Meurtres d'honneur et déshonneur - Diffamation et réfutation

 
1. Dans le Nouvel Observateur  de cette semaine (Semaine du jeudi 8 novembre 2001 - n°1931 ), un article  sur les "crimes d'honneur", signé par Sara Daniel, relate les meurtres de femmes en Jordanie et dans le monde arabe par leurs propres pères et frères.
cet article comprend les phrases suivantes:
 
"Au Pakistan, l’année dernière, 1 000 femmes ont été tuées au nom de l’honneur. Au Yémen, environ 500. A Gaza et dans les territoires occupés, ils ont représenté deux tiers des homicides. Les femmes palestiniennes violées par les soldats israéliens sont systématiquement tuées par leur propre famille. Ici, le viol devient un crime de guerre, car les soldats israéliens agissent en parfaite connaissance de cause".
 
Cette accusation terrible n'est étayée ni par des sources, aussi douteuses soient-elles, ni par des références quelconques.
 
2. Ce genre d'accusation n'est jamais apparu ni dans les enquêtes de presse, israélienne ou autre, ni dans des rapports de la Croix Rouge ou des ONG, pourtant promptes à dénoncer tout abus ou bavure des israéliens.
 
3. Cette calomnie gratuite a déjà été citée sur France Inter en tant que fait d'actualité rapporté par la presse. Aucune réaction n'a été demandée aux autorités israéliennnes.
 
4. Or, Il se trouve que l'article de Sara Daniel est très étroitement inspiré d'un article publié par le britannique Sunday Times (www.sunday-times.co.uk), le 8 juillet 2001.
Pour ceux qui souhaiteraient lire et comparer, cet article original est joint à la fin de ce mail. Les ressemblences sont frappantes. Inutile de dire que cette source d'inspiration n'est nullement mentionée dans l'article dans sa version française telle que l'a publiée le Nouvel Obs.
 
5. Ajoutons qu'une version espagnole de l'article du Sunday Times a été publiée le 11 novembre dans le magazine-supplément du quotidien madrilène El Mundo
(article à consulter  à l'adresse http://www.el-mundo.es/magazine/2001/MG098/MG098-honorcont.html)
 
6. Dans l'article original, en langue anglaise donc, on apprend que l'accusation sus-mentionée est le fait d'une certaine Mme. Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian, criminologue et féministe palestinienne enseignant à l'Université Hébraïque de Jérusalem.
 
7. Sur le site web de Mme. Shalhoub Kevorkian sont présentés ses travaux universitaires. Dans la description du travail qui mettrait en cause les soldats israéliens, elle précise cependant: "There is no empirical data on this subject" (c'est à dire: "il n'y a pas de données empiriques à ce sujet"). Autrement dit: des accusations - oui; des preuves - pas la moindre!  (le site: http://atar.mscc.huji.ac.il/~pbssw/nadera.html#nadera)
 
8. Il n'est pas inutile de noter que Mme. Shalhoub Kevorkian est membre du comité directeur de B'tselem, une organisation israélienne des droits de l'homme reconnue internationalement. (voir composition du comité directeur :http://www.btselem.org/Files/site/eboard.asp) .  Aucun rapport de Btselem ne reprend à son compte les accusations "non empiriques" du membre de son propre comité directeur.
 
9. Sur le site web du Nouvel Observateur, on peut lire, depuis le 13 novembre, les précisions suivantes:
 
PRECISION : D'Afghanistan, Sara Daniel nous demande de répondre à ses correspondants.


 

 

Dans le numéro 1931 du Nouvel Observateur (daté du 08 au 14 novembre 2001), Sara Daniel a publié un reportage sur le " crime d’honneur " en Jordanie. Dans son texte, elle révélait qu’à Gaza et dans les territoires occupés, les crimes dits d’honneur qui consistent pour des pères ou des frères à abattre les femmes jugées légères représentaient une part importante des homicides.

Le texte publié, en raison d’un défaut de guillemets et de la suppression de deux phrases dans la transmission, laissait penser que son auteur faisait sienne l’accusation selon laquelle il arrivait à des soldats israéliens de commettre un viol en sachant, de plus, que les femmes violées allaient être tuées. Il n’en était évidemment rien et Sara Daniel déplore très vivement cette erreur qui a gravement dénaturé sa pensée.

