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Increase in Honor Killings in Western Nations

Updated on January 20, 2014

There has been a massive increase in the reports of honor killings of mainly women and girl children in Western countries including the UK, the US, Canada, Europe and Australia.

So-called "honor killings" are homicides carried out by members of the victim's immediate family where dishonour and shame have been perceived to have been brought upon the family by the actions of the victim.

This may include:

  • women who have committed adultery, or who have been suspected of having an affair
  • girls and young women who adopt the customary style of dress and clothing of their peers in their adopted country
  • girls who refuse to participate in arranged marriages
  • girls or women who have been the victim of rape
  • girls who have a boyfriend deemed unsuitable by their family
  • young women who have babies out of wedlock
  • girls who engage in heterosexual acts outside of marriage
  • boys who engage in homosexual acts
  • women who seek a divorce, even if her husband is physically violent towards her
  • sometimes, women who serve the dinner late
  • women who stand too close to strange men in public places

Honor killings are not religious

Most honor killings throughout the world are carried out by people who have a Middle Eastern or southern Asian background.

Acts of extreme punishments for women who were not completely chaste and obedient pre-dates most of the world's religions.

In 1,600 BC, such killings were common among ancient Romans, and indeed in all patrilineal societies of which there were many.

Other ancient cultures and societies which practised honor killings include:

  • Babylon,
  • Egypt,
  • China,
  • North American Native tribes
  • Persia
  • Greece

Since the introduction of the world's religions, today's honor crimes are revealed among followers of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

The problem is cultural.

Patrilineal societies are cultures where man is everything. Women are only there to produce more men. The word patriline literally mean "a father's line", and the whole world at one time followed this ideology.

Sons inherited titles, property, power, money and more importantly, carried the Y-DNA moledule of his father.

The presence of the X-DNA molecule from the mother was actually unknown until the 19th century!

Even today, in many Western cultures, a women takes her husband surname after marriage, as do their children.

As more and more people from the Milddle east and Asia flee northwards to escape despotic regimes in their own countries, so more of those host nations are seeing so-called honour killings.

In the UK alone, honor crimes have risen at a horrifying rate, now estimated to have reached more than 3,000 cases a year. In 2010, 2,823 cases were reported to police, according to the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO).

Many go unreported and therefore undetected.

Even out of those that are reported, police find it very difficult making inroads into learning what actually happened because the family themselves will obstruct the police and back up each others' lies.

Hundreds if not thousands of young people, usually girls, simply disappear every year, and schools do not follow up their absences from class.

On the rare occasion that they do, they are told that the girl has returned to her family's native country where of course, she is never heard from again.

First time an English court has ordered an adoption to prevent a murder

Baby Q was born our of wedlock to her student mother in 2010, and is now in the caring hands of adoptive parents, at her mother and grandmother's request.

Within the devoutly Muslim family were real fears that the baby's grandfather would murder not only the baby, but her mother and grandmother, should he find out that his unmarried daughter had given birth to a married man's child.

At birth, the baby was whisked away, and it was only when the child's father found out about her that he commenced legal proceedings at London's High Court to have the baby given to him and his wife to look after and bring up.

However, at the Court of Appeal, it was decided it would not be in the baby's best interests to be re-united with her natural father, and that she was safest remaining with her adoptive parents.

Banaz Mahmod
Banaz Mahmod | Source

The tragic case of 20 year old Banaz Mahmod

Banaz Mahmod from South London had a boyfriend who her family considered unsuitable. She knew her life was in danger when her father approached her in a threatening manner at home. In her fright, she crashed through the nearest window and escaped.

When later interviewed by a policewoman she confessed her fears, named who she thought was going to kill her and pleaded for help.

Her pleas fell on deaf ears, and she was instead threatened with being charged for wasting police time and for causing criminal damage to the window.

A day later, she was dead, strangled at the hands of those she named as being her aggressors to police.

Her father, uncle and cousin were later charged, convicted and are spending life in prison.

17 year old Laura Wilson
17 year old Laura Wilson | Source
Ashtiaq Asghar
Ashtiaq Asghar | Source

Laura Wilson, 17

In a frightening new twist the whole 'honor killings' shame,17 year old Laura Wilson was murdered after having an affair with two Pakistani men.

