• Sweden edition
 
Högsby retrial brings 'honour' killings back into focus
A memorial for Abbas Rezai a year after his death

Högsby retrial brings 'honour' killings back into focus

Published: 17 Jun 2011 13:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Jun 2011 13:56 GMT+02:00

The retrial to determine who really was behind the murder of 20-year-old Abbas Rezai has brought the issue of honour killings in Sweden back into focus.

“This re-trial sends out a message that Sweden won’t accept honour-related crimes," Martin Permen, a police officer specialising in dealing with 'honour' killings, tells The Local.

In 2005 Rezai was found scalded, beaten, and repeatedly stabbed in the back and chest in his apartment.

Prior to the killing, his girlfriend's family, which hailed from Afghanistan, had expressed their displeasure with the relationship.

The under-aged brother of Rezai's girlfriend was convicted for the murder in 2006, but has recently changed his story and is now claiming that his parents, who were also suspects at the time, were responsible for Rezai's death.

The ensuing retrial has pitted family members against one another and once again put the issue of 'honour' killings back into the headlines.

Rezai's case is unique, not only because of the circumstances of his retrial, but also because he is the first known man to be killed in the name of honour in Sweden.

“It’s very unusual that the victim is a man but it only confirms that it’s not only women who are subjected to these crimes," says Permen.

The issue of 'honour' killings was fairly unknown to Swedes until the late 1990s, when the term started to enter the public lexicon, especially following the 1999 murder of Pela Atroshi.

Pela, an Iraqi Kurd, was murdered by her uncles while visiting her hometown in Iraq because she wanted to go back to Sweden instead of being married off to a man she didn’t know.

Her uncles were subsequently sentenced to life in prison in Sweden.

While Pela's murder may have awakened Swedes to the phenomenon of 'honour' killings, it was the 2002 murder of Fadime Sahindal that really kicked off a national conversation about the issue.

Fadime, a Kurdish immigrant from Turkey, was killed by two shots to the head from her father after living under threat with her Swedish boyfriend of four years.

Before her murder, Fadime had spoken at schools around the country and also to the Riksdag about the problems that young foreign girls face in Sweden.

"The men in the family began to call and threaten me by phone. They told me that I would never get away with this," she said in a speech to the Riksdag in November 2001.

“My little brother was assigned to kill me. Why he was chosen was natural, he was under-aged and didn’t risk incurring any greater punishment. In addition, it was his task, as the only son of the family, to ensure that his sisters were within the cultural frameworks.”

According to Sara Mohammad, who works to educate at-risk and immigrant women about honour-related violence, 'honour' killings are comparable to a pure execution in their preparation and planning and are meant to help restore the reputation of a family that considers itself shamed by an unwelcome relationship or act.

“The shame you’ve carried around is washed away and your honour is restored. The person committing the crime becomes a hero," she tells The Local.

Mohammad is founder and chairwoman of Never Forget Pela and Fadime (Glöm aldrig Pela och Fadime -- GAPF), a non-profit organisation dedicated to informing immigrant women about their rights in Sweden.

She explains that honour-related violence often occurs in families where it is the mother’s responsibility to raise a girl and teach her how to behave, while the men in the family consider it their job to control the other family members.

"If you don’t control your immediate family you’ll be alienated from the extended family. It’s when a man loses control of the woman that an honour killing could be justified," she says.

In Sweden, families where honour-related violence occurs often believe girls have become too westernized.

By dressing unacceptably, refusing an arranged marriage, or having sex out of wedlock, women and young girls can dishonour their families and thus give their families a reason to carry out honour-related violence, according to Mohammad.

'Honour' killings are also strongly connected to a woman’s virginity, as the father is supposed to guard it till the daughter’s wedding day.

"The honour lies between a woman’s legs," she explains.

"Sexuality is what controls everything. A woman’s genitals are the most important, most dangerous and also the dirtiest part of a woman. A woman can lose her life if she loses her virginity before her wedding day."

Permen says that the police haven’t seen either a rise or a decline in honour-related crimes in recent years.

Nevertheless, they remain far from common, despite concerns about there being many unreported cases.

“I would like to say that the police have become better at detecting the honour-related crimes. It’s not always murder either. We see girls who commit suicide on the influence of their family,” he says.

Mohammad says that an increasing number of girls and women are contacting her organisation today compared to when it was founded in 2001, but says that this is likely to do with increased media attention and a rise in honour-related violence.

“There’s an increased awareness today," she explains.

Permen says that the Swedish police work extensively with honour related crimes and especially in trying to educate their staff on the differences between a “normal” murder and an honour-related one.

“They are normally very organized and well planned. There are also often a lot of people involved and it’s very difficult to get witnesses to step forward," he says.

