Netherlands: The hype of honor murders

Dutch Minister Vogelaar of integration warned of an increasing number of honor-murders, State Secretary Bussemaker (health) gave shelters more money for victims of honor related violence.

Ibrahim Yerden says that it's all hype and that they're making a mountain out of a molehill. Anthropologist Yerden (43) of the University of Amsterdam has been researching honor killing for close to 15 years. His earlier warnings to police and politicians when honor-killing increased, were ignored. Now he says that the worse is over, and again he's not being listened to.

He says that millions of euro are going into starting off a program office, and the subsidy mafia smells the money. For a bit of it, they would love to say how serious the situation is, says Yerden, a Turk who had also worked for Primo NH, a counseling organization for social police in North-Holland.

Former parliamentarian Hirsi Ali had had put honor-killing on the Dutch political agenda. Verdonk had then gone to work, and created two years ago an interdepartmental program for honor related murder that would get 12 million euro for five years.

The money is there, but the government doesn't know how big the problem is. There are no available data. And if there will be, Yerden doubts its reliability. For example, a Kurd murdered by her ex-husband last year in Alkmaar was called an honor-murder by the police. Yerden investigated the incident and says it a 'classical crime of passion'. There was absolutely no pressure from the family or acquaintances of honor which must be protected, or a family name which must be cleared.

Yerden says that danger of honor related violence has decreased since 2001. At the time he had reported that Turkish girls were kidnapped and put away in "reeducation camps' in Turkey. He says that had been the last group, the last remnants of rebellion of extremely conservative parents. The police and parliament didn't want to deal with it since it was culture and family problems.

The roles in the Turkish households change, Yerden says. Turkish women of the second generation see things at home, but in Dutch society they also learn to discuss things and form their own opinion.

The emancipation has begun. Turkish girls stay in dormitories during their studies, or live together. "The women of the first generation though: my body belongs to my husband. The second generation says: my body belongs to me." Yerden says half of the Turkish girls are not virgin when they marry.

When the issue is chastity, the honor of the family is at stake and you would expect an increase in honor related violence, but Yerden says that the pressure within the community is decreasing, despite gossiping in the coffee shop or mosque. Every family has to deal with it, and the mentality of the man is also changing. Father and sons don't just take a knife or gun to kill off the daughter. Honor murder is almost dealt with. It was especially a problem in the 80s and 90s, but it's just pure political panic.

Reports of incidents or threats of honor-related murder in the Netherlands occur especially in the Turkish community.

Yerden's interview met with criticism from others involved in dealing with honor crimes.

Khadija Arib, parliament member for the labor party, has been active on this issue for years. She admits that the new interdepartmental office is working on getting the number and that they don't really know if honor-murders are increasing or decreasing. She says she sees emancipated girls who make their own choices, but she also hears of dismal stories, and that it shouldn't be trifled with.

Journalist Renate van der Zee, who wrote a book on the subject says that this is a serious denial of a terrible problem, and that she sees an increase in the number of cases. Many men from the mountain region can't keep up with the Dutch bred emancipated girls.

Ahmet Azdural, manager of the Inspraakorgaan Turken (IOT), calls Yerden's vision: "way to sunny". He points to data from the Haaglanden police, of the GGD Rotterdam and a warning from 2005 by the federation of shelters that feared for the lives of a hundred women and girls in shelters. Azdural says that this data shows that the problem requires special attention from police, social workers and immigrant organizations.

There might be some mistakes, but the police and social workers recognize honor-related violence through all this attention, and that's a positive aspect, says Yeter Akin, who developed a course about honor related violence. Akin says that with all the subsidies, there are too few people who understand the issue and work on it with all their heart, while idealists stand on the sidelines.

Arib does agree with Yerden that they shouldn't make the problem look bigger than it really is, and that they should continue to be critical about where the money goes.

Source: Trouw 1, 2 (Dutch)

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