In 2007, then aged 13, Laura appeared on popular the UK talk TV show "Jeremy Kyle" where it was revealed that even at such a young age she was 'out of control' while being sexually groomed by Asian men.

Police in the UK have warned young girls to be on their guard against this. Many Pakistani men do not see white women as real people, only as sexual objects.

Laura gave birth to a baby to one man when she was 16, but he denied responsibility. She then embarked on an affair with another, but when his mother found out, she attacked Laura with a shoe and called her a "dirty white bitch".

The next day her battered and stabbed body was discovered next to a canal. The catalyst for her death appears to have been the 'dishonour' she brought upon her boyfriend's family.

Sentencing Ashtiaq Asghar to life imprisonment, Lord Justice Davies described him as a man who see white girls as easy targets and not human beings.

The book "Shame" by Jasvinder Sanghera

The UK's Forced Marriage Act

In 2007, the UK Parliament passed the 'Forced Marriage Act' designed to protect young girls from being married off to strangers in foreign countries at an age below the British legal age of consent.

This is thanks in part to Jasvinder Sanghera's book "Shame".

Under this Act, young girls who are being forced into arranged marriages can be offered court protection which involves the taking away of their parents' passports and prevents them applying for new ones, to prevent the child from being taken out of the country.

Part of the Act also provides a special "Forced Marriage Unit", who can travel abroad and forcibly bring young unwilling brides back home.

Jasvinder Sanghera, the girl who escaped

The second youngest of 7 daughters in a Seikh family living in Derby, Engand, Jasvinder Sanghera knew what was coming when she turned 14.

She had watched her elder sisters being taken out of school one by one when they reached 14, and sent off to India to marry a man they had never met.

When the day came that her mother took her aside and showed her the photograph of the man she was to marry, she refused.

Despite being padlocked in her bedroom for many weeks. no-one from her school called to enquire about her absences.

Finally, she escaped and ran away.

Her parents immediately disowned her for bringing disgrace upon the family.

30 years have passed and Jasvinder has finished her education and rebuilt her life, but sadly her family refuse to have any contact with her.

In 1993, Jasvinder opened the charity, Karam Nirvana, dedicated to helping victims of forced arranged marriages and honor crime.

She says that in 2008 (in the UK), a massive 2,500 girls went missing from school during the summer vacations, and that those numbers have increased in the years since, and are expected to double this year (2011).

Some Other UK Honour Killings

15 year old Tulay Goran's Kurdish family discovered she had a secret boyfriend in 1999. She then disappeared from her London home, and it was quite some time later that police learned a family council had decided she had to die in a so-called honor killing, and her father was later convicted of her murder.

in 2002, 16 year old Londoner Heshu Yones's Kurdish father, Abdullah, slit her throat for having a Lebanese Christian boyfriend.

In Cheshire, 17 year old Shafilea Ahmed disappeared in 2003. 5 months later her decomposing remains turned up in a field. Her parents have been charged with her murder after friends confirmed she had fought against their wishes to force her into an arranged marriage in Pakistan.

Morsal O
Morsal O | Source

European Honor Killings


In Germany in 2005,, Hatun Sürücü was killed by her brother for daring to leave the man she had been forced to marry, and for living like a German woman.

Hatun had adopted the Western way of life, she wore jeans and earrings, abandoned the hijab. She loved going out to the movies and dancing. In other words, she was just a normal young girl enjoying life.

A Kurdish Turk, she was shot in the head while waiting at a bus stop in Berlin, aged just 23.

Her brother was later jailed for just 9 years.

That same year, a further 7 honor killings made the German headlines.

Morsal O (pictured right), a beautiful 16 year old German-Afghan girl became the victim of an honor killing when her brother Ahmad Sobair O stabbed her 23 times in a car park in Hamburg, Germany, in 2008.

He accused her of 'impure, immoral conduct'.


Fadime Sahindal, a 26-year-old Turkish university student with a Swedish boyfriend, was murdered by her father in Sweden in 2002. He insisted she marry a man from Turkey.

Honor killers usually boys under 18

In Western nations, the usual perpetrator of honour killings, the father, is often not the one who carries out this horrific act.

Family council meets to decide who will murder the daughter/sister/aunt/mother, and often under-18 year boys are chosen.

