Honour Killing: Stories of men who killed by Ayse Onal

Title: Honour Killing: Stories of men who killed
Author: Ayse Onal
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Saqi Books (30 May 2008)
Source: Library
Genre: Non-fiction
Set in: Turkey

My thoughts:
I thought Honour Killing was a fairly well known word but when my husband said he’s not sure of the exact meaning I knew there might be people who have never even heard of the word. So for those of you who haven’t, here’s what it means in a nutshell.

An honor killing or honour killing (also called a customary killing) is the murder of a family or clan member by one or more fellow family members, where the murderers (and potentially the wider community) believe the victim to have brought dishonor upon the family, clan, or community. This perceived dishonor is normally the result of (a) utilizing dress codes unacceptable to the family (b) wanting out of an arranged marriage or choosing to marry by own choice or (c) engaging in certain sexual acts. These killings result from the perception that defense of honor justifies killing a person whose behavior dishonors their clan or family. (From Wikipedia)

In this book, the victims are not only those who are killed, but also those who killed. Ayse Onal takes us into the lives of the men who committed these killings. So in a way its behind the scenes and into the psyche of those who thought such drastic measures were required to protect their honour.

The first story takes us into the life of a girl called Remziye who wanted to escape the life she saw her mother living. She didn’t want to be someone whose only purpose was to serve her husband. A boy called Ismael provided a opportunity to live a life she wanted and they both gradually fell in love with each other. But her marriage was already fixed to someone else and to escape from it she ran away with Ismael. After years of hiding from her family who had decided to kill her, she finally escaped to Austria. Hers is the only story in this book which does not end with her death.

Contrary to what I thought, the men in the family who killed do have a conscience and most do repent killing. They see it as a choice they do not have. After reading many stories like these I think I have a broader picture now. It’s not only the men but also women who seem to think that killing is the only option. In Remziye’s story, when her family decided to kill her, Remziye heard her mother say,”Whatever you do, don’t kill them in the house. There’ll be the bother of getting rid of the bodies. Shoot them among the trees and then dump the bodies somewhere“.

Killing somebody for protecting the honour does not only end the life of the one who is killed but also affects the life of those who are left behind and the ones behind bars. All the stories in this book were chilling and sad and although all the stories are set in Turkey there are similar ones happening all over the world.

In one of the stories, Murat killed his mother because she was having an affair with another man. He killed her because he couldn’t take people talking behind his back anymore, he couldn’t take the shame and the humiliation anymore. When he spoke to Ayse Onal from his prison he said,

As long as the mentality doesn’t change, no matter how severe the penalties – and the new penal laws are very severe – no matter how heavy the sanctions, this kind of thing will carry on. Because the person who does it has no idea of the terrible loneliness and the personal tragedy he will face afterwards. The only thought in his head is his belief that once he has done it, everyone around him will accept that his honour has been cleansed.

People who are faced with this kind of problem should consider it very carefully. You too die with the person you kill. She is sure to appear before your eyes every time you lie in your bed. This is an eternal punishment. In other words, you will have hanged yourself with your own hands.

It is not a solution and it does not address the underlying problem, but it will definitely help to decrease the number of women who are killed in the name of honour. It’s definitely a start. One step at a time. I recommend this book to everyone out there and really hope that more awareness is created.

Here is a site dedicated to stop honour killings and create more awareness about them

About the author:
Ayse Onal is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Turkish politics, organized crime, and conflicts in the Middle East for over two decades. For ten years, she was blacklisted by the Turkish state and could not write or work for the Turkish media until the political embargo was lifted in 2005.

18 thoughts on “Honour Killing: Stories of men who killed by Ayse Onal

Add yours

  1. It is just not in the Muslim community this happens, as you might well know it happens in Northern India too. Among some so called high level castes who think honor killing is justified.
    I know I want to read this one, but not now.. I will look for this one here.
    Thank you for the honest review!


    1. Yup, absolutely. That’s what the book says too. There is no caste or religion attached to honour killings, it can happen anywhere, in any part of the world, in any religion.


  2. My goodness, I think that would be a really difficult book to read! But also very important. I wonder how one can keep the distance required to write a book like this…


  3. Sounds like this offers a great deal of insight into a very serious subject. Thanks for the review of a book I wouldn’t have considered reading before seeing your post.


  4. Honour killing. Disgusting. And usually associated with religion. I can’t believe that in the 21st century this kind of thing still goes on. This has been added to my wishlist. I really like your review, hun. And it’ll be interesting to get the different perspectives.


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