• 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
Suspected Ebola case ruled out in Sweden
Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Suspected Ebola case ruled out in Sweden

UPDATED: Officials at a Stockholm hospital reported that they had found a suspected case of the Ebola virus on Sunday night. The case was dismissed, however, on Monday. READ  

Skåne floods
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
A Malmö bus under water. Photo: Stig Åke Jönsson/TT

Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods

Flood waters subsided in the southern Sweden region of Skåne on Monday, after flash flooding saw chaos on roads and trains at the weekend. READ  

Elections 2014
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto

UPDATED: Leaders of the Moderate Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats have announced their complete list of election promises in Stockholm's Nacka. READ  

Man shot dead in hunting accident
Photo: Hunter Desportes/Flickr

Man shot dead in hunting accident

Police in northern Sweden say a man was killed on Monday morning after what they described as a "hunting accident". READ  

Zlatan scores hat trick in PSG thrashing
Photo: AP

Zlatan scores hat trick in PSG thrashing

Champions Paris Saint-Germain thumped Saint-Etienne 5-0 as Bordeaux saw their 100 percent record at the start of the Ligue 1 season ended on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against Bastia. READ  

Flash floods cause chaos in southern Sweden
A car in Malmö on Sunday. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Flash floods cause chaos in southern Sweden

The Skåne region of southern Sweden was hit suddenly by extreme rains on Sunday morning, with houses flooded, buses evacuated, and people having to swim to safety from their cars. READ  

Fit-again Ibrahimovic set for PSG return
Photo: TT

Fit-again Ibrahimovic set for PSG return

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to make his comeback for Paris Saint-Germain against Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1 on Sunday after two weeks on the sidelines with an abdominal muscle injury. READ  

Military raises readiness level over Ukraine
Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan. File photo: Magnus Lindstedt/Armed Forces

Military raises readiness level over Ukraine

The Swedish military said Saturday it had increased intelligence gathering and called in extra staff to its headquarters over the crisis in Ukraine, as the prime minister compared Russia's current behaviour with the Cold War. READ  

Police injured in anti-Nazi protest in Stockholm
Police and demonstrators on Saturday. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

Police injured in anti-Nazi protest in Stockholm

Swedish police said three officers were injured Saturday as they faced a crowd of thousands protesting against a neo-Nazi rally in central Stockholm. READ  

Boy receives cancer vaccine by mistake
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Boy receives cancer vaccine by mistake

A boy scheduled to be vaccinated against mumps, measles, and rubella instead received a vaccine against cervical cancer. His family has now reported the blunder for inspection. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Society
Brit's life in Sweden becomes BBC radio show
Gallery
People-watching August 27
Gallery
Top ten false friends in Swedish
Blog updates

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 

25 August

The Dollar Store (Blogweiser) »

"A dollar store in Sweden. Blog post: http://t.co/tNuuvcP1q0 #USD #greenbacks #sweden #sverige pic.twitter.com/RHFAYf7U1k — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) August 23, 2014 There’s a chain here in Sweden called The DollarStore. This name always stood out to me in a country where they don’t use dollars. I went there for the first time this weekend. They actually accepted greenbacks..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Gallery
See the destruction from the southern Sweden floods
Politics
'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'
Society
Swedes celebrate first day of smelly fish season
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing 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

746
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