This is because in many countries, these boys will receive a lighter sentence than their older relatives.

Indeed, in some countries, the 'coming of age', on their 18th birthday, their criminal record is wiped clean.

Many of those boys were co-erced into carrying out murder, knowing that if they refused, they would be signing their own death warrants.

The only way to discourage honor killings is for the courts to come down really hard on those condoning this practise, to send out a clear message that no decent society will tolerate this barbaric behaviour.

UN list of countries where honor killings have been carried out

Reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights show that honor killings have occurred in

  • Bangladesh
  • Great Britain
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Germany
  • India
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jordan
  • Morocco,
  • Pakistan
  • Sweden,
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • United States

The Movie 'Bliss'

Other countries where honor killings are rife, but NOT reported to the UN include

  • Afghanistan
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Quatar

"Bliss" is described as sdapted from internationally acclaimed author Zulfu Livaneli's novel, BLISS is an unconventional road movie in which the executioner of an honor killing and his victim go on a journey of self-discovery.

Honor Killings in the US - Fox News Report

Books about Honor Killings

Why is there an increase in honor killings in Western Nations

Experts have come up with various ideas as to why there has been a huge increase in honor killings across the Western Nations of the world over the past few years.

Some feel it may be due to a global rise in Islamic fundamentalism, which has turned even second or third generation young men back towards the ancient traditions which had largely been forgotten as they themselves embraced their new westernized ways.

As young women from those Middle Eastern and Asian cultures also support integration into their new societies, they increasingly want to get educated, choose their own husbands and mode of dress.

They want to be like their white peers, and chat to strangers on the streets, or in bars, clubs and cinemas.

A nice thing about thehijab is that those young women can actually enjoy greater freedoms than they could without their traditional headdress, as they are less likely to be recognised by the male members from their own community and family.

If a girl child in your school goes missing, consider the possibility that she has been sent back to a country she has never even visited to be forcefully married off to a stranger of her parent's choosing.

Lobby your politicians for a change in the Law to protect those young women.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      In India, honor killing is a very common thing.

    • Easy-tasty-recipe profile image


      4 years ago

      Very sad to know that most honor killings are done by Muslims. I appreciate the hub author for her words 'Honor killings are not religious'

      I agree with you buddy. Thumbs up.

    • KrisL profile image


      6 years ago from S. Florida

      Thanks for the dialogue, Izzy.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from UK

      There are psychopathic control freaks in all societies, you are correct, and some of them are not fit to be amongst women. Sorry to hear about your friend. I think the only way we in Western society can stamp so-called honour killings out is to punish the offenders with the maximum sentence allowed by law, so that their fear of punishment will become greater than the risk of 'cultural shame'. The latest couple found guilty in court of murdering their daughter got 12 and 9 years respectively. Under UK's soft laws, they will be out in half that time if they behave themselves in jail. They should have got life with a minimum jail period of 15 years. Only severe sentences will deter these people. Maybe there are fewer cases in the US because the sentence is something crazy like 125 years in prison. You have the right idea. I'm not sure level of education has much to do with it.

    • KrisL profile image


      6 years ago from S. Florida

      Agree completely with what you said. We need to be vigilent. I think that the problem may be somewhat worse in Europe, as Muslim immigrants in the US tend to come from more educated backgrounds (not that that's a _guarantee_ of anything).

      As for the other kinds of murders, I was thinking more of systematic abusers than the "crime of passion" thing. Volunteering at a battered woman's shelter, I once met a fellow volunteer whose exhusband tracked her down, and beat her almost to death for leaving him . . . both were Americans of European ancestry.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from UK

      Just this week another set of parents have found themselves jailed for murdering their daughter, for embracing Western culture. This has become a huge problem in Western nations. OK it is true we have plenty of murders through jealous rages etc, but this is different. This is the parents of a (usually) teenage girl deciding to cold-bloodedly murder their own, not crimes of passion by any stretch of the imagination. There are laws in place to help them, IF they can get out of the house to report the situation to those in authority. These parents tend to lock the girl in a room, and not permit her to go out and make a complaint. We know it is not every Muslim family this happens in, and indeed it is only a tiny percentage, but that percentage seems to be growing and it is something we must be aware of if there are Muslims in our community. We can look out for them, and offer help when we see something is not quite right, or a child is absent from school.

