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An Honor Killing They Won't Call Its Name By: Phyllis Chesler
Pajamas Media | Tuesday, August 11, 2009


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On Friday, August 7, 2009, Mohamed Shojaeifard, a 49-year-old Iranian scientist, estranged from his 40-year-old Bangladeshi physician wife, Haleh Mohseni for more than a year, shot her in the abdomen. Shojaeifard did not stop there. He also shot and killed Mohseni’s 65-year-old mother, Batool Biraman—and his own 17 year-old daughter, Mandana, who had just graduated from Roslyn High School and was planning to attend SUNY at New Paltz.

And then he shot and killed himself.

By now, I have read about forty different accounts of the crime which have been repeated 18,300 times on Google. Not a single media account has mentioned this crime as potentially related in any way to culture, ethnicity, religion, immigration, or assimilation. No one raised the possibility that we might be looking at an honor killing of sorts.

In some ways it is a classic honor killing. Shojaiefard was known to have “stalked” his daughter Mandana. “He did not allow her to attend her prom.” According to a neighbor, Shojaiefard “was really violent and kept the mother and daughter as prisoners. The daughter was scared to go to school sometimes because she came covered in bruises. He moved four blocks away, but he drove by all the time, stalking them. It was creepy.”

Most instances of western-style domestic femicide do not often involve a father killing a teenage daughter, especially one whose “honor” he has guarded so zealously or whom he has physically abused. For example, about twelve hours later on the very same day, but clear across the country, in Oildale, California, Robert Dale Fuller, 56, murdered his wife, Annette Sowders-Fuller, 45, and his mother-in-law, Sharon Sue Cannon, 69. But he did not kill his two young daughters, ages five and eight. Nor did he kill himself.

On the other hand, classic honor killings are a family conspiracy and usually involve several family members. Shojaeifard seemingly acted alone. And, he killed himself as well. Most honor killers do not do kill themselves. They do not feel they have done anything wrong; in fact, they believe they have done precisely the right thing.

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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (2005). She has just published a new edition of Woman's Inhumanity to Woman (2009). She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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