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Ces rectifications paraitront elles également sur France Inter et les autres média qui auraient éventuellement répercutés ces accusations gravissimes?

 

L'article original du Sunday Times:

 
July 8 2001 SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE
Line


Sarhan Abdullah, 32, shot to death his 16-year-old sister Yasmin, after her rape by a brother-in-law. 'She should die because she made a mistake,' he says. 'If she didn't die, we would kill 1,000 men because of shame.' During his six months in jail he says he was treated as a hero

Report by Eliza Griswold
Photographs by Peter Mcbride

Death and Dishonour




A
mman, Jordan - a young woman lies on the floor of a cypress grove. Her brown hair is pulled back, but some strands have fallen across her face. Her eyes are open. The pine needles below her are stained red, as are her jacket and blue jeans. Look closer and you'll notice her throat has been cut open. At 15, she was raped by three men, then married off to an older cousin who divorced her shortly after. She fell in love with a man who knew her story, and though his family opposed the match, the couple ran away and married.

Three weeks later, the police found them and brought them back to Amman. As is the common practice, the girl was held 'for her own safety' in Jweidah prison. Her cousin arrived to release her, signing a contract promising that the family would pay 5,000 Jordanian dinars (about £5,000) if they killed her. Her father was waiting outside the prison in his pick-up truck. Instead of taking her home, he drove her to this forest by the airport and slit her throat. He spent three years in prison - a good deal longer than the six-month average sentence most men have received for killing in the name of 'honour'. On average, every two weeks in Jordan a woman is murdered for losing her chastity - whether she's the victim of rumour or whether she's a victim of rape. The mere suspicion that she has lost her virginity can lead to a girl or woman being killed for bringing about the loss of her family's honour.

Honour killings have been committed for centuries, and Asma Khader, a Jordanian lawyer, has been working for victims' rights for two decades. 'In the past, women were killed and nobody knew about it,' says Khader. 'Now there's more serious investigation of these crimes.' But it is only in the past few years that there have been attempts to stop the killings by changing the laws that allow them to go virtually unpunished. Rana Husseini, a journalist at The Jordan Times, has braved threats of violence in her home country to campaign against the killings for the past six years. Still, the indicators are not promising. Last year Jordanian parliamentarians almost unanimously rejected moves to outlaw the killings. After the defeat, and in the midst of the political turmoil in the Middle East, honour killings, like most issues involving women and children during war, have taken a back seat once more. Late last year a United Nations resolution condemning them was passed only in watered-down form, with 20 countries including Jordan abstaining from signing.

Meanwhile, at Jordan's National Institute of Forensic Medicine, Dr Hani Jahshan sees little change in day-to-day cases of crimes against women. 'We have to change the whole mentality of virginity,' he says. 'When you see a woman coming to the forensic unit, she is labelled as a bad woman.' It's his job to examine those who come to him accused of sexual wrongdoing, which includes being subjected to coerced sex, and even to examine runaways to determine whether they have had intercourse while away from their families.

The girl in the cypress grove disappears as Dr Jahshan clicks through before- and-after photographs of patients on his computer screen. I saw about 50 such cases in his computer files, which he had compiled as part of a presentation for a European conference on domestic violence and crimes of honour. Because of the strict laws about examining suspicious deaths in Jordan, it's likely that most of the murders of women for 'honour' are recorded. But in Egypt, for example, where the problem is worst in rural communities, girls can be killed and buried without anyone knowing.

Here are two pictures of sisters burned to death for marrying Egyptians. Here are two sisters riddled with bullet wounds - they were forced to sit on the ground while their brother stood above them and sprayed them with a machinegun. Their crime seems to have been that they acted suspiciously.

