Saturday, May 17, 2008

Picture Phones and Honor Killings

The Washington Consensus + the Project for the New American Century --> one state after another falls in the South --> more freedom for the worst men to combine the worst of feudalism and the worst of capitalism against women in a Hobbesian state of anarchy --> more grisly grist for humanitarian imperialism. Neoliberal capitalism sets this sequence of horror in an endless loop.

Here's an example reported by Patrick Cockburn in The Independent:
The United Nations estimates that at least 255 women died in honour-related killings in Kurdistan, home to one fifth of Iraqis, in the first six months of 2007 alone.

The murder of women who are deemed to have disobeyed traditional codes of morality is even more common in the rest of Iraq where government authority has broken down since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A surprising reason explaining the massive increase in the number of honour killings is the availability of cheap mobile phones able to take pictures. Men photograph themselves making love to their girlfriends and pass the pictures to their friends. This often turns out to be a lethal act of bravado in a society where premarital or extra-marital sex justifies killing.

The first known case of sex recorded on a mobile leading to murder was in 2004. Film of a boy making love with a 17-year-old girl circulated in the Kurdish capital, Arbil. Two days later she was killed by her family and a week later he was murdered by his.

Since then there has been a sharp increase in the number of women suffering violence -- it is almost always the women rather than the men who suffer retribution -- as a result of some aspect of their love life being pictured on mobile phones.

In 2007, at least 350 women, double the figure for the previous year, suffered violence as a result of mobile phone "evidence", according to Amanj Khalil of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, citing figures compiled by women's organisations and the police directorate in Sulaymaniyah. ("How Picture Phones Have Fuelled Frenzy of Honour Killing in Iraq," 17 May 2008)
Some men, freed from patriarchal1 family obligations, reduce women to always available sexual objects through whose free exchange, now made more efficient by the latest technology, they bond. In response, other men seek to re-impose patriarchal control of sex, but mainly on women, unlike under the old patriarchy which regulated not just women's but also men's sexual behavior.

This is no clash of civilizations propagandized by Samuel P. Huntington. It is, in truth, a clash of civilization and its other, and it is the empire that is the other of civilization, the destroyer of modernity.

What is to be done on the front line of the clash between civilization and its other? Democratic centralism is the tried and true means to defend modernity on that front line, for it takes discipline to defeat the enemy outside and to check the worst inside. Whether the democratic centralists on the front line call themselves Muslims or Maoists is immaterial.

1 Many use the terms "sexism" and "patriarchy" interchangeably. Against this imprecise usage, I'd propose the following definitions:

Patriarchy subordinates not only women but also younger men to the patriarch of an extended family, in a society where the relation of hierarchical dependency and obligation is the norm.

Sexism, in contrast to patriarchy, justifies subordination of women to men -- often rationalizing it as biologically or culturally grounded exception to the rule of independent individuals with equal rights -- but not younger men to older men, and it is found in a society where kinship has contracted greatly.

Clarified thus, these terms should help us grasp the North-South sexual gap. In the global South, patriarchy tends to predominate; in the global North, sexism tends to prevail.


Unknown said...

Dishonor killings are on the increase not only in Iraq, but globally.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

Yoshie said...

That is possible, but, much like statistic of rape, domestic violence, and other crimes that directly concern gender and sexuality, reliable estimates of incidences of honor killings, a subset of the aforementioned category of crimes, are scarce. Longitudinal studies that make it possible to evaluate global trends over time are probably non-existent.

Red Settler said...

You say that the post-invasion reactionaries are attempting to "re-impose patriarchal control of sex, but only on women", but this doesn't seem to be accurate - Cockburn's article says that the Kurdish boy was killed by his family as well, a week after his girlfriend's murder. Your account of patriarchy seems to explain the resurgence of honour killings in Iraq without much qualification necessary.

Yoshie said...

I accept your criticism, and I changed "only" to "mainly." It's true that reports document some male victims, too. But the victims appear to be overwhelmingly women in the case of Iraq, although it is possible that is due to a bias that makes male victims less visible than female victims.

In addition, most of the documented cases of honor killings in Iraq today appear to concern the Kurds. Again, that may or may not be due to the availability of statistics regarding the rest of the country.

mojiagha said...

Cockburn's "...independent individuals with equal rights" can be seen, per Hamid Dabashi (and others), as an abstract "phantom liberty" (besides being CULTURALLY CONSTRUCTED) dreamed-up by privilledged "inorganic intellectuals" who cofuse WHAT IS, with WHAT SHOULD BE, especially with respect to the colonially-dominated "global? South."