• 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
Sport
Sweden's star striker Zlatan 'recovering well'
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Sweden's top scorer in history. PHOTO: TT/Maja Suslin

Sweden's star striker Zlatan 'recovering well'

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is recovering well from the nagging heel problem that has stopped him playing for Sweden during its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. READ  

International
Swedish sisters create viral Syria stir
A shot from the video on YouTube.

Swedish sisters create viral Syria stir

Two sisters from Södertälje near Stockholm are celebrating getting more than 1.3 million hits on YouTube, with a video calling for peace in war-torn Syria. READ  

Pirate Bay
Pirate Bay founder gets three years in prison
A 2013 image of Svartholm Warg. Photo: TT

Pirate Bay founder gets three years in prison

Swedish "hactivist" Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for hacking crimes. READ  

Royal family
Princess Madeleine to make Nobel comeback
Princess Madeleine at a previous Nobel banquet. Photo: TT

Princess Madeleine to make Nobel comeback

Sweden's Princess Madeleine is scheduled to appear at the Nobel Festival in Stockholm in December, after taking time out from her royal duties to focus on looking after her daughter. READ  

Politics
'We knew that Israel would be critical'
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström (left), with Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

'We knew that Israel would be critical'

Sweden's Foreign Minister has told The Local she respects Israel's decision to recall its ambassador after Sweden officially recognized the State of Palestine, and laughed off comments about IKEA furniture made by her Israeli counterpart. READ  

Analysis
'Store up your sunlight hours before winter'
Doctors say we should make the most of the autumn sunshine. Photo: Shutterstock

'Store up your sunlight hours before winter'

Spending time outdoors this autumn will help you survive a cold, dark Swedish winter. Baba Pendse, Head of Psychiatry at Lund University shares his top tips for battling the seasonal blues with The Local. READ  

Sports
Plot for shared Scandi Winter Olympic bid
Skiers hit the slopes in Åre, western Sweden. Photo: TT

Plot for shared Scandi Winter Olympic bid

Norwegian sports officials have said they want to co-host the winter Olympics with Sweden in 2026. But there has so far been no official response from Sweden. READ  

National
Anti-Israel graffiti 'not a race crime': Court
Photo: TT

Anti-Israel graffiti 'not a race crime': Court

A teenage boy who painted anti-Israel slogans and symbols on the Concert Hall in Gothenburg has been convicted for the damages he caused, but he walked free from racial agitation charges. READ  

Entertainment
A closer look at Sweden's rising stars
Swedish actresses Sandra Huldt and Julia Ragnarsson. Julia (right) has been nominated for a Rising Star award. Photo: TT

A closer look at Sweden's rising stars

Like to be ahead of the game when it comes to the next big thing on the silver screen? We find out more about the Swedish nominees for the Rising Star award to be presented at Stockholm's International Film Festival next week. READ  

Science
Swedish women in two-year sex pill study
Contraceptive pills have been linked to mood swings. Photo: Shutterstock

Swedish women in two-year sex pill study

Three hundred women from across Sweden are taking part in a study designed to demonstrate that modern contraceptive pills don't lead to decreased libido or mood swings. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
Stockholm's shocking take on Halloween
Sport
Top ten quotes from Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
People-watching: October 30th
National
Sweden remains fourth best for gender equality
Blog updates

31 October

Editor’s Blog, October 31st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Welcome to our latest 60-second round-up of the week’s news. First, Sweden made headlines around the..." READ »

 

29 October

Scariest day (Blogweiser) »

"This is what’s frightening me on Halloween. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4OFZVCu8J0&list=UUJu5J7jG4uoYSjWbpFsJBuQ Follow my posts on FB. ..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sport
World Cup ski race on 'fake' Stockholm slope
Society
An Arctic tradition: hunting and handicraft
Society
Stockholm taxis offer free therapy sessions
National
The Local meets Health Minister Gabriel Wikström
Gallery
Property of the week: Österåker
Society
Homeless turtles get Stockholm police ride
National
Construction worker has 'Sweden's best beard'
National
Italian musician jazzes up Sweden's Lapland
Gallery
Zlatan's career in pictures
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: October 25th and 26th
Lifestyle
'Swedes are funnier than they think'
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
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

970
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