Kifaya was 16 when her brother slit her throat. She was tied to a chair and ordered to recite an Islamic prayer moments before dying in a barbaric act called a "crime of honor." The victims are innocents, targets of cultural practices that consider a raped woman guilty of a sin and that see murder as a proper punishment to salvage family honor. In this case the defiler was another of her brothers.
The assassin went into the streets shouting that he had cleansed his family's honor. His punishment? A 15-year sentence, subsequently halved.
In Jordan, men convicted of these types of crimes usually serve less than 10 years in prison, while the standard punishment for murder is life. The law further instructs: "He who discovers his wife or a female relative committing adultery and kills, wounds or injures one or both of them is exempted from any penalty."
In Jordan the cruelty of this crime has led 11 brave men and women to form the National Jordanian Campaign Committee to Eliminate Crimes of Honor. The committee has called on government to abolish all judicial bias against women and demand that police investigate every such offense.
More important perhaps is the committee's campaign to raise public awareness on this issue. Honor killings are embedded in a tribal past and are shunned by current religious authorities. Victims in Jordan have been both Muslims and Christians. Similar crimes are reported in Turkey, Pakistan and Iran.
In Jordan, an average of 30 women are killed each year in the name of family honor, and that's one-third of all of Jordan's reported murders. Custom can target women for marrying into an unsuitable family, for being raped, for merely being the subject of neighborhood rumors.
Modern elements in Jordan have sought to reverse the laws but so far have been stymied.
Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based organization, has taken up the cause of women in Jordan and believes change can come through the National Jordanian Campaign Committee to Eliminate Crimes of Honor and other groups. The time has long since passed to eliminate this heinous behavior. It holds no honor.