DAM – Arab Music against Honor Killings
***Turn on captions for English subtitles***
Mourning a life never lived, If I Could Go Back In Time tells a woman’s story backwards – from her murder to her birth:
If I look through the album of her life
I won’t see a photo of her standing up for her rights
It’s hard, the pages are stuck to my hand
Her past full of blood and tears
Just like the way we hear about these stories in the news, the song starts with the killing. But then it retraces the steps that led to it until the last verse reveals the victim’s only crime:
Their expressions filled with anger as if someone announced a crime
”Congratulations, it’s a girl”
It’s difficult to estimate which countries have the highest rates of honor killings, but according to the UN there are 5000 cases of “honor” killings worldwide every year, 1000 cases in India alone. It’s easy to oversimplify these tragedies and push them aside as “evil Arab/Muslim men victimizing innocent oppressed women”, but it’s a complex issue that cuts across different countries, cultures and religions. Not recognizing that would be counterproductive.
Also, as DAM and Amal Murkus show in the video (directed by Jacqueline Reem Saloum and DAM member Suhell Nafar), women often contribute to the circle of violence, while being victims of a misogynistic society, too. The victim’s mother wanted to force her into an arranged marriage and told the male killers about the victim’s plan to escape. At the same time, the mother was pressured by the same misogynistic code of conduct as the male killers. Since DAM and Amal Murkus are Palestinians, let’s take a look at “honor” killings there:
A legacy of Britain’s colonial rule over Palestine, certain laws allow “honor” killings to be punished less than other types of murder. This goes so far that, as the Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq estimated, 90 percent of honor killings are actually not carried out for “dishonoring” the family – the murderers claim this as a reason because courts are more lenient if honor is a motive.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree to suspend two of these laws: Article 340 of the Jordanian penal code of 1960, in effect in the West Bank, and Article 18 of the British Mandatory law of 1936, which is enforced in Gaza. Article 340 granted a man exemption from prosecution and reduced penalties for killing his wife or other female relative if she is caught committing adultery. Article 18 provided leniency for the same crime if a man can prove that he acted in order to preserve his honor or the honor of others.
Unfortunately, other discriminatory laws remain in effect and even if Abbas changed them all – he doesn’t control Gaza. The complicated legal situation in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip could be one of the reasons honor killings rose in Palestine – from five women only three years ago to 26 last year.
DAM member Tamer Nafar told the Electronic Intifada: “It’s a message to my people, to all Arabs, that our revolutions aren’t just against oppression from politics and leaderships. It must be a revolution so that women are one hundred percent equal with men.”