Warning: this article contains graphic descriptions of murder and violence against women.
The harrowing account of the latest “honour killing” in Jordan has sparked social media outrage and calls for justice. The hashtag #صرخات_احلام (“Ahlam’s screams”) has been trending in Jordan, taking its name from a chilling video that recorded the murder.
According to neighbours in the Safut area of western Amman, Ahlam—the victim, in her thirties or forties, according to different reports—ran screaming into the street late Friday night, already bleeding from her neck and chased by her father, who beat her over the head with a brick until she died.
Witnesses added that he then lit a cigarette and sat by Ahlam’s body, drinking tea. For many, it is a terrifying symbol of the widespread apathy towards violence against women. Videos also show neighbours trying to intervene, but stopped by Ahlam’s brothers. Witnesses report that it took over half an hour for emergency help to arrive.
Reports indicate a long history of abuse preceding the murder, which police had allegedly only dealt with by having her family sign ‘pledges’ to stop the abuse. A spokesperson for the Jordan Public Security Directorate has denied that Ahlam ever reported the abuse.
I will choose to tweet in English because apparently when this becomes international news, the Jordanian officials and government start paying attention and fear for their reputation and how to salvage that #صرخات_احلام— Ghiya (@GhiyaRushidat) July 18, 2020
The father has been arrested and awaits trial, which activists say is a further hurdle to justice. Jordan has faced controversy in the past for the perceived leniency of its justice system towards so-called “honour killings.” Articles 340 and 98 of Jordan’s Penal Code give judges discretion to grant perpetrators reduced sentences in mitigating circumstances, which include cases involving adultery or crimes committed in a ‘fit of fury’ respectively. Activists are urging the court to enforce a 2017 amendment of article 98 that precludes its application to “honour killings.”
According to Human Rights Watch, courts also often reduce sentences because victims’ families request leniency. “This is usually the case as members of the victim’s family are often complicit in ‘honour killings,’” wrote a 2017 report. “Under article 99, the killer’s sentence can be cut in half in these cases.”
Protest signs read: L: "This is for the ladies killed by the men who should protect them." R: "Blood can never become #tea."
Social media users have made the hashtag viral, and on Wednesday July 22nd, hundreds rallied in front of the House of Representatives in Amman to call for justice. Activists, media personalities, and even members of the royal family are using it to speak about the terrifying realities of violence against women, arguably the worst-kept secret of the Arab world. Accepted, hidden away, inadequately criminalised, and harrowingly applauded in many a misogynistic comment thread, the perceived cleansing of men’s ‘honour’ through violence against women is coming under fire.
Many have called back to the case of Isra Ghrayeb, the 21-year old Palestinian who was murdered by her family in Bethlehem, in August of last year, for posting a photo with her fiance to social media, a day before they were to be officially engaged.
Protests following the murder of Isra Ghrayeb in Bethlehem last August.
“Ahlam’s screams are not just hers; they are the screams of every woman who every day is subjected to violence, behind closed doors, where no one knows her story,” Dr. Ismat Hoso, founder and president of the Gender Center in Jordan, told Alarabiya. “These poisonous comments supporting the murderous father, effectively support and perpetuate future murderers. Laws exist, but will not be applied, or applied correctly, if we don’t really know about these cases.”
Human Rights Watch have reported that between 15 and 20 women are murdered in Jordan each year in so-called “honour killings” by their families.
Artwork by @thezaynalarbi.