Dr Jahshan shows the pictures reluctantly, as though each time he presses the button on his mouse he is entering a realm of the dead where he has no right to be. In half of the pictures, the girls are alive, standing by his examining table and exposing an arm or a thigh covered with coin-size burns or bruises, their faces beyond the frame. In the second group of photographs, the same girls are dead and lying on the slab; what's left of their faces is shown because their anonymity no longer offers protection. The doctor rests his chin in his hand and shakes his head. As the images move from living girl to corpse, he tells me their histories, quietly. 'Sometimes they'll come to you and say, 'I'm going to get killed,'' he says, looking away from the image of a heavyset woman. 'I feel sick whenever I see her picture. I examined her when she was alive. I saw her on my table an hour later.' She had been murdered.

Honour crimes also occur in Europe, South Asia, Latin America and Africa; the figures, while limited, reveal where the problem lies. A quarter of all homicides in Jordan are crimes of honour. In Pakistan last year, 1,000 women were killed; in Yemen in 1997, 400 women were murdered; in Egypt, the number was reported as 52 in 1997. In Lebanon there were, officially, 36 murders between 1996 and 1998. In 1999, on the West Bank and in Gaza, more than two-thirds of all homicides were believed to be honour crimes.

Where does this pressure to kill come from? The most frequent and mistaken claim is that these murders are born of Islamic faith. Sharia, or Islamic law, is clear on the issue of extramarital sex and its punishments. Four witnesses must catch the couple in the act - in flagrante delicto. In many cases, if they are married, both are killed publicly; if they are single, each receives 80 lashes. The murders are a cultural hangover of tribal life predating both Islam and Christianity. Its roots are reflected in the code of Hammurabi and the Assyrian laws from 1200BC, which codify a woman's chastity as her family's property. These days, Christian women are just as likely to be killed as Muslim women.

In 1998, Sarhan Abdullah served six months in a Jweidah prison for murdering his 16-year-old sister, Yasmin. He is 32. 'I shot her with four bullets in the head,' he explains as he sits in the back of a car outside the market where he now works. Because it is the month of Ramadan, no cafes are open, so we park on the highway's shoulder to talk. Yasmin, Sarhan tells me, had just returned home from visiting an older sister's where she was raped, by whom she wouldn't initially tell. Instead, Yasmin said, 'I am no longer a girl,' before she turned herself in to the government to be examined and held in prison. Sarhan's family - his uncle, father, mother and 700 members of his tribe - decided at a meeting that Yasmin must be killed to redeem the family name. For only 'blood cleanses honour'. Yasmin's father went to the prison to sign the guarantee, pledging the requisite 5,000 dinars that the family wouldn't kill her. Sarhan shot Yasmin as soon as she walked through the door.

'She should die because she made a mistake,' he says, shifting in his seat and pulling at the tassel on his red fez. 'If she didn't die, we would kill 1,000 men because of shame.' It turned out that Yasmin's brother-in-law was responsible for the rape. He fled. Sarhan passed his six months in the men's facility at Jweidah, where, he explains, 'I was treated as a hero in prison. We were all treated as heroes.' At the time, he was one of 27 men being held for honour crimes. On his release, his parents arrived at Jweidah with a ceremonial sword. 'They brought me a horse to ride the four kilometres from the prison to my house. I was received with a hero's welcome,' he says. 'My horse was white because I had cleansed my family's honour.'

One might think that Sarhan would be proud of his brief sentence. He's not, and in the wake of Yasmin's murder he's become a pariah. He wishes that the punishment for honour killings were execution. 'If the families knew they were going to lose their sons, they would not do it,' Sarhan argues. 'I have asked 11 women to marry me, including the daughter of the uncle who supported me to go out and kill my sister. She refused, and the others refused on the fear that I would kill their daughters.

'What I committed was the stupidest thing I could do. By killing I lost my future. Most people avoid me and are afraid of me. I lost the chance of being married and having children. All of this because of my people, and now, in their eyes, I'm a criminal.' With all that he's been through and with his desire to see the law change, surely he wouldn't murder again - supposing he could find a woman who would have daughters with him? 'Of course I will kill them. As long as I am in this society, I have to do it.'As we drop him by the highway side, he adds: 'This will never change.'

