The Fight Against 'Honor Killings'

(November 2009) It is estimated that 5,000 women worldwide are murdered every year in so-called “honor killings”—committed by a woman’s relatives in order to cleanse the family of acts the woman has engaged in that they consider “immoral.” Feminist and human rights defender, Jordanian Rana Husseini is a leading international investigative journalist whose reporting has put violence against women on the public agenda around the world. Husseini began covering this issue in September 1993 when she was a journalist covering the crime beat for The Jordan Times and noticed that the local media was not reporting these murders, the court cases, or on the women who were imprisoned without charge or trial. Since then, she has followed every case she has heard of and reported it in the paper. She has investigated the practice on her own, counting the number of annual cases and keeping a detailed list. She is the author of the book Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman’s Heroic Fight Against an Unbelievable Crime, which chronicles the cases of these killings.

The recipient of numerous awards for bravery in journalism, she is a regular speaker at major international events. In this interview, Husseini describes her personal journey of investigating this practice over the years, the varied countries and cultures in which “honor killings” take place, and what types of policy and grassroots efforts are needed to address this abuse.

Eric Zuehlke is an editor at the Population Reference Bureau.