Dr. Chesler Study: Female Honor Killers Calculating, Brutal, Without Remorse

Phyllis author photo with credit
Phyllis Chesler/Joan Roth

Females, like males, commit honor killings because the victim is perceived as too “Western” and “disobedient” or she has been accused of “sexual impropriety,” a new study found.

The study, titled “When Women Commit Honor Killings,” was conducted by best-selling author, lecturer, columnist and retired psychotherapist Dr. Phyllis Chesler.

It examines female-on-female violence related to honor killings, which Dr. Chesler argues “has been minimized because male-on-female violence is far more visible, dramatic, and epidemic.”

The study found that “women play a very active role in honor-based femicide, both by spreading the gossip underlying such murders and by acting as conspirator-accomplices and/or hands-on-killers in the honor killing of female relatives.”

Honor-killer females are known to kill infants, spouses, and strangers, including other women. Dr. Chesler found that honor killings remain a crime conducted by Muslims against other Muslims.

Speaking to Breitbart News via email, Chesler discusses her study and the findings that shocked her the most.

Q: What do you want people to take away from this study: When Women Commit Honor Killings

A: Female-on-female aggression is wrongfully viewed as a minor problem but such aggression can have serious, even lethal consequences. Like men, women have also internalized sexist and tribal codes of behavior. Thus, a mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and sister can instigate, serve as a conspirator-accomplice in, or perpetrate the hands-on honor/horror killing of her young daughter or granddaughter. Female hands-on killers and conspirator-accomplices are, like their male counterparts, often calculating, brutal, and without remorse.

Tribal culture dictates that if an allegedly deviant daughter is not eliminated, then the family will be shamed and shunned; no one will marry its daughters or sons. It will be condemned to poverty and ostracism. From the honor killing family’s point of view, they have been forced to kill—in self-defense.

Q: What shocked you the most about female-on-female honor killings? 

First, since this was a qualitative, non-random, small sample study of 31 victims, I had not expected any statistically significant findings. But the study documents that female hands-on killers are significantly different in some ways from female accomplices; and that although hands-on killers, both male and female, are arrested, female accomplices, worldwide, are arrested significantly less often.

Second, although honor/horror killing is probably tribal in origin, globally, it is still a mainly Muslim-on-Muslim crime. Eighty-seven percent of these honor killings were committed by Muslims. The remaining 13% were committed by Hindus, (only in India), Sikhs, and Yazidis. Shockingly, women were hands-on killers in 39 percent of these cases and served as conspirator-accomplices 61% of the time.

Third, to my surprise, both men and women torture-murder.

Q: What is the difference between a female-on-female and a male-on-female honor killing? Is one more violent than the other? 

A: Both men and women kill for the same reasons: The victim is perceived as too “Western” and “disobedient” or she has been accused of an alleged “sexual impropriety.“

Some of the male-perpetrated “overkill” styles of torture murders documented in my previous studies involved a perverted sexual dimension similar to what Western serial killers do to prostituted stranger-women. An element of jealous male sexual ownership coupled with rage for having been shamed by a mere woman may explain this.

Women who were hands-on killers of their daughters are far fewer in number than their male counterparts. However, almost all the female hands-on killers in this study committed torture-murders—which means that the victims were subjected to a slow and painful death. I discuss the possible reasons women commit torture-murders in the study.

Q: Were most of the cases you studied in North America? 

A: Actually, 65 % (N=20) of these honor killing victims lived in Europe, Muslim India, and in Muslim-majority countries e.g. Pakistan, Somalia, Turkey, West Bank. Thirty-five percent (N=11) lived in North America.

Q: Are there any female-on-female honor killings involving Christians? Are those hard to find? 

A: There were none in this study. I have heard, sometimes, of Christian Arabs who have committed such a crime.

Q: What criteria did you use to choose the cases? 

A: Since this is a “secret” crime, and one rarely punished, I used a tried-and-true method, employed by other scholars and previously by myself. I used all those cases that surfaced in the media as long as the public record reflected the victim’s age, religion, geographical location, the expressed motive for the murder, the murder method, the average number of perpetrators and the average number of victims per case.

I knew the details of some cases because the families or law enforcement involved me; in some instances, I had the testimony at trial, and in other instances I read in-depth coverage of particular cases.

Q: Which case shocked you the most and why? 

A: So many did. Perhaps two stand out:

Seventeen-year-old Rofayda Qaoud was raped and impregnated in her West Bank home by her two brothers. According to news reports, “Relatives and friends refused to speak to her family. Her elder daughters’ husbands wouldn’t allow them to visit the family because Rofayda had returned home.” Finally, her mother Amira perpetrated a torture-murder and then “purged her home of all pictures of her older children.”

Noor Almaleki was a 20-year-old Iraqi-Muslim-American living in Arizona. Her father, Faleh Hassan, ran her over with a two-ton Jeep Cherokee. When Seham, her mother (who had harassed, beaten, and driven Noor out of their home for having left an arranged marriage in Iraq), was informed that her daughter was dying, she said, “Thank you, thank you… That’s what she needs.” Seham was never charged as an accessory.

Q: What should the United States do?

A: It is important to hold accomplices liable for their criminal acts. If the United States is serious about ending honor killings, it must punish all culpable parties including conspirator-accomplices—without whom many honor killings could not take place. There are two high profile cases in America in which accomplices were never arrested: The Dallas Said case and the Arizona Al-Maleki case.

Also, social workers, physicians, teachers, lawyers, and judges here should be made aware that when girls who come from shame-and-honor cultures are being monitored or beaten, far more serious consequences may follow.


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