It is 15 minutes by car from downtown Amman to the Jweidah Men and Women's Correctional and Rehabilitative Centre. The prison is named for the town on the city's outskirts, where, ringed with concertina wire, the jail's squat white buildings stand. At dusk, outside one of the few bright slits of window of the woman's building, someone has hung a navy-blue prison uniform out to dry against the stone wall. Inside at any given time, 50 victims of honour crimes are held as inmates. One of them is Inas Subehi, who has been in prison for six years and is now 23. When Rana Husseini, the journalist at The Jordan Times, and I applied for permission to visit Inas in prison, the warden refused.

The warden claimed that Inas didn't want to talk, which seemed strange since she wants the world to know her story. Rana tells how Inas was forced to marry a cousin she didn't like and she fell in love with a neighbour, a musician who used to serenade her. As they fled, her uncle followed her and shot her 12 times. Even though she has served her two-year sentence for adultery, there is no way for Inas to leave the prison. 'They consider her an outcast and they will never release her unless they want to kill her,' Rana said, as we sat outside the prison, watching the lights come on. The only other way Inas can leave Jweidah is if some man (usually much older) comes to the prison to quietly marry her.

There is an alternative: a secret shelter run by the Jordanian Women's Union (JWU), with five beds. Women are supposed to stay for two to seven days. 'They only come to us when they have no other place to go,' says the vice-president of the JWU, Nadia Shamrouk, and with funding, 'The government doesn't help us at all'. The concept of a shelter is dangerous in Jordan - it is seen as an import from the morally bankrupt West that pulls a daughter from her family. Last year it seemed that Jordan, arguably one of the most progressive of Arab nations, would serve as a test case in outlawing honour killing. King Abdullah II and Queen Rania spoke out against the killings on French television; the princes Ali and Ghazi led 5,000 protesters in a march on February 14 through the streets of Amman; Rana Husseini and her 11-member committee collected more than 15,000 signatures from Jordanians to abolish Article 340 (one of the two articles that allow for leniency in crimes of honour). But 79 of the 80 members of the lower house of parliament twice voted against abolishing the article. The delegates were furious with what they saw as a royal bow to western pressure. One opponent, Saud Tamimi, said that Jordan 'is being blackmailed by $250m in aid from the US'. The irony is that the legal code the tribal delegates fought so hard to protect is French, a remnant of the Napoleonic Code of 1810 employed by the Ottoman Turks in 1958.

Many people suspect that the upper echelons of the government intentionally sabotaged the fight to end crimes of honour when it referred to 'international pressure and human rights organisations' as cause for change. It was obvious that the government was talking about the West. Since the vote failed, both the queen and king have remained silent on the issue.

The effects of that silence reach thousands of miles to a town in the United States, where a Jordanian woman lives in hiding with her Palestinian husband. Speaking to Ms A, even by phone, is a bit of a circuitous, cloak-and-dagger affair. Last year, when the fight to outlaw honour crimes raged in Amman, she and her husband watched to see if public outcry might change political will. When it didn't, Ms A was disappointed but not surprised.

She fled from Jordan in 1991. Her story begins in a doctor's office in Zirqua, a town to the southeast of Amman, where she worked as a receptionist. On June 22, (a date her husband, Farhad, still remembers), he came into the clinic for a check-up. 'I knew from the first time I saw him, I would marry him,' she says, and her husband, listening, is silent for a moment. 'She has never told me that before,' he says. For a month, they spoke on the phone while she was at work. Then they started having lunch. 'I didn't know from the beginning that my father wouldn't approve,' she says, but Ms A knew the cost of dishonour. 'A girl in the neighbourhood was killed when I was 18. Her sister's husband raped her and her family killed her. I didn't know if he got punished, but it doesn't matter. They had to kill her.' At 26, Ms A was living at home, with five brothers and five sisters. In August, she slept with Farhad. As soon as she'd lost her virginity, she knew she'd be killed. Farhad went directly to Ms A's father to ask to marry her. 'You cannot say that I knew her or I went out with herÉ This is forbidden, totally forbidden to say, 'I love your daughter.'' Her father said no to his proposal. Farhad was Palestinian and poor; Ms A would marry a wealthy Jordanian.

