My new book, On Behalf of the Family, is the third in a series featuring Detective Dave Mason of the Santa Monica Police Department. He is presented with a complex car arson death of a beautiful and rich Turkish girl. The question is whether this young girl's death is domestic abuse, a hate crime, or an honor killing? Either way he turns, the political blow back with scorch him.
Most people think that honor killings only happen in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. While these crimes happen there much more frequently, they are not unknown in the United States. I wanted to bring attention to this because it horrified me and I’ve been browsing headlines for years. An idea gets stuck in your head and won’t let go.
An honor killing is the murder or maiming of a woman who has violated the norms of the community, whether it is talking to a man outside the family, immodest appearance, or suspected “loose” behavior. An old Arab proverb states that the “woman carries the honor of the family between her legs.”
I write about Kurds in Eastern Anatolia, a province of Turkey, one of the more secular countries in the middle east. Turkey, however, is changing. Anatolia is located right up next to Iran and Iraq.
It’s a common misperception that honor killings are dictated by Islamic belief. Not always. Sometimes the behavior violations that lead to honor killings are the cultural beliefs of men—and women—in the more conservative areas of the world. Remember, here in America, we have parts of the country that have very conservative beliefs as well that sometimes lead to reported criminal behavior toward women.
You can yank out verses of the Bible that are vicious towards women, just as you can from the Quran, but that does not mean either Christianity or Islam is vicious and hateful towards women at its core. And this does not mean that women cannot be vicious toward one another.
What was hardest of all in writing this book was to write about a family who carries out an honor killing. and convey at the same time that they are good people at heart, and most importantly, that this is an extremist act in the Kurdish community. Of course there are Kurds who would be horrified at the notion. And the family I write about is hardly unified in their views.
Extremism of any kind fascinates me. The experiences needed to move from the soft center of any opinion—or practice−to the hard outer edge are where the best stories lie.