Honor Killings and Cultural Defenses

Honor Killings and Cultural Defenses

CRJ245 Criminal Law

Colorado State University Global

“Some cultures endorse ancient methods of ‘cleansing’ a family’s supposedly tarnished name – with the blood of its daughters, sisters and wives” (Rubin, 2017). Known as honor killing, this ancient practice is regularly seen in Middle Eastern countries. But they don’t just happen there. Honor killings also take place here in North America. On a warm October day in Peoria, Arizona, 19 year old Noor Almaleki was walking with her boyfriend’s mother when they were both struck by a Jeep. The driver of the Jeep was Noor’s father, Faleh Almaleki. Noor died in the hospital two weeks later.

Noor and her father had a very strained relationship. She was brought to America when she was just 4 years old and had grown up into your very typical American teenager. Her father disapproved of her choices to wear tight clothing and make-up as well as dating and modeling (Rubin, 2017). She moved out of her parents home and into the home of her boyfriend’s parents. Noor and her father had not spoken to nor seen each other for quite some time when they ran into each other at the Arizona Department of Economic Security building (Rubin, 2017). Faleh was not only enraged by his daughter’s choices but those of her boyfriend’s mother, Amal Edan Khalaf, who had allowed her to move in with them.

Noor and Amal were both frightened when they noticed that her father had walked into the same building as them; Noor was there with Amal to help her with a change of address form for her welfare benefits (Rubin, 2017). Faleh was unemployed at the time explaining his reasons for being there as well. He pulled a number and sat near the two and made several phone calls, he didn’t stay for long though, and left shortly after arriving (Rubin, 2017). Once the two women completed their business they walked back to Amal’s van where they learned she had locked the keys in the car (Rubin, 2017). Amal called her son to bring the spare key and while they waited Noor suggested that they walk to a nearby restaurant to get a drink. It was while they were on their way to the restaurant that Faleh hit them with his car.

Noor was dragged over a curbed median; she sustained serious brain and spine injuries as well as multiple broken bones (Rubin, 2017). Amal was thrown nearly 30 feet and sustained multiple broken bones; she was conscious though, whereas Noor was not. It was reported that Faleh fled the scene, leaving the two women for dead. Amal provided police with a possible motive: Noor and Amal had shamed Faleh, inciting his rage and he was “hell-bent” on showing the both of them who was bodd (Rubin, 2017).

Faleh immediately ran out of the country; he had money, clothing, his passport and his medication with him but it remained unclear if his attempt on his daughter’s life was premeditated (Rubin, 2017). He made it as far as London when British Customs detained him and sent him back to the states. He waived his Miranda rights and told detectives “I have no problem with my daughter; this is not the first time she left the house . . . If I want to kill her, I go buy a gun. I know where they live” (Rubin, 2017).

Faleh admitted that he did intend on hurting both of them; he was arrested and a judge set his bail at $5 million. After Noor’s death he was indicted on charges of “first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault and leaving the scene of a crime” (Rubin, 2017). The case quickly turned into a case of honor killing. In multiple recorded phone calls between Faleh and his family, he repeatedly urged them to use the defence of their culture and his wife even found a lawyer who had represented others in similar cases, that this lawyer had found a “loophole” (Rubin, 2017).

The notion of this being an honor killing case spread across the United States like wildfire. The trial finally began in January of 2011 and the prosecution pushed for a first degree murder charge based on the cultural practices of Faleh, eventhough honor killings are typically done with knives and machetes, Faleh had repeatedly stated that his daughter had dishonored him and that honor means everything to the Iraqi culture. He was charged with second degree murder and sentenced to 38 years in prison (Rubin, 2017).

Killings of this manner have no place in any culture and definitely not in the modern age that we live in. The shame that a man feels is not more important than the life of another. Honor killings are not tied to religion but, rather, to their culture. There are many instances in which a woman can incite anger and shame upon her male family members that can go as far as murdering her. While these events still happen rather regularly in the Middle East, much of the world sees these ‘honor’ killings as a form of domestic abuse and a constant reminder of the lack of equality that women receive.

Honor killings are recognized around the world as a serious crime that falls within the broad spectrum of domestic violence (Aujla & Gill, 2014). The term honor killing, Aujla and Gill (2014) state, denies the victim a voice and more importantly it fails to speak to the larger social structures of patriarchy that perpetuate all forms of violence against women. These murders have been seen more and more in Western countries as members of this culture immigrate west. When young children are moved to the West they become immersed in Western culture and they want to be a part of it but that goes against their cultural beliefs and is seen as a violation. Motivators for honor killings have been things as simple as staying out late, wanting to leave an abusive husband, wearing Western clothing and makeup, refusing an arranged marriage or even socializing with those outside of their community (Aujla & Gill, 2014). Essentially, what it comes down to is that even though they have left their cultural homeland, females are not allowed to embrace the equality of a new world; they are prisoners within their homes.

Additionally, this type of murder is rarely reported as stemming from female ineqaulity eventhough is demonstrates the connection between honor killing and other types of violence towards women. As feminists make strides to gain more equality for themselves and their fellow female companions, even in the Middle East, so long as men see a woman as his property, honor killings will remain.

In Canada, legislation refuses to give any satisfaction to these cultures by calling them honor killings. “There is no honour in killing, so let us banish this oxymoronic statement from our Canadian lexicon and from our understanding of violence against women” (Hogben, 2012). Hogben (2012) continues stating that murder should never be construed in a positive light. Moreover, Canada has been more progressive than some places giving these murders the name of “patriarchal homicide” or “femicide” (Aujla & Gill, 2014). The Canadian Government has made it known that foreigners moving to their country must obey Canadian law. The government made it clear that there is no distinction between honor killings and murder or domestic abuse and will be treated as just that, murder and domestic abuse (Aujla & Gill, 2014). Additionally, the law ignores the larger context of gender based violence that would imply that women of color from certain cultures are different from Canada’s mainstream women who suffer similar acts.


Aujla, W., & Gill, A. (2014). Conceptualizing ‘Honour’ Killings in Canada: An Extreme Form of Domestic Violence? International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 9(1), 153-166. doi:http://web.a.ebscohost.com.csuglobal.idm.oclc.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=9f58ee37-991c-4283-9bc9-74242952cb70%40sessionmgr4008

Hogben, A. (2012). Femicide, not “honour killing.” In H. MacIntosh & D. Shapiro (eds.), Gender, Culture and Religion: Tackling some difficult questions (pp. 38- 43). Calgary: Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.

Rubin, P. (2017, February 22). How a Muslim Woman Was “Honor-Killed” by Her Father Because He Believed She Was Too Americanized. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/how-a-muslim-woman-was-honor-killed-by-her-father-because-he-believed-she-was-too-americanized-6445842

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