28 Oct 2010

Expert: Honour killings 'act of purifying through blood'

The Ottawa Citizen - May 15, 2009

By Neco Cockburn

OTTAWA — Honour killings involve a cleansing of dishonour aimed at restoring a family's respect after the so-called "misbehaviour" of female relatives, an expert told the Ottawa murder trial of Hasibullah Sadiqi on Friday.

The "act of purifying through blood" involves control of women by male family members, said Shahrzad Mojab, a University of Toronto professor who has researched the topic extensively.

Mojab testified Friday at the trial of Sadiqi, 23, who is accused of shooting his sister Khatera Sadiqi and her fiance Feroz Mangal in a car at an Ottawa shopping plaza shortly before 1 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2006.

Sadiqi faces two counts of first-degree murder.

The Crown is arguing the deaths came as a result of an "honour killing" sparked by Sadiqi's anger over his sister's engagement, and is trying to prove Sadiqi's actions were planned and deliberate.

Sadiqi's defence lawyers acknowledge their client is responsible for the deaths, but are expected to argue there was provocation, which could reduce the murder charges to manslaughter if certain legal conditions are met.

Mojab told the court she does not know the people involved in the case.

Having one's family respected is very important in "traditional" societies such as that in Afghanistan, where the Sadiqis are from, Mojab told the court.

Losing honour could occur via anything from a woman's appearance violating notions of modesty to refusing arranged marriage, requesting divorce or having a relationship without the permission of the family, Mojab said.

Methods to clear a family's honour in such societies range from displacing a family member to "the act of purifying through blood," Mojab said.

In many cases, a father or brother will claim the killing happened out of passion or love for the woman, but it's argued that the woman had to be sacrificed for the larger love of the family and restoring respect, Mojab said.

At the heart of the issue is the power of male family members over female relatives, she said.

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