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Killing Qandeel Baloch

Killing Qandeel Baloch

A Pakistani celebrity becomes the latest victim of so-called “honor killings.”

by

Qandeel Baloch, 26, broke many taboos in her native Pakistan. The social media star posted provocative pictures and videos and was for many a symbol of freedom and rebellion. Her final Facebook post summed up her inspirational message: “I am trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices.”

It was that very rebellious nature that led to her tragic murder in mid-July. Her brother confessed to strangling her, performing a so-called “honor killing” to remove the stain on their family.

“I am a drug addict but I was in my sense when I murdered her and I accept it with pride,” boasted Qandeel’s brother after he was arrested in Pakistan. “Now everybody will remember me with honor that I have provided relief to my parents and brothers who were suffering for the last two decades because of her…. Girls are born only to stay at home and to stay at home and to bring honor to the family by following family traditions, but Qandeel had never done that.”

Quandeel (her real name was Fauzia Azeem) became one of an estimated thousand women and girls murdered by family members for besmirching their family’s “honor” each year in Pakistan. The problem is not restricted to Pakistan; the UN estimated that there are approximately 5,000 honor killings worldwide each year. (Some activists dispute that, claiming the number is far higher.)

Honor killings affect even seemingly secure women in Western countries. In 2015, the Department of Justice estimated there are about 27 honor killings in the United States each year. In 2011, Afshan Azad, the actress who played the character Padma Patil in the Harry Potter blockbusters, nearly became a target, climbing out of her bedroom window in Manchester to escape relatives who attacked and threatened to kill her after the then-22 year old actress dated a Hindu man. (Police later arrested Azad’s father and brother on charges of threatening to murder her, but Azad refused to testify or appear in court. Her father was eventually fined 500 pounds; her brother was sentenced to six months in jail.)

In Israel, police have been working in recent years to find new ways to prevent so-called honor killings in the Arab community and to bring those who commit them to justice when they occur. This affords the rest of the world a possible model of ways to deal with this scourge.

After a spike in “honor killings” in Israeli Arab communities in 2010 – six crimes that year, coming after two the year before – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Israeli city of Lod which, with a sizeable Arab population, had seen several such murders – and demanded more awareness of the problem.

Local police began to change the way they approached the killings. One of their first acts was to ban the term “honor killings.” The crimes were simply called murders, stripping any possible vestige of honor in labeling the crime. At the same time, Israeli police began to build up trust and outreach programs with at-risk communities, employing Arabic-speakers, and sometimes inviting in social services to help defuse potentially dangerous situations when they arose.

Within months, the new programs were having an effect. Chief Inspector Yigal Ezra recalled that his job began to entail being a counsellor and helper as well. Local men started calling him up for advice. “It’s pretty funny, I know, to have Arab men calling a Jewish guy for marital advice,” he recalled at the time.

By 2012, the number of honor killings among Arab communities inside Israel fell to a low of zero (though in the years since, it has risen somewhat). By way of comparison, that year saw 26 documented cases of honor killings in areas that were controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Instead of learning from Israel’s work in curbing so-called honor killings, much of the global human rights community and media seem to blame Israel for “honor” crimes that occur within its borders, instead.

That was the bizarre conclusion reached by Rabiha Diab, the Palestinian Minister of Women’s Affairs, after a 2011 survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics found 35% of married women in Gaza experienced physical violence from their husband within the past year, and 40% percent of unmarried Gaza women had been physically abused by a relative. "The Israeli occupation is the one practicing the utmost violence … it’s the main thing keeping us from advancing,” she explained.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has echoed the bizarre accusation that Israel, instead of battling honor crimes, is somehow causing them, naming “Israeli occupation” as one of the prime causes of honor killings in the region, in a 2005 report.

Foreign media is also quick to blame Israel for honor killings. Writing about honor killings in 2015, the British newspaper The Guardian unquestioningly repeated the claims, made by a Palestinian NGO, that Israel was to blame: “The occupation increases the burden on Palestinian women by destroying infrastructure and endangering their human security, further contributing to the denial of their basic human rights”.

Reuters has echoed the accusations, citing unnamed “activists” who “believe the rise in honour killings indicates social and economic problems are mounting in the territories, where Palestinians exercise limited self-rule but Israel holds ultimate sovereignty….”

As the world reels from the latest outrageous murder to avenge a family’s supposedly-besmirched “honor”, those who truly care should stop perversely bizarrely blaming Israel for so-called honor killings and instead learn from Israel’s effective programs in curbing this horrific crime.

July 18, 2016

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Dvora, July 23, 2016 2:45 PM

No honor in killing.

The true problem is the Pakistan/Arab/Muslim culture. I have Pakistani friends who would never THINK of hurting a family member. Please note also that killing a family member shows a lack of familial connection. Which then points to a psychological malady of the perpetrator. So is refusing to be accountable for one's own actions. Qandel Baloch was a beautiful spirit that transcended ignorance and stupidity. This SHOULD have been a true reason for family adulation, not familial murder. Her brother and father should be ashamed, even killed, for bringing dishonor to the human race.

(2) Rachel, July 19, 2016 6:26 PM

Great article

I keep updated on this issue, but this is the first time I've seen this info about a proactive approach by the Israeli government.

Outside factors such as job loss, occupation, illness of a family member can all be stressors/triggers, but that should only be seen as an explaining factor. It is never an excuse.

(1) Maureen, July 19, 2016 5:48 PM

The ultimate betrayal

It is unimaginable for any group to condone these murders even implicitly by referring to them as an"honor killing". It is the ultimate betrayal to be hurt by someone you are supposed to love and trust, your brother or your father. Tragic beyond words.

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