists according to the International Federation of Journalists – worse than Iraq.  108 journalists were killed in 2013 in Syria. http://www.dawn.com/news/1077513/108-journalists-killed-in-2013-syria-deadliest-ifj

 

 

 

Refugees and Relief:   In support of the Refugee Council’s effort to settle Syrian refugees in the U.K.  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/31/least-uk-syrian-refugees

 

 

 

Aleppo  provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

A missile fired by Assad’s regular forces hit a bus in Aleppo today.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Dec-31/242769-10-dead-as-syria-regime-shell-hits-bus-in-aleppo-city.ashx#axzz2p70lwxrj

 

 

Violent clashes were fought between regular forces and forces of the revolution in the neighborhood of Maysaloon.  Regular forces bombarded areas in the town of  Tadaf

 

More than 517 people were killed in two weeks of continuous ‘barrel bombs’ dropped on Aleppo by helicopters and air force. This included 471 civilians, of these 151 children, 46 women, 34 revolutionary fighters and 12 ISIS fighters.

 

On Saturday, 64 civilians and 4 rebel fighters were killed. One of the rebel fighters died during clashes with regime forces in al-Rashdeen. Snipers killed two other rebel fighters in Salahadin and al-Khaldiyye neighborhoods.  Of the civilians, 25 were killed by (the so-called barrel bombs on the Tariq al-Bab neighborhood (3 women, 4 children and a young journalist. 14 civilians were killed in an airstrike on al-Maysir neighbourhood, including 4 women and 4 children. Regime bombardment killed three children in the city of A’zaaz.  Two civilians died from their injuries from airstrikes on al-Mash’had and al-Haidariyye a few days ago. 15 civilians, amongst them 5 children, were killed in an airstrike on areas in al-Marjeh neighbourhood about a week ago.

 

 

Damascus province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

Regular forces bombed areas in the city of Yabroud and the Rima area near Yabroud.

 

Clashes between the regular forces and the FSA:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPRa3OPy71w&feature=youtu.be

On Saturday, 6 civilians and 10 rebel fighters were killed.  One rebel fighter was killed in clashes with regime forces in Jobar.  8 fighters were killed in clashes in al-Dameer, eastern and western al-Ghouta, and al-Reef al-Junoubi.. Two children died from injuries incurred by a rocket on Douma several days ago.

 

Dara`a provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

On Saturday, 2 civilians and 1 rebel fighter were killed.  Regime bombardment on Mukhayam Daraa and the town of Oum Walad killed 2 men.

 

 

Deir az-Zur province:

 

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Dayr+Az+Zor+province+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1548153314d3dbad:0x9d5a68804221c27f,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

 

Assad forces bombarded areas in the neighborhood of the old airport.  Information was received about Jabhat Nusra’s bombing of 3 buildings where regime forces were stationed in the neighborhood of Jebailah with casualties among the regular forces. A car bomb  for the bombing of fighters Front victory three buildings stationed forces the system in the neighborhood Jubailah .  A car bomb blew up a commanding officer in the town of Asharh

 

On Saturday, 13 rebel fighters were killed. One of them was killed in clashes between regime forces and NDF fighters in  the village of al-Jafra village.  The others were killed in clashes with regime forces, among them a 14 year old rebel fighter and a rebel commander.

 

 

Hama provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

 

Regular Syrian forces bombed areas in the town of Kafrzeita.  There were violent clashes between regular forces and revolutionary fighters dominated by the latter for several days.

 

 

Hassake province

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=AlHasakah+Governorate,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA  Clashes took place between the fights and protection units of the Kurdish YPG and National Defense Forces near the train station in the city of al-Hassakeh.  A fighter died and two were wounded.

 

 

Homs province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

 

Five died after a mortar shell fell on Saha Hajj al-Atef in the neighborhood of Karam al-Shami in the afternoon.  The old areas of Homs were bombarded by regime forces.  A surface-to-surface missile fell on the neighborhood of Waer.

 

 

Idlib province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

Some hopes and dreams for 2014 in Idlib http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ytwtDHiOpg&feature=youtu.be

 

On Saturday one civilian and 3 rebel fighters were killed or died of injuries. 2 fighters were killed in clashes with regular forces in Reef Homs. 1 man from the Sarmin town was tortured to death in the regime’s prison.

 

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

On Saturday, 2 civilians and 1 rebel fighter were killed. 1 rebel fighter died of wounds received earlier in clashes with regular forces near the 93rd division in the A’in I’ssa area. 2 children were killed by shells that fell on the al-Tabaqa.

 

 

International:

 

 

Lebanese army uses anti-aircraft defense on Syrian helicopters bombing Lebanese territory yesterday http://news.asiaone.com/news/world/lebanon-army-fires-syria-aircraft-after-raid-source

 

Soyuzneftegaz has signed a 90 million dollar deal with Damascus to explore offshore energy in the Mediterranean; an additional reason for Putin to continue supporting Assad.  http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/27/putin_s_mediterranean_move#sthash.PUpuZNpw.dpbs

 

Syria asks the U.N. Security Council to prosecute Turkey and all countries supporting militants who are fighting the Assad government. http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/12/31/342887/syria-asks-unsc-to-prosecute-turkey/

 

Russia will install Iskander surface (nuclear) missiles to Syria (according to Israeli sources)  http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/world/9691338.asp?scr=1