In Marie Claire, editor-at-large Abigail Pesta has written an excellent piece on the "honor killing" of Noor Almaleki, a 20-year-old Arizona woman slain by her father for supposedly shaming her family. It's a carefully reported narrative worth reading in its own right, and it especially caught my eye since I've recently written several posts about media coverage of this phenomenon.
My initial post argued, contra Mark Steyn, that newspapers aren't ignoring honor killings out of political correctness. A followup post attempted to explain why American newspapers aren't launching major investigations into the trend of honor killings in the United States. One thing I wondered is whether the phenomenon is actually a trend:
In 2009 USA Today reported that Muslim immigrant men have been accused of six "honor killings" in the United States in the past two years. Later in the piece: "Phyllis Chesler, who wrote about honor killings in her book Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, says police need to focus on the crimes' co-conspirators if they wish to reverse the trend. Before 2008, there were six honor killings in the USA in the previous 18 years, according to her research."
So at most (according to this story), we're talking about 3 honor killings per year in the USA, based on the last two years available -- or if we look at all the data we have here, less than one honor killing per year.
In her Marie Claire story, Ms. Pesta asserts that...
...honor killings in America are a chilling new trend. In Texas, teen sisters Amina and Sarah Said were shot dead in 2008, allegedly by their father, because they had boyfriends. That same year in Georgia, 25-year-old Sandeela Kanwal was allegedly strangled by her father for wanting to leave an arranged marriage. Last year in New York, Aasiya Hassan, 37, was murdered in perhaps the most gruesome way imaginable: She was beheaded, allegedly by her husband, for reportedly seeking a divorce. And this past spring, 19-year-old Tawana Thompson's husband gunned her down in Illinois, reportedly following arguments about her American-style clothing.
To be clear, I think "honor killings" are worthy of coverage whether or not they're a "new trend," but as yet I am unconvinced that the trend is real -- that is to say, I haven't yet seen persuasive evidence that honor killings are happening at a higher rate now that was true in the past. I'd certainly welcome efforts to make that determination.
Ms. Pesta goes on the muse on why the American press doesn't cover domestic honor killings more:
Amazingly, honor killings in the U.S. have been largely ignored by the national media. That's because these incidents are typically dismissed as "domestic" in nature -- a class of crime that rarely makes the headlines. Since the murderer is a member of the woman's family, there's no extended investigation to capture the public's attention. Also, the family of the perpetrator rarely advocates for the victim, due to either fear or a belief that the woman got what she deserved. "From the family's point of view, if the goal is to end rumors about their female relative, the last thing they want is to have the press talk about the case," says Rana Husseini, a human-rights activist and author of Murder in the Name of Honor. Still, the lack of media coverage or public outcry cannot erase the evidence: Honor killings have washed up on our shores.
The factors she mentions are worthy additions to the list I made in the post linked above.