A young female form lying crumpled on a sidewalk. Blood flowing from multiple stab wounds. Police cars. Ambulances. Flashing lights. Emergency personnel working frantically to save an innocent life that had barely begun.
It is a scene that is becoming all too common in Western Europe with its growing Muslim population, as the northern German city of Hamburg experienced in May yet another horrifying honor murder of a young female.
Morsal Obeidi, barely 16, arrived in Hamburg from the war-torn country of Afghanistan when she was three, probably barely remembering her country of origin in her new homeland. The German Muslim student, who had won a prize in her multicultural school for tolerance and peaceful co-existence with others, was stabbed 20 times by her 23-year old brother, Ahmed, who ambushed her at a commuter train station.
The reason for Morsal’s murder is a common one for female Muslim victims of honor killings who emigrate to the West with their families and grow up between two cultures: she was living too western a lifestyle.
“She had a different life than the family wished,” admitted Ahmed, who assaulted his sister so severely that he wounded himself and had to be treated in hospital.
According to one report, Ahmed’s younger sister started her teenaged rebellion when she was 14. The schoolgirl was tired of living by the rules of the family’s Afghan-Muslim culture that see the daughters confined at home and made to do housework when not at school while the sons have all the freedom they want.
Such girls from South Asian and Muslim communities are also monitored very carefully after reaching puberty, as the male members of the family are very concerned that they remain virgins until marriage, since this involves their “honor.” One German Muslim woman wrote that the physical attributes she developed upon turning 13 filled her Turkish father with “deep worry.” This male obsession with virginity is manifested in the expression, common in these traditional cultures, that “…a man’s honor lies between a woman’s legs.”
Ahmed was most likely one of those male family members concerned about his sister’s chastity. It was reported he watched Morsal very closely and, when he was not available, he had cousins, uncles and aunts do it for him.
Morsal’s rebellion against such strict control included such normal, western behaviour for teenaged girls as wearing “uncovered hair, makeup and jeans” as well as smoking, drinking and staying out late, all of which brought her into conflict with her family. But all in all, it was reported the young schoolgirl simply wanted the same freedoms her German classmates had.
Like in many families where honor murders occur, violence was already extensive in Morsal’s. Before her death, the teenager had suffered numerous assaults at the hands of her father, Ahmed and a 13-year-old brother, who had once knocked her tooth out. An older sister is also suspected of mistreating her.
“You dress like a tramp,” Ahmed said to his sister once before beating her up, his sense of moral superiority being somewhat misplaced, since he himself has an extensive criminal record, starting when he was 13. This ‘man of honor’ is a thief and had already knifed others in fights, once being stabbed eight times himself in an argument involving prostitutes outside a brothel.
Such domestic violence had caused the tormented Afghan-German girl to spend nights at youth shelters. But like many immigrant teenagers from traditional cultures, with their deep sense of family which they do not want to give up overnight, she always returned home. But the final straw leading to her tragic death may have been the young girl’s staying away from home for three nights in a row.
Sadly, Morsal’s was not the only honor murder to occur in Germany this year.
Last March in Berlin, an 18-year old boy stabbed his grandparents to death after his German mother had separated from his Turkish father and got a new boyfriend. The murders were carried out at the behest of the father, according a newspaper report, to restore his honor. The father and son had already assaulted the grandfather and boyfriend earlier in separate instances, while the father had threatened his wife’s family many times with death, causing his spouse to flee to a women’s shelter.
The wife’s unavailability is probably what caused her parents to be targeted as well the fact the grandmother approved of the separation (no surprise there). The son carried out the killing, since, like in other honor murders in Germany, the Muslim families often get the underage sons to do the killing because the maximum sentence for a minor for murder is only ten years, and often less.
Like in the Berlin case, a Kurdish man from Iraq murdered his wife for leaving him, for which he received a life sentence at his trial last fall in Munich. Leaving the husband can often be a death sentence for the wife in traditional Muslim families.