    • KrisL profile image


      6 years ago from S. Florida

      Thank you for sharing this important issue. The fate of the young boy convinced or threatened into murdering a relative is almost as horrific as that of the victims.

      I think, though , that is is important to emphasize that "we" in historically Christian countries are not automatically more civilized than "them." Honor killings are culturally assoicated with Muslim countries, but murder by jealous abusive husbands and boyfriends knows no nationality, and, sadly, happens the world over.

      Valuing women, supporting their independence, and having police believe them when they say they are threatened will help end both kinds of murder.

      (Also, we need to remember many immigrant Muslims would not dream of forcing arranged marriages or murdering women, even though they do worry about the influence of western culture on their families).

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow, I had no idea this was happening outside the countries where the culture predominates. Thanks for raising awareness!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Justice has been done! Thanks for the link, it was very informational.

    • Tranquilheart profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      I have wonderful news to share: Shafia jury finds all guilty of 1st-degree murder

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      I just went and read about it. How awful!

    • Tranquilheart profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      The Shafia family trial is big news in Canada right now. I'm following the court case. I hope the outcome will be fair and serve as an influential example in our legal system so the victims will not pass in vain.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      I've hardly touched on the honor killings that happen in the US, but it is true to say that not only do they happen, but that US laws offer even less protection to women in patrilineal families than most European countries do. It is time for change, but change cannot happen until more people are made aware of what is happening. I don't consider myself to be 'brave' for posting this hub, as I am not at risk of being killed, for honor or for any other reason. It is up to us to help protect those that are.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      None of this should be tolerated in any Western or halfway civilized nation....but then again we also give the death penalty and carry it out on innocent persons in the USA.....

    • poetvix profile image


      7 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

      That this goes on in the year 2011 is horrific. That the so called family leaders put their own sons up to what they don't have the courage to go down for themselves is almost as shameful as the act they conspire to have committed. That courts are not hammering them on conspiracy charges is just as shameful. That we, women around the world, stand for this will change, is changing. How hypocritical is it for a man who uses any female as nothing more than a sexual object to then judge anyone for being impure? Should he not look within his own heart first? Or, is such a man too much of a beast to even be able to process such a thought? This is an important, needed article and I thank you for being brave enough to post it.

    • Max Dalton profile image

      Max Dalton 

      7 years ago from Greater St. Louis, Missouri

      Wow. Very informative. Thanks, Izzy.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      7 years ago from Southern Nevada

      What the devil is going on in this world. When still living in England I always heard when the Asian Indians give birth to a girl they kill the baby and bury it fast.

      Your hub is great to help these people.

      Merry Christmas Izzy. Joyce

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      I've just added another couple of links to this hub. I'm hoping that the women at risk can find something here too. While the UK seem to be setting things up nicely to help these women and girls, I am not seeing much sign from the US, so welcome any links or sites that can offer help. Meanwhile, we all need to be aware of this.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      7 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      I'm so glad you posted this well-researched article! Kudos to y9ou!

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 

      7 years ago

      Might have something to do with the fact that these people are moving to Western nations in greater numbers. I think, really, that they have no intention of changing their culture. They come for the money, unaware that there is a correlation between western ways of doing things and their way of doing things.

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi izzy, one of your best hubs touching on a very modern issue. Although honour killings have been taking place for centuries the "veil" of silence that follows them from within their prospective communities is a major reason why the authorities have so much difficulty tracing the perpetrators of these crimes. Voted up.

    • Diana Trees profile image

      Diana Trees 

      7 years ago from Atlantic City

      I wrote a poem about Hatun Sürücü's murder when it happened. To this day, I remember the horror I felt. Thanks for this article. It's brilliant.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Yes the UK seem to be leading the way when to comes to making Laws to help protect the victims of arranged marriages, which is a start. It is very very difficult for everyone to prevent honour killings when they happen inside families where the young ones should be safe.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      7 years ago from UK

      The rise in "honour" killings is truly shaming, but in the UK at least, the Police have started to take them more seriously with special units being set up. I believe that Banaz Mahmood's case was partly responsible for the shift in attitude.

      Thanks for sharing this issue. Voted up.


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