Tehran’s despots recently hanged a 16-year-old girl. What is it in the Arab-Islamic culture that breeds the demonization and dehumanization of the female?
To discuss this issue with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel:
Dr. Donna M. Hughes, an expert on women’s human rights issues who holds the Carlson Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island. Her fields include: violence, slavery, sexual exploitation, Islamic fundamentalism, and women's organized resistance to violence and exploitation. She is frequently consulted by governments and non-governmental organizations on policy related to women's human rights, particularly on trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation;
Dr. Nancy Kobrin, a psychoanalyst and Arabist who is the author of the upcoming book, The Sheikh's New Clothes: Islamic Suicide Terror and What It's Really All About.
Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, a native of Iran who is an activist and writer based in New York.
FP: Donna Hughes, Nancy Kobrin, and Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
This discussion is dedicated to Atafeh Rajabi and to her family. Let’s take a moment of silence to reflect on the tragedy that befell Atefeh -- and on the suffering it represents of millions of persecuted peoples behind the Mullahs’ Curtain.
[Moment of silence]
FP: Ms. Zand-Bonazzi let me begin with you. Tell us a bit about the circumstances behind Atefeh’s execution.
Zand-Bonazzi: Well, sadly this young woman was hung in public charged with adultery. The man with whom she had allegedly had sexual relations with was also arrested but he only received 75 lashes apparently and then freed!
However, in spite of the fact that her entire family pleaded, was condemned to death. Her parents had even specifically produced her birth certificate proving that she was 16 (proving that she's not an adult) and the ruling clergy of the town of NEKA (the town where she was hung) forged papers and insisted that in fact she was 22 and that that was enough reason to hang her.
NOT EVEN her parents' word for their daughter's age was acceptable to them because when these characters put their mind to it, they will falsify anything they want in order to justify heinous acts...just like all the "stories" they've woven around the death of the brave Ziba Kazemi!
FP: Ms. Zand-Bonazzi, why does the male get lashes and the girl gets executed? What is the psychology here?
Zand-Bonazzi: Well, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran's interpretation of the Shari'a (I don't know how it's interpreted or done in Arab countries) a woman is automatically the seductress, however young and innocent. According to them, a man, no matter how old and promiscuous, is considered to be a "victim."
Now, quite a few facts about this poor young girl has come to light. First of all she was visibly mentally unwell (I guess bi-polar because by all accounts she wasn't retarded or dysfunctional; she defended herself at the so-called trial ) She told the religious judge, Haji Rezaii, that he should punish the main perpetrators of moral corruption not the victims. I've also heard charges (which I had suspected would be the story) that the Mullah judge, Hadji Rezai, who was also the proud executioner, had in fact wanted her for himself as a "temporary wife" and because either she or her parents had refused him, he had become enraged and had turned against her and falsified her age as 22, so that he could execute her.
I should add that this Mullah was not only the Judge but also the executioner and he proudly hung the noose around her neck himself. After her execution, he said publicly that her punishment was not execution but he taught her a "lesson" because of her sharp tongue.
I do want to mention one thing about these "temporary marriages" if I may...this allows men and women to get married for one hour or stay married for the rest of their lives. It's basically for the most part, a form of "legitimizing" prostitution and by the way, the woman has no rights to any income or assets of the man AND cannot be married to another man though the man is allowed to have his main wife and as many temporary wives he wants.
FP: Dr. Kobrin, this is obviously a very pathological and dysfunctional culture where men clearly viciously oppress women in the most crudest and despotic sense. It is no surprise, of course, that a “God” is involved that religious tyrants exploit to wage their sexual exploitation and subjugation of women. What are some of the roots to this misogynistic terror?
Kobrin: Let me begin by extending my condolences to the family of this young girl. It is a profound tragedy. I regret that I do not know her name as I wish that she does not remain anonymous. Her murder is classic paranoid behavior on the part of the Mullah, the perpetrator, Sharia and the Ummah (the Arab Muslim world) -- the killing is not named for what it really is -- murder. This is the same for honor killing and, in my opinion, suicide bombing -- in that the real victims are murdered but the violent act of murder is never admitted to by all those involved. The perpetrator also claims that "she” or “the Other” made him do it. When murder is denied, it is also terrifying for the witnesses because they live under a death threat with the message that you could be the next to be murdered if you dare to speak out.
While misogyny is the hatred of women in general, the misogynist actually harbors an even older and very specific unconscious hatred of the first woman in his life -- his mother. How do we know this? How a man treats a woman or young girl, reveals how he feels about his own mother as it is his first relationship in life with a woman.
But let's step back for a moment to think about where all this misogynistic rage comes from. A baby is completely dependent upon his mother for everything. This is the origin of the "terror" of dependency and its attendant "fears of abandonment, shame and humiliation" to be so dependent. At first a baby does not recognize his mother as being separate from himself not only physically but also psychologically. It is only slowly over time that a baby growing into the toddler years begins to develop a sense of mother as Other, apart from his/herself. So in the first months of life, the mother and baby are a unit of one. Two but "fused" together psychologically. The baby can not be "independent."
These initial months in the life of a baby are also the beginnings of sensuality and Eros through breast feeding, touching, bathing, playing etc. for the baby. It sets the template for later "erotic" relationships. Why? Because having sex recreates a "temporary" fusion of two becoming one, reminiscent of the maternal fusion. The early attachment to the mother becomes displaced, so to speak, into sexual relationship. Temporary marriage under Islamic law shows the tenuousness of being in a relationship with a woman. It is essentially a throw away relationship and highly disrespectful to women.
By the way, this is the origin for domestic violence and it can be encountered across all cultures since everyone has a mother. However, there is a higher rate of frequency in Arab Muslim culture for a series of reasons, one being that it is not permissible to "separate" from the mother. The mother is highly venerated, perhaps too much so as she is too idealized and unrealistic. Indeed, the word Ummah comes from the same root for mother in Arabic. The bond between mother and child even into adulthood is not to be severed. This is very similar to Asian cultures as well such as in Hindu culture and Japanese culture. There also tends to be many child rearing practices that involve shaming.
The sex act is important here because in the case of this 16-year-old young girl she was really raped. It can't be consensual sex; she has no power. Rape, murder and suicide are all indicators that misogynistic rage is very primitive, by which I mean that it arises early in the life of the perpetrator by age three if not earlier. We know that in domestic violence where conjoint murder and suicide occur routinely, that the perpetrator manifests a traumatic bond with his victim partner which links back to his early childhood experience with his own mother. His rage is then projected outward and displaced on to his victim partner whom he subsequently murders .He is terrified of abandonment and hates his feelings of helplessness.
Another point which fosters such misogynistic rage in Arab Muslim culture is that the male baby is more valued than the female. The little girl is the most devalued person in the entire Arab Muslim family. Growing into adulthood, she is the most traumatized and hence the most compromised for meeting the demands of motherhood too often at too young an age. Yet ironically, the mother is "allegedly" venerated when in fact as a little girl has been completely devalued and abused -- the trauma of all that can not be put behind so easily. As a mother she bears the emotion scars and can not be as effective as she needs to be.
The case of the 16-year-old girl demonstrates that reality is twisted around; what is true is denied. Not even her parents, her own mother, could assert authority concerning her age. And since the Mullah felt threatened by her being "sexual" and hence out of his control, the Sharia solution is simple: deny reality and kill her off. It is all projection of the Mullah's murderous rage meant for his own mother. Instead of murdering his mother off in fantasy, the Mullah quite literally acted out his murderous rage against his mother in real time and space, on to this poor 16-year-old girl.
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