This particular killer showed no remorse whatsoever and was even smiling in the court room. Only three hours after a successful divorce court hearing in 2006, the murderer ambushed his ex-spouse on the street, stabbed her twelve times (the knife broke, stopping the assault) and then poured gasoline over her prostrate body lying on the sidewalk, burning her alive. This was all done before the eyes of their five-year-old son with the sadistic killer telling the court you can’t take children into consideration when it concerns honor.
Also at his trial, the Kurd said he had killed his wife because she had betrayed him and that his “religion and culture” forbid that. Laughably, he also partly blamed German laws for his murderous rage. He whined that in Germany “…only women have rights. So they become stuck-up and believe they can do whatever they want.”
The killer also admitted he first received permission from his wife’s father in Iraq to murder his daughter. When it is believed a woman has dishonoured the family, even if married, it is usually her birth family that kills her, since it was responsible for her upbringing and thus it is the one “dishonoured.”
This ongoing clash between the religious and cultural values of Muslim societies with those of western civilization manifested themselves in two other honor murder trials in Germany.
In Monchengladbach, a city in the Rhineland, a Turkish immigrant received a life sentence last February for shooting his wife and daughter to death on the street in 2007. Again, it was a case of a wife leaving her husband with their children after years of brutal treatment that included rapes and beatings.
Like the Kurd in the Munich case, this criminal also showed no remorse and also murdered his wife in dramatic fashion. After she had fallen to the ground with the first shot, the ‘man of honor’ put his foot on her and fired twice more directly into her head. One female Muslim lawyer at the trial said such theatrical executions are meant to show “…that the man is doing everything to restore his honor and that he defended himself against the rebellious wife.”
And last March in Bonn, a father was facing a life sentence for having murdered his 17-year-old daughter in 1993. The native Syrian, along with two nephews, strangled the young victim with a cord because, like Morsal Obeidi, she wanted to “live like German girls.” They later buried the body in a wood.
The father’s undoing was that he made his other daughter witness the murder as a warning as to what would happen to her if she ever decided to determine her own life.
“If you don’t behave according to our rules, the same thing is going to happen to you,” she was told.
Racked by guilt that made her life a living hell, the surviving sister informed the police of the honor killing 14 years later.
Like after the Hatun Surucu honor murder in Berlin in 2005 that awoke Germany to this social horror in their midst, German politicians and authorities are again falling all over themselves after the Morsal Obeidi killing in Hamburg. They say they will examine the youth shelters’ role in failing to prevent the tragic murder (as if they are to blame), as well as nebulously promising to do more to protect women facing such danger as well as explain to them their rights.
In reality, while these measures will help somewhat, much like a band aid, the real problem has to do with the values the murderers acquire in their countries of origin. As long as these men believe they have a cultural and religious right to control women, determine their lives (especially their sexuality), treat them like eternal minors, and even murder them when they transgress some archaic, tribal code of honor, then it appears there is not much Western countries can do after they arrive within their borders, since they despise our culture and, like the Kurd in the Munich trial, hold our laws in contempt.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that parts of western European cities, where Muslims form the majority of the population, are now ruled by sharia law where these anti-civilization values can grow and spread.
But every voice, especially those of victims like Morsal, makes a difference. A spirit of change exists in every culture, including the Muslim. It is the Muslim women that have to be compulsorily educated in massive fashion if honor murders are ever to be stopped. Making Muslim womens’ visas and those of their family members’ contingent on this understanding of compulsory education would benefit enormously in this effort. No half measures. More Muslim women would determine their own lives if they were not so afraid of honor killings. And a real sense of urgency is needed to deal with this social nightmare facing these young female souls.
But in the end, it is we Westerners who have to stand up for the life-affirming values we hold dear and change our laws substantially to reflect this. Western legal codes were written when the predatory and barbaric practice of honor murder was unknown due to the absence of these immigrant groups. This must be rectified and the new reality reflected in new laws, since the bottom line is that we cannot have women being killed at sixteen if we are to call ourselves human.