Another Honor Killing

I ran across a Turkish news item that was in many respects not unusual: A newly wed couple murdered by the brother of the bride in order to restore the family honor.

Apparently the bride’s family strongly objected to the relationship, disapproving and trying to dissuade her. But this was not in a rural area but the center (not the slums) of a huge metropolis, and the bride asserted her independence. Finally, however, the older brother of the bride said that he was provoked and had no choice but to kill the couple, who had been married for only ten days.

So far, this reads like a routine honor killing. It’s urban rather than rural in character, and it’s after a marriage rather than some trivial unallowed-male-contact. And the man involved got killed as well as the woman. But Turkish news items like like this are depressingly common. Ordinarily I wouldn’t even read the details.

Here’s an unusual aspect: a major reason the wedding was contentious was that the bride and the groom belonged to different religions: Islam and Christianity. The bride’s family could not countenance the mixed marriage.

And here’s the kicker: the bride’s family are the Christians, not the Muslims. They belong to Assyrian Christianity, now a very small minority in Turkey. (One of my close high school friends is an Assyrian Christian; I’d be surprised if he doesn’t know some of the people involved.) The bride’s family had insisted that the groom convert to Christianity and that the wedding had to take place in a church. But even then they were reluctant. The couple had already tried to elope once, and the woman had returned home after threats that “only blood will cleanse this” (the offense to honor). But then, they got away again and got married in secret. They were hoping that after it was a done deal, the bride’s family would learn to live with the fait accompli.

Things didn’t work out that way.

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University