Surviving an honour killing
This extract from Lene Wold's devastating book Inside an Honor Killing sees her finishing an interview with Amina, the surviving daughter of an honour killing committed by her father who has gone into hiding in the middle of the desert.
“Is it all right if I contact your father?” I ask carefully, failing to meet her eyes. She straightens up and starts gathering the plates and cups—suddenly with rather abrupt movements.
“Why do you want to speak with him?” she says tersely, and I feel that a distance has now grown between us.
“Because both sides of the story have to be told,” I answer, and explain that I think his motives are an important part of the story.
She says she’s afraid that he’ll find her, and that he won’t tell the truth. “He’s going to deny everything. You have to believe me.”
The paraffin lamp on the floor flickers.
I’m not sure how to answer, but I do believe everything she’s said.
She turns to me and puts a hand on my shoulder. “I’ve spent years in prison for a crime that was committed against me, while the men who tried to kill me have lived their lives in freedom. Men always have the opportunity to express themselves in this country. Isn’t it time that women are also heard? Isn’t my story true before you’ve had it confirmed by a man?”
"Men always have the opportunity to express themselves in this country. Isn’t it time that women are also heard?"
I tell her that I agree with her, and that of course I believe her without having her story confirmed by a man. At the same time, however, I stress that I can’t accuse someone of murder without giving them the right to defend themselves.
“It also might be the only way we can hold him responsible,” I explain.
She doesn't answer.
“How could they keep you in prison for thirteen years for a crime that was committed against you?” I ask.
“If I went free, my family would have killed me. If I’d been killed, the murder would have been my own fault since I had ‘provoked’ it with my actions. The governors in Jordan have the right to keep women in jail to prevent crimes from happening. That’s just how the Jordanian legal system is. It’s corrupt and oppressive. The authorities think they’re protecting us, but the women lose no matter what.”
I’m surprised by what she’s telling me. “It’s not right that you were in jail while the ones who tried to kill you have been free,” I say, and ask again if I can look for her father so he’ll be obliged to take responsibility for what he’s done.
She considers this question a bit hesitantly, and finishes tidying up around us. Then finally, she calmly says it’s okay: I can find him and confront him.
“As long as he doesn’t find me. As long as you document what really happened.”
She tells me what he looks like, what area they grew up in, and what mosque he used to go to. She waves her hands and speaks quickly, while I try to jot down all the names and details in my notebook. She also asks me to look for the prison she was in so I can see where she spent much of her adult life.
“How can we get in touch again?” I ask, once everything is written down, the tape recorder is turned off, and the interview is over. She looks at her husband in the entrance and evades the question.
“Thank you,” is all she says, and she holds her hand over her heart.
I ask again to meet her another time. She just shakes her head, and I understand that this really was the first and last time we’ll meet.
Inside an Honor Killing: A Father and a Daughter Tell Their Story by Lene Wold is available from 2 May, published by Greystone Books, £19.99