She didn't know what had happened until her mother told her that a man had come to ask for her hand and her father had refused. 'I was afraid for my life,' she says. The next day, Farhad called her at the clinic. They knew something had to be done immediately. Ms A was concerned that her father would grow suspicious and try to marry her off at once. As soon as that occurred, her loss of virginity would be discovered and she would be killed.

At first, the couple thought they would flee to another Arab country, but they were afraid the police would turn them back. By the end of September, Ms A had her passport and a tourist visa for the US. With money Farhad borrowed, they bought her a ticket for Los Angeles, where Farhad had a friend. For three days before she left, Ms A took the clothes she could carry to work and stored them in a bag at her office. At 4am on the final morning, she snuck past her sleeping family and out of the house. She ran to meet Farhad, waiting in a taxi 50ft down the road. He had her bag in the car. 'I told no one that I was leaving, and I took no pictures of my family,' she says. They went straight to the airport. 'Leaving my house for the last time, I felt a mixture of fear and sadness,' she says. 'Fear in case someone would wake up. Later on, it was sadness that I might never come back.' Ms A has since received three letters from her sister, who told her that her father called all the men of the family together and commanded that if he should die, they must avenge his name by killing his daughter. 'Almost all of the time when I go out of the house, I have the feeling that I'll see one of my brothers or cousins who has come from Jordan to kill me,' she says.

Now the mother of three boys aged eight, six and four, she says: 'For sure something's missing, because my family has never seen my sons. I will never tell my children my story and I don't want my children to go to Jordan because I'm afraid that my family might hurt them, even though they are sons.' Ms A has told nobody in the US about her past except for the lawyer fighting for her political asylum. That request for asylum has been denied by the US government, and despite an appeal, the future is more uncertain than ever. Farhad worries about his wife's health; she contracted diabetes the year after she arrived in the US and he thinks the illness is linked to her psychological state. 'Last Sunday she sat outside at sunset,' he says. 'She was crying. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, 'It's nothing.''

Late last year the issue of honour crimes came to the floor at the UN. The resolution condemning them passed, but its language was so weak as to render it virtually meaningless. Twenty countries, Jordan the most vocal among them, abstained from signing. Meanwhile, on the West Bank, as the intifada takes centre stage in the area of human rights abuses, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, the only female Palestinian professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, finds herself counselling girls almost daily who fear for their lives. Her work on crimes of 'honour' began during the previous intifada, when her research revealed that Palestinian women were being raped by Israeli soldiers, then killed by their families for the loss of honour. 'What happened was like in Bosnia, something similar, rape as a crime of war.' She says that Israeli soldiers knew that their violation would lead to the girls' deaths.

Now she sees women suffering in silent isolation. From a student who comes to her crying because her boyfriend was killed in a clash, and she cannot mourn him for fear that her family will think that she slept with him, to a 27-year-old Christian woman called Leila who had to fight for the right to study, instead of following her parents' wish for her to marry and leave the professional world. 'The minute I finish my degree I have to go home,' she says. Her family has already shown up once and dragged her back to her town. 'They came to my apartment and I thought they came to visit.' But they demanded: ''Finish up here in two days.' I was so ashamed, I didn't tell my friends.' As she had no choice, Leila went home and fought for the right to return for the masters programme to which she had already been accepted. 'I have so many steps to go before I become a human being,' she says. Still, she is determined to finish her doctorate. 'When my little sister comes to me, I will fight for her,' she says. It seems easier for her to fight for someone else than herself, and she catches her own exuberance. 'Maybe I'm demanding too much.'

So what's next in the matter of honour? Asma Khader, the Jordanian human rights lawyer, advocates social arbitration. It occurs outside family court and only in cases of domestic violence; it involves designating community leaders as mediators. By solving individual problems outside the public arena and meting out a private agreement signed by both parties, families can avoid the public shame that leads them to kill their daughters. But the cultural roots are deeper and more complex than the law. Even today, on the floor of parliament, when asked about the case of rape, Abdul Karim Dughmi, a former Jordanian minister of justice, smiles and says: 'All women killed in cases of honour are prostitutes. I believe prostitutes deserve to die.