Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Jordanian Journalist Takes on "Honor Killings"

Worldpress.org has an inspiring story about how one persistent person can make a difference. Link. Rana Husseini was hired as a crime reporter by the Jordan Times in 1993. The first "honor killing" she covered was of a 16-year-old girl who was murdered by one brother because another brother had raped her and she got pregnant.
It was only after The Jordan Times published her story, retaining all the undesirable details of the case, that she realized the strength of opposition that existed in Jordanian society toward the public disclosure of such crimes. According to official figures, “honor” killings reportedly claim at least 25 lives each year in this country of 4.8 million, one of the highest per-capita rates in the world.

“One of the criticisms I received was from an intellectual Jordanian woman who worked in a high position and had studied abroad,” says Husseini, whose self-gathered crime statistics reveal that “honor” killings amount to one-third of all violent deaths in Jordan. “She called the newspaper and started screaming and yelling at my editor, saying that they should stop me from writing about these crimes because I was tarnishing the image of Jordan.” (...)

“I discovered these killers were getting away with very lenient sentences,” says Husseini, still with a note of disgust in her voice. “And then I also discovered that women who survived these attacks were being put in prison [at the women’s correctional facility in Amman] for their own protection. I was outraged.”

The next few years saw Husseini take the lead on many public awareness campaigns, where she attempted to both change people’s attitudes and amend the law — a move which earned her the Human Rights Watch Award (2000) and Reebok Human Rights Award (1998). (...)

"“[Husseini] almost single-handedly brought this [‘honor’ crime] problem to the attention of the public"” wrote Queen Noor, wife of the late King Hussein of Jordan, in her autobiography, Leap of Faith. “Many criticized her work and motives, and some even sent hate mail and threats. But Rana persisted.”

I am surprised that she was not murdered. That was a very real risk she ran. Some Jordanian laws have changed because of her, as have many Jordanians' beliefs. It is a wonderful thing to see when the press makes a real difference for the better in how people live.


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