Sweden: Challenging the honor culture

Farman Sediq checked his older sister's mobile, forbade his little sister from going to a school disco, and thought that Fadime had only herself to blame. In the end he didn't like what he had become. "There are many who go astray. I was one of them," he says.

Farman Sediq, 22, came with his family from Iraq when he was twelve. As the only son it became his job to watch over his sisters. It was the same for his friends in the Bergsjön suburb.

"We didn't just watch our own sisters, we kept an eye on our friends; also. If I saw a friend's sister out, maybe with other girls and boys, I called him immediately and told him. 'Be a man, take care of your sister.'

Surveillance was everywhere. "One time I chatted with a girl on MSN, I realized that it was my friend's cousin. I called him and said that she flirted with men on the internet. That she had pictures of herself and that it was loose.

It wasn't strange that he reported the girl, that was what he was expected to do, and nobody reacted negatively to the fact that the phone call had consequences. "If my friend then mishandled his sister was uninteresting. That was his right. And it was his duty to defend the family's honor."

"I clearly remember how I thought that Fadime Sahindal was to blame when her father murdered her. She had brought shame on the family."

Farman Sediq moves with embarrassment on on his cafe stool. Time after time he grabs the water glass and taps it on the table to emphasize something. It's difficult to talk about acts and opinions that he's ashamed of today.

But he wants to talk about what the honor concept involves. How it limited him as a man and killed his ability to feel empathy. And how he almost married off his sister based on an innocent SMS.

He had gone through her phone and found a message from a guy. It almost ended with a catastrophe. "We interrogated her, accused her: maybe it's your boyfriend, maybe you slept with him."

Farman found the guy and threatened him. The sister was deprived of her mobile telephone and was forbidden from going out, although she was already 21.

"The family was outraged. We began to call her for things and my father called relatives in Germany to find a man to quickly marry her with."

In another case, it was Farman who decided if his younger sister will get to go to a disco for her high school graduation. He said no.

He says he couldn't imagine his sister will have have the same rights as him to meet friends, go out, be in love.

He says those who grow up with the honor culture and the virginty concept have extreme difficulties defending the sex discrimination inherent in the system.

Farman says that men get it from day one. Moving to Sweden doesn't change anything as long as people continue to live with their former countrymen in segregated neighborhoods. He adds his father said recently that things would have been different if they would have lived in a Swedish area where they didn't need to be afraid of rumors being spread.

Farman's started losing his honor concept when he met the project leader and lawyer Nigar Ibrahim of Sharaf hjältar (honor heroes), an organization which fights honor-related oppression.

"The most dramatic was when she asked us: 'why do you think so?' We didn't know. Then I asked my father. He didn't know either, became silent and finally said: 'I was brought up like this, your grandfather too'."

"We were all victims of the honor concept. I felt incredibly stupid. And deceived."

Farman got involved in Sharaf hjältar and became a project leader. Now he gives courses to young guys who are ready to challenge the honor concept. But the biggest challenge was to change, and to get his family to do so too.

"It was hard in the beginning, but now they think that my choice was right. My little sister knows today that we're all on her side when she decides what she wants to do with her life, where she will live and who she will live with."

He had to pay a price for it. "I got a bad reputation among some. Some of my friends broke contact with me. Maybe they didn't understand that I didn't want to change our whole culture, just the parts that clash with human rights," says Farman Sediq.

Source: Aftonbladet (Swedish)

For more about Sharaf Hjälta

See also: Sweden: Forced marriage / honor-related violence trial, Sweden: Honor violence as reason for asylum, Sweden: fight the honor culture

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