“I call you woman because you’re a captive”
Written by; Magda Tsocha
Translated by; Joanna Kontou
June, 2020. Kerman Province, Iran. Twenty-year-old Rayhaneh Ameri returns home a little later than usual. The day after that, her father strangles and brutally beats her on the head with an iron bar. According to the forensic examination, the girl had bled to death within two hours after her beaten body was dumped in a nearby village. The father showed remorse for his action and claimed that he was acting on anger. He has still not been punished – and probably never will.
A month earlier, in Gilan Province, 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi elopes with her 35-year-old boyfriend, who is also a relative. Five days later she gets arrested by the local authorities. The girl reportedly tells the authorities that she fears for her life if forced to return home because of her aggressive father. Indeed, Romina Ashrafi was decapitated with a sickle by her father Reza Ashrafi in her bedroom. He confessed his crime as soon as he left the room, with the sickle still in his hand.
Such crimes belong to the so-called “Honor Killings”, and indicate that the victim – a woman – has been murdered as a punishment, due to her father’s/ custodian’s, brother’s or husband’s belief, that the victim has brought humiliation, disrespect, dishonor or disobedience upon the family. Typical reasons for an “Honor Killing” include conducting extramarital relationships, becoming the victim of rape, divorcing from their spouse or refusing to enter a forced marriage, as well as dressing in clothing which is considered to be “inappropriate”. According to the Islamic Republic Law, the father, as a custodian, can neither be accused with murder, nor be punished with a death penalty in case of an “Honor Killing”.
September, 2018. Somalia. Two young girls, 10-year-old Aasiyo Abdi Warsame and her 11-year-old sister Khadijo, succumb to their injuries on their way to the hospital, after 24 hours of excessive bleeding. One day earlier, on September 14th, the two girls had been forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FMG). According to official statistics of the United Nations, 98% of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49 years in Somalia have undergone FMG. As reported by surveys conducted in 2015, at least 200 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FMG. The practice is performed in 30 countries, usually on minors (until the age of 5). In most of these countries FMG is considered a social convention (social norm), often associated with the preparation for a woman’s adulthood.
March, 2012. Rome, Italy. The victim of an acid attack, Pakistani Fakhra Younus, commits suicide by jumping from the sixth floor of a building. Nearly a decade earlier, Fakhra had left her husband and her 5-year-old son, after being allegedly physically and emotionally abused by her husband. He later visited her in order to attack her. He poured acid on her while she was sleeping, causing her severe respiratory problems. He was never arrested, nor charged. In her suicide note she would refer to her action as her own effort to bring the horrific crimes against women in Pakistan, as well as the silence of law on the atrocities and insensitivity of Pakistani rulers to light.
Greece, 2020. On January 23th, – not even a whole month since the beginning of 2020 – a man kills his 50-year-old wife with a rifle in their home and then kills himself. Only a few days later, on January 29th, a 32-year-old woman is stabbed to death by her husband in the refugee reception centre of Lavrio, where they were accommodated, along with their four children, aged five, seven, eleven and thirteen years old. On March 30th, the half-naked body of a woman is found in a ditch in the city of Veria. She was suffocated in her attempt to escape from her two rapists, aged 47 and 50 years old.
Almost two weeks later and during a national lockdown, on March 18th, two 35-year-old women are shot in the parking lot of a supermarket by a police officer of the same age with his service weapon. One of the victims is his estranged wife, and mother of his two children, aged five and eight years old. The other victim is her close friend. A few months later, on August 18th, a 52-year-old woman, and mother of three, is shot and killed in her home by her 60-year-old husband, in the small village of Panagia, in Kalampaka.
October. Shortly after the first week of the month, a 43-year-old woman and her husband are killed by the woman’s ex-lover, in their cottage near the village Loutraki of Corinthia. On October 26th in Athens, a 53-year-old man kills his 37-year-old wife in their home, where they were living with their two daughters. On November 22th, a 44-year-old woman, and mother of two, is shot and killed by her husband with a rifle in their home.
A few days later, on November 25th, the world celebrates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The social media are full of messages highlighting the significance of this day.
Instead of a conclusion, I would like to quote a line of a poem of a well-known female Greek poet:
Athens, Greece 1971. Kiki Dimoula publishes her poem “Sign of Recognition”, which is included in her poetry collection “The Little of the World”. “I call you woman because you’re a captive” is the last stanza of the poem, referring to a marble sculpture found at Tositsa Square in Athens. The statue, that depicts a woman with tied hands, stands as a national symbol of female oppression.