As prosecutors, Rezai's relatives, and the family accused of killing him await the verdict following the conclusion of the retrial on Tuesday, Permen believes the case serves as a warning.

"I don’t think the whole truth was revealed at the last trial," he explains.

Mohammad also believes that educating the public and the government about these questions could stop such crimes from occurring.

”We’re working on a daily basis to make the people of Sweden and also other countries in the world, aware of honour killings," she says.

Mohammad's message echoes that which was put forward by Fadime in her Riksdag speech from 2001.

“If society had taken responsibility and helped my parents to become more involved in the Swedish community this could perhaps have been avoided," she said at the time.

"What has happened to me is not something one can do anything about but I think it is important that you learn something from it and do something in the future, so that these kinds of cases are not repeated.”

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Education
Three Swedish unis in world's top 100
One of the buildings at the Karolinska Institute. Photo: TT

Three Swedish unis in world's top 100

Three Swedish universities were ranked among the top 100 in the world in the new Times Higher Education ranking, with another two featured in the top 200. READ  

Politics
Nuclear freeze agreed by new government
A nuclear power station in Forsmark, Sweden. Photo: TT

Nuclear freeze agreed by new government

Sweden's Social Democrats and Greens Party have announced a coalition agreement to halt nuclear energy development. READ  

International
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' asylum
A Swedish soldier in Afghanistan. Photo: TT

Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' asylum

The Migration Court in Malmö has ruled that Sweden's Migration Board was wrong to reject the residence applications of seven Afghan interpreters without assessing their protection needs. READ  

The Local List
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
Speak Percussion will perform at Connect in Malmö in November. Photo: Connect

Top five winter festivals in Sweden

Autumn has swept into the country and chilly days lie ahead. But there are plenty of winter festivals where you can warm up in the coming months. With tickets already selling fast, here are The Local's top tips. READ  

Business
Swedish Saab plant sheds a third of workers
Workers at the Saab plant in Trollhättan. Photo: TT

Swedish Saab plant sheds a third of workers

Swedish car maker Saab has announced it has axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce. READ  

International
Sweden's 'most dangerous art' on sale
A Danish site is selling the works that the Swedish state wants destroyed. Screenshot: www.entartetekunst.dk

Sweden's 'most dangerous art' on sale

Work by controversial jailed Swedish artist Dan Park is on sale online and could reach a gallery in Copenhagen, despite a previous exhibition being pulled. READ  

Society
Sweden is 'second best' place to grow old
Pensioners in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden is 'second best' place to grow old

Sweden has dropped to second place in an annual index measuring the quality of life of elderly people in 96 countries around the world. READ  

National
Top Swedish skier killed in Chile avalanche
Andreas Fransson, left. Photo: Markus Alatalo

Top Swedish skier killed in Chile avalanche

UPDATED: The bodies of two of the world's top skiers, Sweden's Andreas Fransson and JP Auclair from Canada, were found on Tuesday after they were reported missing in an avalanche in the Andes. READ  

Politics
Coalition promise to boost welfare and jobs
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

Coalition promise to boost welfare and jobs

UPDATED: The Social Democrats and the Greens have agreed to raise unemployment payments and promised to create more jobs in the construction industry, The Local has learned. READ  

National
Ikea recalls elk pasta
Two types of pasta are affected. Photo: IKEA

Ikea recalls elk pasta

Ikea has pulled two different types of elk-shaped pasta from its stores in Sweden. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos
Politics
New coalition agrees on defence and migration
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Botkyrka
Education
New government to make school compulsory to 18
Politics
Sweden Democrat wins Deputy Speaker spot
Blog updates

01 October

Future tense – ska or kommer att? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Karen had a question the following question on that about future tense: Explain when you use “komma att ” and “ska”. I’m running along forever here using “ska” and realize suddenly everyone uses “komma att” this and that all the time! In Swedish there are three different ways to express future tense and they are not..." READ »

 

01 October

Academy-Award Winning Actor Geena Davis on Changing the Way We View Women in Media (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"There are two moments in Geena Davis’s life that molded her into the powerful women’s advocate and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media she is today: living in Sweden and starring in Thelma & Louise. The first part of her personal journey took flight in Sandviken, a small rocky town east of..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Swedish scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Gallery
People-watching: September 28th
National
When Italian style meets Swedish simplicity
Lifestyle
Review: Sweden's first alcohol-free nightclub
Gallery
In Pictures: The MS Estonia disaster
Lifestyle
Ten things expat women notice in Sweden
Politics
What's next on Sweden's political stage?
Gallery
Sweden's 2014 election: Most memorable moments
Society
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 24th
Seaman Oliver Gee with his first lobster
Lifestyle
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Gallery
In Pictures: Fredrik Reinfeldt through the years.
Society
Plucked out of Canada for love and guitars
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

866
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN