Posted by: birdsongslaw | January 26, 2009

Honor Killing: A Misclassification Under the Gender Nexus

Birdsong’s  refugee law student Jessica Darnell  has had the opportunity to work on immigration and refugee matters while a Barry  law student.  Ms. Darnell wil graduate in May 2009,  and  plans to spend her legal career devoted to work involving immigration, asylum and gender matters.  Her research which Birdsong oversaw last semester concerns the phenomonem of “Honor Killing.”  It is quite an interesting topic.  Ms. Darnell argues in her paper, which she has given me permission to post here, that the threat of honor killing provides potential victims the opportunity to make asylum claims in the United States.  Read and enjoy.

HONOR KILLING: A Misclassification under the Gender Nexus.

Jessica L. Darnell

Fall 2008


            On August 20, 1997 Marzouk Ahmed Abdel-Rahim decapitated his daughter and paraded her head down a Cairo neighborhood street.[1]  His daughter, Nora Marzouk Ahmed, had eloped and was enjoying her honeymoon. [2]  Before surrendering to police Marzouk Ahmed Abdel-Rahim told onlookers, “Now, the family has regained its honour.”[3]

            On April 6 1999, Samia Sarwar, died instantly when she was shot in the head close range while visiting her divorce attorney.[4]  Samia had been married to her abusive cousin for ten years when she pleaded with her family for permission to divorce.[5]  Samia’s family permitted her to return home but refused to consent to divorce.[6]  In March 1999 Samia’s parents went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and Samia fled to a shelter and sought out an attorney.[7] 

            Samia’s family, like most traditional Orthodox Muslim families, considered divorce shameful.[8]  When Samia pleaded for a divorce her parents threatened to kill her.[9]  Fearing for her safety Samia refused to see her male relatives but agreed to meet her mother at her attorney’s office to get divorce papers.[10]  Samia’s mother arrived at the lawyer’s office with Samia’s uncle and a driver.[11]  When Samia’s mother and her companions entered the office the driver opened fire killing Samia and narrowly missing Samia’s attorney.[12]

            It was reported that Samia’s mother “was cool and collected during the getaway, walking away from the murder of her daughter as though the woman slumped in her own blood was a stranger.”[13]  In the getaway a paralegal was taken hostage and she recounted that Samia’s father, awaited them in a hotel room, and asked if “the job was done.”[14]

            Samia Sarwar’s story is likely one of the most well-known accounts of honor killing[15] but thousands[16] victims like Samia and Nora Marzouk Ahmed are killed every year all around the world.[17]  Many of the killings go unreported because they are considered a private family affair.[18]  Most often victims of honor crimes are not afforded the opportunity to refute accusations of any wrong doing.[19]  This paper is limited to the instances of dating, divorce, and rejecting arranged marriages.  Under these circumstances it can be argued the victims have expressly or impliedly rejected their family’s traditional orthodox beliefs thus willingly subjecting themselves to danger.  These victims have a slim chance of escaping their fate.  This paper is not intended to cover honor killings derived of rape, insufficient dowry, and accusations of adultery or bad moral character.  The latter are circumstances in which the victim is unaware or lacks control over the situation that puts them in danger and unlikely to escape an honor killing.

            Asylum jurisprudence and the international human rights arena have synonymously linked honor killings with gender[20] and domestic violence;[21] however the nature of honor killing suggests the nexus is more complex than gender alone.  The threat of honor killing provides potential victims the opportunity to make an asylum claim under two recognized persecution nexuses: religion[22] and social group based on familial ties.[23]  Though gender undeniably plays a part in honor killings it is not a central motive for the murders.  It is imperative attorneys properly classify petitioners’ asylum claims.  By classing honor killing only under the gender nexus immigration judges are provided with the opportunity to brazenly deny asylum claims.  Denying honor killing asylum petitions because they are premised on gender persecution not only hurts clients but it is detrimental to gender jurisprudence as a whole.  There is room for gender based claims under the Real ID Act, [24] however when employing only gender claims, gender needs to be the central motive for the persecution.  If gender misclassification continues to occur; judges will continue to ignore gender as a basis for persecution. 



A.        The Act of Honor Killing.

            Honor killings are defined as “cleansing one’s honour of shame…by shedding the blood of a loved one.”[25]  In the most basic terms honor killings are family members murdering family members.[26]  It is estimated yearly that thousands of women are victims of honor killings each year, but exact figures are unknown because most murders are unreported.[27]  These killings often remain a private family affair making it extremely difficult to collect accurate statistical data.”[28]  “In the majority of cases the victims are buried in unmarked graves and records of their existences are eliminated.”[29]  Honor killings are estimated to be “vastly greater than those reported.”[30]

            The killers are motivated by the traditional belief their family’s social status is intricately intertwined with honor.[31]  Within societies that practice honor killing, an “individual’s identity is closely tied to their family unit [and] as a result family members may have a strong response to actions of other family members that appear to bring dishonor on the family.”[32]  A person’s social status becomes jeopardized when the family honor is tarnished.  Often the perpetrators “feel as if they are left no choice but to kill.”[33]

            This concept of honor is dangerous because “it exists beyond reason and beyond analysis.[34]  These brutal murders are provoked by a variety of triggers including; illicit relationships, questionable moral character, marital infidelity, pre-marital sex and flirting.[35]  Other triggers include divorce, rape and defiance of arranged marriage.[36]  It is hypothesized that even economic and social pressures add to the influx of honor killings.[37]  Conflict, war, access to weapons, economic decline and social frustration were all listed in addition to love, shame and jealousy as contributing factors to honor killings.[38]  It is estimated that honor killings are on the rise as the perception of what constitutes “honour and what damages it widens.”[39]

            Honor Killings are undertaken by a variety of methods including: shooting,[40] strangling, [41] clubbing,[42] axing,[43] stabbing,[44] electrocution,[45] slitting the throat,[46] beheading,[47] burying alive[48] and flogging.[49]  The victims are generally female and the perpetrators typically males.[50]  Perpetrators are often husbands, fathers, brothers, or uncles but it is not unheard of for female relatives to participate.[51] 

            Reports of honor killings come from many countries including Bangladesh, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, India, Italy, Sweden, Pakistan, Brazil, Ecuador, Uganda and Morocco.[52]  The reports are more frequently from countries where the majority of the population is Muslim but they do occur elsewhere such as Germany, France and United Kingdom.  Honor killings have also occurred in the United States.[53]

            Islamic countries do not separate the church and state; they act as one entity.[54]  These countries have two sets of laws, one for the Muslim community and one for non-Muslim community.[55]  The set of laws which govern the Muslim community are called the Shar’iah.[56]   Shar’iah literally means the path to follow God’s Law.[57] The Shar’iah is broad[58] and is composed of five sources; none of which are dispositive.[59]  The first source is the Qur’an, the holy book.[60]  The second element is the Sunna, which are the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad.[61]  The third contributing element is the Ijma, or consensus of religious scholars.[62] The fourth element is Qiyas, which is new case law decided in accordance with legal precedent.[63] The fifth contributing element is a secondary source, such as, the New Testament, Civil Law or Common Law.[64]  Islamic leaders have claimed the Shari’a[65] is the human understanding of Islam.[66]  The interpretation Shari’a is left to the discretion of the reader and each cultural group interprets and applies the Shari’a differently.[67] 

            The Islamic holy book, the Qur’an, does not explicitly permit or sanction honor killings.[68]  Some Islamic leaders and scholars publicly condemned the practice and state it has no basis in the Islamic religion.[69]  It is believed that honor killings predate all written religions.[70]  Honor killings are believed to have originated out of the ancient desert tribes.[71]  In these societies women were viewed as property of the males in their family or tribe.[72]  As property owners, males had the right to decide the fate of their females.[73]  Remnants of these ancient ideals have translated to present time as women are expected to be obedient and passive.[74]  In honor-based societies these customs have been internalized and become unquestioned norms.[75]  Many women in these societies identify with their culture and are offended by outsiders who question their way of life.[76]

            In addition to the skewed application and broad interpretation of the Shar’iah, honor killings are extremely dangerous because the killing triggers the can be minimal.  Often victims are accused and the actual truth of the suspicion does not matter.[77]  This is the reason victims are rarely provided the opportunity to rebut accusations.[78]  What matters is the impact of the suspicion on the man’s honor; honor is imputed by the public’s perception.”[79]  Unfortunately for the accused allegations are enough to defile honor.[80] 

            Women who do manage to escape an honor killing live in constant fear for their lives.[81]  Aside from being unfamiliar with their new surroundings, many times escapees have no where to run.[82]  The escape is often impulsive and the escapees leave without money or a plan.[83]  They remain highly visible as they travel alone.[84]  Seeking help is a dangerous alternative.[85]  Consistent with Shari’a practices, communities blame the victim for their indiscretions and believe they should pay for breaking the law.[86]  Few women make it to shelters.[87]  In Jordan women can seek refuge in jail under protective custody.[88]  However the woman cannot be released once in jail unless a male relative bails her out.[89]  This creates a predicament for the women as it is their male relatives they are fleeing from.[90]  Often times the relatives sign a pledge saying they will not harm the woman but kill her once she is released into their custody.[91]

            Within these communities the killers are regarded as heroes.[92]  The community does not view an honor killing as a crime; rather honor killings are viewed as punishment for the victim.[93]  The killer is morally and often legally supported by their family.[94]  Often the killings are carried out by underage males so the punishment, if any, is reduced.[95]  If a perpetrator does go to prison fellow inmates wash the killer’s feet and congratulate him for becoming a “complete” man.[96]

            Many countries sanction and support honor killings by extending “impunity to the perpetrators by giving tacit or covert support to the practice.”[97]  Even in the event that escapees’ native governments have regulations in place against honor killings they are ineffective and often not enforced.  Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey are three distinct examples of how countries have elected to combat the honor killing problem.[98]

B.        Current Country Conditions.

1.         Morocco.

            Morocco is in the forefront on reforming women’s rights; however its efforts are still ineffective at combating honor killings.  In 2004 the Moroccan government attempted to close the gender inequality gap by implementing a New Code of Family Law.[99]  However the gender divide still remains a problem because family courts do not always adjudicate divorces and custody cases in accordance with the 2004 family law reforms.[100]  The difficulty lies with the judiciary’s willingness to apply the Code of Family Law in practice.[101]  The 2004 reforms were very controversial and not all judges agreed with the changes.[102]  The language of the reforms gave judges a broad scope of discretion to rule in whichever manner they saw fit.[103]

            The Moroccan government has failed all together to address the honor killing problem.  Rather than combating honor killings and attempting to eliminate the practice the Moroccan government instead enacted a new rule concerning honor killing.  This new rule, implemented in 2007 now extends the same “honor killing leniency, previously afforded men, to women who kill their husbands.”[104]  While Morocco has made some improvements in women’s rights it has neglected to combat honor killing.

            Even if the Moroccan government had implemented sanctions against honor killing it is unlikely they would have been enforced.  Moroccan police are reluctant to become involved in family matters.[105]  Additionally, if a woman secured police protection there is no guarantee she had access to an independent judiciary.[106]  It was reported in 2007 judges in practice did not always base rulings on new laws and instead referred to outdated laws in their decisions.[107]

2.         Pakistan.

            Pakistan remains a hot spot for honor killings, reporting between 1,200 and 1,500 honor killings in 2007.[108]  As is the case with honor killings accurate statistics do not exist.[109]  It is estimated that on average 1,000 persons are murdered every year because of honor.[110] 

            On its face it appears the Pakistani government has made some effort in combating honor killing.  In 2005 President Musharraf enacted a bill requiring extra penalties for all crimes involving honor.[111]  However the penalties only apply if the killer is implicated in the killing.  Pakistani legislation allows for the victim’s family to negotiate with the killer for physical or monetary restitution in exchange for the victim’s family to drop charges.[112]  Because honor killings occur within the family the killers likely negotiate nominal payments.[113]

            On December 1, 2006 President Musharraf signed the 2006 Women’s Protective Act.[114]  Prior to the Women’s Protective Act women were subject to the Hudood Ordinances.[115]  Most of the negative aspects of the Hudood Ordinances were reversed with the Women’s Protective Act.[116]  In theory families could no longer use the Hudood Ordinances to control their children’s marriages[117] however the government remains impartial when it comes to the right to marry.[118]  The Pakistani government fails to prosecute cases where family members are punished for divorcing or marrying against their family’s wishes.[119]  Local officials even assisted influential families in preventing the marriages the family does not approve.[120]  The United States Department of State reports in Pakistan it is not uncommon for officials to engage in corruption.[121]

            As in many Islamic countries sex remains a crime outside of marriage.[122]  Though the law requires consent, women who are accused of adultery or fornication are forced to submit to medical exams against their will.[123]  The Women’s Protection Act took away the police’s authority to investigate sex-out-of-marriage crimes.[124]  However implementation of this provision remains ineffective due to lack of police training and lack of awareness.[125]  Pakistani police in general are corrupt.[126]  Police charge fees to file legitimate claims and take bribes to register false claims.[127]  Aside from corruption, police effectiveness varies from district to district.[128] 

            Similar to Morocco, Pakistani police and judges are hesitant in getting involved in instances of domestic violence as it is viewed as a family problem.[129]  It unlikely that abused family members would report such instances of abuse to police because the victims fear dishonoring their families.[130]  Though divorce is legal, the stigma that accompanies it is often worse than the abuse.[131]  Divorced women are ostracized and many women choose to remain in dangerous situations.[132]  In many instances abused women are unaware of their legal option to divorce or are unable to obtain legal counsel.[133] 



3.         Turkey.

            Similarly to Pakistan, Turkey is a hot spot for honor killings and like Morocco; Turkey has overhauled its women’s rights.  Turkey is unique in the honor killing context because its problem lies with its “virgin suicides.”[134]  Turkish government has reported 1,806 honor killings between 2001 and 2006, during the same period the government reported 5,375 suicides.[135]

            In an effort to join the European Union Turkey has tightened up its legislation concerning honor killings.[136]  In September of 2004 Turkey’s Parliament enacted a new law requiring life sentences for anyone convicted of murder with a “moral killing” motive.[137]  In 2006 the Turkish government began a heavy campaign against honor killings.[138]  The Prime Ministry issued a circular on responsibility to prevent domestic violence and honor killings to all ministries and local governments.[139]  In November, 2006 Prime Minister Erdogan condemned the practice at the Organization of the Islamic Conference.[140]  Imams, pop and soccer stars banded together in a media campaign condemning domestic violence and declaring honor killings a sin.[141]  Soldiers received mandatory violence against women training and women’s groups orchestrated town hall meetings, and formed rescue teams and hotlines.[142]  In 2007 Turkey’s Institution for Social Services and Orphanages reported the operation of 23 shelters for female victims of domestic violence,[143] almost double the number reported in 2004.[144]

            Despite all of Turkey’s initiatives honor killings continue to be “a widespread problem.”[145]  Perpetrators have found another mode for carrying out these killings.[146]  Instead of committing murder, family members pressure victims into taking their own lives[147] in what has now been coined “virgin suicides.”[148] 

C.        Statutory Provisions and Caselaw.

1.         Asylum Generally.

            A refugee is:

“any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution[149] or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”[150]

An asylee, is a person meeting the same criteria as a refugee and, “who is physically present in the United States or who arrives[151] in the United States.”[152]  When making a claim for asylum it becomes the asylee’s burden to show “the persecution is inflicted either by the government or by persons or organizations the government is unable or unwilling to control.”[153]  Asylum petitioners are only required to “prove that persecution that he fears is ‘on account of’ one of the enumerated grounds[154], but need not show that the government’s refusal to control a group that engages in persecution is ‘on account of’ one of these grounds.”[155]  An asylum petitioner is also not required to report the persecution to the government if reporting would be futile.[156]

2.         “On account of…”

a.         Membership in a Particular Social Group.

            The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) has defined a social group as a group of persons “all of whom share a common, immutable characteristic.”[157]  The BIA listed a number of examples of what a shared, common, immutable characteristic may be, ranging from the innate to a shared past experience.[158]  The importance of the characteristic lies not with characteristic itself, rather in the fact that the characteristic is one that the “group either cannot change, or should not be required to change because it is fundamental to their individual identities or consciences.”[159]  The BIA reasons that this logic restricts the group to individuals who either cannot, or should not be required to, avoid persecution.[160] 

            BIA decisions have unanimously held that “membership in a nuclear family may substantiate a social-group basis of persecution” [161]  The BIA has conceded that groups whose innate characteristics are as fundamental as sex or family ties are easily recognized by others to represent a social group.[162]  The Ninth Circuit concurred in its opinion that “a prototypical example of a ‘particular social group’ would consist of the immediate members of a certain family.”[163]  The Ninth Circuit rationalized that for the majority of people the most fundamental and basic social group they identify with is their family.[164]   The First Circuit had a similar holding stating “there can, in fact, be no plainer example of a social group based on common, identifiable and immutable characteristics than that of the nuclear family.”[165]

            Despite the evident support in caselaw and BIA decisions, the BIA is hesitant in concluding that every family is the basis for a social group.  The BIA has further explained that a family forms a particular social group when the members are recognized by the immutable characteristics “inextricably linked to [their] family ties.”[166]

The First Circuit articulated the dilemma found with social group claims best when it said “the ‘social group’ category is a flexible one which extends broadly to encompass many groups who do not otherwise fall within the other categories of race, nationality, religion, or political opinion…[and] the scope of the term cannot be without some outer limit.”[167]  Thus, the BIA has elected to consider each social group claim on a case-by-case basis.[168]

b.         Religion.

            The BIA has acknowledged that “societal religious mores” can exist beyond the government’s control.[169]  In the case of S-A-,[170] an asylum petitioner from Morocco, the BIA found that the petitioner had indeed suffered religious persecution at the hands of her Orthodox Muslim father.  The petitioner’s father treated petitioner and her brothers differently.  Petitioner’s father would not mistreat petitioner’s brothers but would beat petitioner with his hands, feet or a belt at least once a week.[171]  Once petitioner wore a short skirt and because her father considered this improper attire he heated a straight razor and burned the portions of her legs that were exposed.[172]  On another occasion while on her way into town petitioner stopped to talk to a young man.[173]  Petitioner’s father saw the interaction and beat both his daughter and the young man.[174]  Her father hit her repeatedly in the face with his ring.[175]  After this beating petitioner’s father forbid her to leave the house even for school.[176]  One night after being imprisoned in her house, petitioner snuck out while her father was sleeping and met up with her girlfriends.[177]  Petitioner’s father caught her, slapping, punching, kicking and pulling her hair.[178]

            The BIA found the abuse petitioner suffered amounted to persecution and was attributed to her religious beliefs.[179]  The BIA relied on a Ninth Circuit decision “that dress and conduct rules pertaining to women may amount to persecution if a women’s refusal to comply is on account of her religious or political views.”[180]  The BIA also relied on their previous decision in Matter of Chen.[181]  In Matter of Chen the BIA granted relief to the Christian son of a minister who was prohibited from attending school and subjected to burns on his body and house arrest.[182] 

            Like in Matter of Chen the petitioner in S-A- was burned, held under house arrest and prohibited from going to school when she refused to comply with strict Muslim social mores.  The persecution stemmed from petitioner’s religious beliefs differing from her father’s concerning the proper role of women.[183]  Petitioner chose to observe liberal Muslim beliefs and the petitioner’s father practiced strict “religion-inspired restrictions and demands.”[184]  It was their differences in religious practices that the petitioner’s father treated her differently from her brothers and persecuted her.[185]

            The BIA has recognized persecution based on both the familial social group and religion nexuses.  This provides petitioners with an established foundation in which to build their asylum claims.  Claims for asylum ought to always be made first under recognized nexuses to ensure the greatest likelihood of success.



            Honor killings have been continuously misclassified under the wrong persecution nexus; gender.  This is a significant problem for immigration law.  Immigration judges are granted a vast amount of deference[186] and can be inconsistent in their rulings.  In an effort to avoid giving judges too much room for interpretation it is imperative for attorneys to properly classify the petitioner’s claim.  By classing honor killing under the gender nexus and not under the family social group and religion nexuses, attorneys and scholars are providing judges with the opportunity to deny their claims.  This is not only hurting the clients whose claims are being denied but it is hurting gender jurisprudence as a whole.  As long as judges are given the ammunition to deny gender claims because “gender will not by itself endow individuals with membership in a particular group”[187] they will.

            Honor killings are a matter of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of membership in a particular social group and religion.  Honor killings are incorrectly classified as a gender issue, a sixth, and non recognized, enumerated group.[188]  This paper is limited in scope and confined to instances where the individuals have made a conscious decision to date divorce or defy an arranged marriage.  These are circumstances in which the individual has control over their actions and are in the best position to make a claim for asylum.[189]  Unfortunately many victims of honor killings are rarely in control of their fate; falling victim to rape, insufficient dowry and baseless accusations.[190]  These victims remain unaware of their fate and can do nothing to avoid their death. 

A.        Honor killing is unique and distinct from gender-based violence.

            Gender-based violence is the abuse inflicted upon a particular sex[191] because of their particular sex.[192]  Gender-based persecution is said to take many forms such as honor crimes, domestic violence, incest, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and widow rituals.[193]  Honor killings and honor crimes are commonly classed under the general category of violence against women along with rape and domestic violence.[194]

            Gender-based violence is inextricably tied to the idea that men are the owners of their female partner’s and family member’s bodies.[195]  Men make the decisions regarding sexuality and motherhood.[196]  It has been argued that honor killings are motivated by a similar belief.[197]  In honor killing societies it is believed that women bear the responsibility of maintaining the family honor.[198]  Men, as controllers of the sexual behavior of women, in turn become the custodians of cultural and ethnic purity.[199] 

            This theory can be challenged because honor is derived from more than a women’s sexuality.  Honor is a derivative from the obedience of the Shari’a.[200]  The Shari’a covers more than just a women’s sexuality.[201]  By following the Shari’a and maintaining a lawful presence one derives honor.  Honor is dependent upon every member of the family.[202]  A hypothetical example which breaks a cultural norm and moots the gender argument is the example of an intimate relationship between two homosexual males in a Muslim community.  All Islamic schools of thought consider homosexuality to be unlawful.[203]  For example in Pakistan homosexuality is punishable by death.[204] In Morocco it is a crime punishable by jail time up to six months.[205] Islamic scholars agree that all humans are naturally heterosexual and homosexuality is sinful and perverted.[206]  If the males were not arrested by police first their families would surely punish them if not kill them.[207] 

            Homosexuality would be analogous under religious law to a women having premarital sex.  Both are crimes, both go against the Shari’a,[208] and both are publicly condemned.[209]  Since honor is dependent on the public’s perception of the family it logically follows that any act which is publicly condemned would dishonor the family.

B.        If the gender element is removed from honor killing the crime of honor killing still   exists.

            It is undeniable that honor killings affect more women than men.  However if gender was removed from honor killing the crime would still exist.  Morocco is a perfect illustration of how honor killings are genderless.

            In Morocco men are just as vulnerable to honor killings as women.  The government provides sanctions to both sexes regarding honor killing.  Instead of eliminating honor killing the Moroccan government just extended the same protections to women who kill their husbands.[210]  Morocco is also an important example of how a society that practices honor killing differentiates honor killings from other gender based crimes.  Morocco has chosen to address other areas of gender-violence by creating a new body of laws, the Family Code.[211]  The Family Code attempts to eliminate the gender discrimination that has plagued women for centuries.[212]  There has also been a public reform by which shelters have been constructed and abuse hotlines enacted.[213]  All of these changes vastly improve the over all gender discrimination which affects women but does nothing to combat the crime of honor killing.  If honor killing was truly a gender issue it is likely that Morocco would have enacted provisions against it when they revamped other areas concerning gender discrimination.

            If gender was removed from the crime honor killing would still be honor killing.  It is for this reason honor killing is distinguishable from other gender-based violence crimes.  A prime example of a true gender-based violence crime is female genital mutilation. [214]  For obvious reasons, female genital mutilation is an act that affects women because of the fundamental characteristics that defines their femininity.  If gender was removed from female genital mutilation the act would cease being female genital mutilation. 

            Honor killing is also distinguishable from domestic violence.  Domestic violence is defined as the behavior “used to establish power and control over another person with whom an intimate relationship is or has been shared.”[215]  The BIA agreed with the contention that the “fundamental purpose of domestic violence is to punish, humiliate, and exercise power over the victim on account of her gender.”[216]  Honor killing is similar to domestic violence because of the close relationship between abuser or killer and the victim, and both crimes result from the abuser or killer’s desire to punish the victim.[217]  But this is where the similarity ends. 

            Honor killings are a family affair.  Domestic violence is a single abuser.  Honor killings are not used to humiliate and honor killings do not punish the victim solely because she is female.  The punishment facet of honor killing is derived from its root in religion.  Victims are killed because they violated the law thus bringing shame upon their families.  Honor killings affect females but do not affect victims solely because they are female.

C.        The persecution nexus is more complicated than gender alone.

            Once a government has decided to initiate change and combat honor killings the problem becomes implementation.  Honor killings are customs that have evolved for centuries and have become internalized and unquestioned norms.[218]  Along with the killers, the persons responsible for implementation have internalized these cultural norms.  Morocco, again, serves as an excellent example of this problem.  Morocco underwent a major gender transformation in 2004 and almost five years later the reforms are still struggling to be put into action.  The problem lies with the individuals serving in government positions, such as judges and police officers.[219]  As previously noted Moroccan police are reluctant to become involved in family matters[220] and judges continue to base rulings on new outdated laws.[221]  This comparison refers to Morocco’s actions regarding basic gender reforms and not honor killings specifically.  However it is important because it serves as an example of what would likely happen if Morocco decided to ban the practice of honor killing.

            On the contrary Turkish government has taken a stand against honor killing[222] and honor killing continues to remain a significant problem.  Implementing public service announcements[223] and requiring tougher consequences for those who kill[224] have done virtually nothing to stop the practice.  In fact the Turkish people have found a way around the new law and instead of getting their hands dirty they pressure the victims into taking their own lives.[225]  Turkey’s efforts have been virtually ineffective at combating honor killing.

            The challenge with honor killing is more than protecting a gender.  Honor killings are a cultural phenomenon in which even the women victims sympathize.[226]  These societies’ social structures are based on the family and notions of honor are derived from centuries old religion.  The problem lies with changing an entire society’s way of life.



            Gender alone does not offer victims a means in which they can petition for asylum.  Until the United States government decides to recognize gender as a basis for persecution it is critical that honor killings are recognized for the fundamental roots in the family social group and in religion.  As long as honor killings are incorrectly labeled a gender crime judges will have a vehicle for denying their claims.  This is not to say that victims should be precluded from making gender based claims in their asylum petitions.  In fact, the opposite should happen, victims seeking asylum from honor killings should also state a claim for gender persecution.  Honor killings affect women disproportionately to men, which in itself is indicative of gender violence. [227] 

A.        Mixed-motive claims.

            One way to combat the gender fight would be to eliminate all opportunity for an immigration judge to deny a claim.  This could be done by attaching a gender claim to an honor killing as a part of a mixed-motive petition.  By arguing mixed-motive nexuses judges will have less room to negate the victim’s claim.  This would most likely result in a granting of asylum than if gender was argued alone.  The object should be to secure as many grants as possible.  The more gender claims win the less likely they can be overlooked.  The more attention gender persecution receives the stronger the argument for gender as a nexus for persecution exists.

            In 2005 mixed-motive jurisprudence was superseded by the Real ID Act.[228]  The Act provided a new standard of proof by which a petitioner had to comply when making an asylum claim.  Under the new statute a petitioner had “to establish that the applicant is a refugee…, the applicant must establish that race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.”[229]  Previously the applicant had to produce evidence that was indicative that their persecution was motivated at least in part by one of the five statutorily enumerated grounds for asylum.[230]

            In Parussimova the Ninth Circuit interpreted the Real ID Act to mean the asylee did not need to prove that the protected ground was the only central reason for the persecution.[231]  The Court went on to state that the statute does not require that the central reason “account for 51% of the persecutors’ motivation.”[232]  The Court stated the central reason need be “’primary,’ ‘essential,’ or ‘principal’ [representing] more than a mere ‘part’ of the persecutor’s motivation.”[233]  Most importantly the central reason needs to be of primary importance to the persecutors; “one that is essential to their decision to act.”[234]

            This new standard is more burdensome[235] for the asylee however applicants seeking refuge from honor killings have compelling cases.  Gender is certainly tangential to the honor killings but the killings themselves are rooted in the persecutor’s family social structure and the persecutor’s religion.  Honor killings originate in the very nexuses that motivate the killings.  Without gender the persecutors will still kill their victims.  Without the family bond or religious beliefs the persecutors are without the essential motivations to kill.  This is what makes honor killing survivors great candidates for mix-ed motive claims. 

B.        Using honor killings as gender persecution platforms.

            In addition to minimizing judicial discretion and fitting neatly under the new statutory standard set by the Real ID Act honor killings make excellent platforms by which to springboard other gender claims.  One reason is there is no fear of opening the floodgates.  This is because cultural norms will prevent many honor killing victims from seeking asylum.[236]  Others who would try to flee will sadly never escape the killing.  This is either because they do not know they are going to be killed[237] or if they do manage to leave their homes they lack money and resources[238] to reach a safe place. 

            A second reason honor killings make compelling cases is because the crime is so heinous.  Since Samia Sarwar’s murder, honor killings have been gaining attention world wide.[239]  The United Nations assigned their Special Rapporteur to investigate the killings as part of the Human Rights report.[240]  The sheer brutality and callousness of the killings make it hard to ignore.  This is likely the reason honor killings are favorably labeled to gender-based violence claims. 



            Each year thousands of people are killed in the name of honor,[241] many of which go unreported.[242]  These murders are considered a private family affair.[243] Honor can be a dangerous concept as it “exists beyond reason and beyond analysis.”[244]  The killers believe their identities are tied to their families’ identities.[245]  When a family’s reputation is threatened relatives become killers; believing murder is the only remedy.[246]

            Sadly, all that is necessary to provoke a killing is an accusation.[247]  This paper was limited to the instances of dating, divorce, and rejection of arranged marriages because these are circumstances under which a potential victim has the best chance of escaping.  It can be argued these victims, when compared to victims of rape or baseless accusations, have knowingly subjected themselves to the danger of honor killing.  To date, divorce or defy an arranged married is to reject strict Islam. 

            Asylum jurisprudence offers potential honor killing victims two recognized nexuses under which they can petition; family social group and religion. However, asylum jurisprudence and the international human rights arena have synonymously linked honor killings with gender.[248]  While it is undeniable that gender is a factor in honor killing it is not the underlying motive.  If gender is removed completely from the equation the crime would still exist because the fundamental nature of honor killing is rooted in the family structure and centuries old religion. 

            Classifying honor killing only under the gender nexus allows immigration judges the opportunity to deny asylum claims because gender is not a recognized nexus for persecution.  This is detrimental to the petitioner and to gender jurisprudence.  If gender misclassification continues to occur; judges will continue to ignore gender as a basis for persecution. 

[1] Associated Press, A Matter of Honour: Egyptian Style, Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. (Aug. 21, 1997), available at [hereinafter Associated Press].   See also U.N. Econ. & Soc. Council [ECOSOC], Comm’n on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of Disappearances and Summary Executions, ¶ 79, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2000/3 (Jan. 25, 2000) (prepared by Special Rapporteur, Ms. Asma Jahangir) [hereinafter ECOSOC 2000].

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Amnesty Int’l, PAKISTAN: Violence Against Women in the Name of Honour, at 21, ASA 33/017/1999 (Sept. 22, 1999).

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 22.

[8] Id. at 21.

[9] Id.

[10] Id. at 22.

[11] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 22.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. at 7.

[14] Id. at 22.

[15] Id., see also Richard Galpin, Woman’s ‘honour’ killing draws protests in Pakistan, Guardian News (April 8, 1999), available at, Hillary Mayell, Thousands of Women Killed for Family “Honor,” National Geographic News (Feb. 12, 2002), at 1, available at 

[16] U.N Econ. & Soc. Council [ECOSOC], Comm’n on Human Rights, Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective, Violence Against Women, ¶ 23, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2002/83 (Jan. 31, 2002) (prepared by Special Rapporteur, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy) [hereinafter ECOSOC 2002].

[17] These crimes go by many names, in Islamic countries they are known as, honor killings, in the Americas they are known as crimes of passion and in India they are called dowry deaths. Mayell, supra note 15, at 1.

[18] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 23.

[19] Mayell, supra note 15, at 2.

[20] Valerie Plant, Honor Killings and the Asylum Gender Gap, 15 J. Transnat’l L. & Pol’y 109 (2005), Laura Adams, Fleeing the Family: A Domestic Violence Victim’s Particular Social Group, 49 Loy. L. Rev. 287 (2003), Irena Lieberman, Women and Girls Facing Gender-Based Violence, and Asylum Jurisprudence, 29 Sum. Hum. Rts. 9 (2002), Rachel Ruane, Murder in the Name of Honor: Violence Against Women in Jordan and Pakistan, 14 Emory Int’l L. Rev. 1523 (2000).

[21] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 2.

[22] In re S-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. 1328 (BIA 2000).

[23] Plant, supra note 20, at 127 (citing Adams, supra note 20, at 295-99.  Adams proposed reorienting the refugee doctrine and “focusing on the relationship between the state’s failure to protect and the protected characteristic of the [domestic violence] victim.” Id. at 299. Adams theorizes that domestic violence is more than a private harm because the state fails to protect victims of violence within families for the reason that these victims are members of a particular social group-the family- which the state treats as self-governing. Id. at 298.  Adams’ position is that the state has singled out the family for differential treatment therefore making it a “social construct, rather than a particular family.” Id.).

[24] 8 U.S.C.A. §1158(b)(1)(B)(i)(2005) states  The burden of proof is on the applicant to establish that the applicant is a refugee, within the meaning of section 1101(a)(42)(A) of this title. To establish that the applicant is a refugee within the meaning of such section, the applicant must establish that race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.” Under the previous standard the applicant needed to produce evidence from which it was “reasonable to believe that the harm was motivated, at least in part, by an actual or implied protected ground.” Borja v. I.N.S., 175 F.3d 732, 736 (9th Cir. 1999).

[25] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 26.

[26] Id.

[27] Id. at 23.

[28] Id.

[29] Mayell, supra note 15, at 2.

[30] ECOSOC 2000, supra note 1, at ¶ 23.

[31] Id. at ¶ 27.

[32] Plant, supra note 20, at 253-54.

[33] Id. at 11, (citing Amnesty Int’l supra note 4, referring to an honor killing in London were the father justified the murder by claiming he’d been forced to kill because he had been placed in an untenable position).

[34] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 27.

[35] Mayell, supra note 15, at 2.

[36] ECOSOC 2000, supra note 1, at ¶ 36.

[37] Id. at  ¶ 25.

[38] Id.

[39] Id. at 28.

[40] U.N. Econ. & Soc. Council [ECOSOC], Comm’n on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of Disappearances and Summary Executions, ¶ 354, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2004/7/Add.1 (Mar. 24, 2004) (prepared by Special Rapporteur, Ms. Asma Jahangir) [hereinafter ECOSOC 2004].

[41] Id. at ¶ 355.

[42] Id. at ¶ 360.

[43] Id. at ¶ 361.

[44] Id. at ¶ 376.

[45] Id. at ¶ 404.

[46] Id. at ¶ 423.

[47] Associated Press, supra note 1.

[48] Dan Bilefsky, ‘Virgin Suicides’ save  Turks’ ‘honor,’ Int’l Herald Tribune, at 1 (July 13, 2006),  available at

[49] ECOSOC 2000, supra note 1, at ¶ 79.

[50] Id. at ¶ 78.

[51] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 22.  An example of which would include Samia Samwar whose mother orchestrated and facilitated the shooting. Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 7.

[52] ECOSOC 2000, supra note 1, at ¶ 78.

[53] David Schoetz, ‘Honor Killing’ Motive for Slain Sisters?, ABC News (Jan. 8, 2008), available at

[54] Denis J. Wiechman, Jerry D. Kendall & Mohammad K. Azarian, Islamic Law: Myths and Realities, CJ International, Vol. 12, No. 3, (May-June 1996) pp. 13-19, Reproduced with permission from the Office of International Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois available at

[55] Id.

[56] Id.

[57] Id.

[58] Id. In addition to dictating religious matters the Shar’iah provides regulations for one’s behavior in public and in private. Id.  It controls one’s diet, sexual conduct and personal hygiene.  Id.  On a larger scale the Shar’iah can also be applied in settling international disputes and conflicts. Id. 

[59] Id.

[60] Wiechman, supra note 54. The Qur’an, though not dispositive, is the primary element of Shar’iah. Id.

[61] Id. The Sunna is not found in the Qur’an.  Id. These teachings are derivative of the Prophet Mohammad himself.  Id.  They are detailed stories and anecdotes that relate to behavior and human interaction. Id.

[62] Id.   Islamic judges use Ijmas as foundations for applying religion to modern day society. Id. Ijmas give Islamic judges vast discretion to interpret and apply Islam.  Id.    

[63] Id.  The authors provide an example of computer time theft which is not provided for in the Qur’an or Sunna. Id. The Shar’iah judges use the act of theft as the baseline because theft is prohibited under the Qur’an and Sunna.  Id.  The judge relies on an established premise to create new case law. Id.

[64] Id. A judge may also rely on a local custom or norm or a judge might “weigh the impact of his decision upon how it will effect a person’s standing in the community.” Id.

[65] Shar’iah as it is referred to in Ruane, supra note 20, at 1570.

[66] Ruane, supra note 20, at 1570 n.302.

[67] Id. at 84.  Interpretation and application occur through the five elements; Qur’an, Sunna, Ijma, Qiyas and secondary sources.  See notes 60-64.

[68] Mayell, supra note 15, at 1.

[69] ECOSOC 2000, supra note 1, at ¶ 78

[70] Ruane, supra note 20, at 1530 n.38.

[71] Id. at 1531 n. 39 (stating the Qur’an does not sanction honor crimes, but the practice is so culturally ingrained that many misinterpret their religion to justify it).

[72] Id. at 1531, (citing Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 11).

[73] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 8, see also ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 28 (“by controlling women’s sexuality and reproduction, [males] became the custodians of cultural and ethnic purity.”).

[74] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 27.

[75] Ruane, supra note 20, at 1571.

[76] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 5.

[77] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 36.

[78] Mayell, supra note 15, at 2.

[79] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 36.

[80] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 5.

[81] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 32.

[82] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 25.

[83] Id.

[84] Id.

[85] Id.

[86] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 25.

[87] Id. at 26.

[88] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 32.

[89] Id.

[90] Id.

[91] Id. (citing information submitted to the Special Rapporteur by L. Beyer, “Sirhan, a 35-year-old Jordanian is proud of having killed his sister and shooting her four times in the head despite having signed a pledge declaring he would not harm her.  Id. at n. 8.  Her crime was reporting to the police that she had been raped. Id.. According to Sirhan his sister committed a mistake even if it was against her will. Id. He considers it better to have one person die than to have the whole family die from shame.” Id.).

[92] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 22.

[93] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 10.

[94] Id.  Samia Samwar’s murder serves as a prime example. Samia’s murder took place in broad daylight, in a public place and a police report implicated Samia’s mother, father and uncle as the perpetrators. Id. at 19.  Despite all of the above mentioned no one was arrested.  Id.

[95] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 22.

[96] Id.

[97] Id. at ¶ 78.

[98] These particular countries were selected because each country has an honor killings problem.  According to the U.S. Department of State,, each country is located in a different region lending support to the idea the honor killings is not a localized problem. Morocco is classed as the Near East and North Africa. Pakistan is located in South and Central Asia.  Turkey hails from Europe and Eurasia.  Each of these countries have addressed and failed to eliminate the honor killing epidemic.

[99] U.S. Dep’t of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Morocco, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at 1 (Feb. 28, 2005), available at  This new Code of Family Law was meant to improve the status of women and children. Id. The Code raised the marriage age, made family a joint responsibility, rescinded the wife’s duty of obedience, eliminated marital tutor, created mutual consent divorce and limited polygamy. Id. at 7.  The 2004 reforms were implemented by 70 new family courts.  Id. Prior to January 2004, the “civil status of women [was] governed by the Code of Personal Status –known as the Moudouwana- which [was] based on the Malikite School of Islam law.  U.N. Econ. & Soc. Council [ECOSOC], Comm’n on Human Rights, Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective, Violence Against Women, at ¶ 780, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1 (Feb. 27, 2003) (prepared by Special Rapporteur, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy).

[100] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007: Morocco, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at 9 (Mar. 11, 2008), available at [hereinafter State, Morocco 2007].

[101] Id.

[102] State, Morocco 2007, supra note 100, at 9.

[103] Id.

[104] State, Morocco 2007, supra note 100, at 8.

[105] Id.

[106] Id. at 3.

[107] Id.

[108] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007: Pakistan, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at 2 (Mar. 11, 2008), available at [hereinafter State, Pakistan 2007].

[109] Id. at 14.

[110] Id.

[111] State, Pakistan 2007, supra note 100, at 14.

[112] Id.

[113] Id.

[114] Id. at 1.

[115] Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006: Pakistan, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at 4 (Mar. 6, 2007), available at [hereinafter State, Pakistan 2006]. “The Hudood Ordinances provide Koranic punishments for violations of Shari’a.” Id.  Hudood Ordinances set strict standards of evidence, which discriminate between men and women and Muslims and non Muslims.  Id. at 6. The sections of the Hudood Ordinances that remain in effect prohibit gambling, alcohol, and some property offenses. Id.

[116] Id. at 5.  See also  State, Pakistan 2007, supra note 108, at 13 (The Hudood Ordinances require punishment for rape and adultery.).

[117] State, Pakistan 2007, supra note 108, at 13 (The Hudood Ordinances were also used by husbands to control their wives and by neighbors when settling a dispute.).

[118] Id. at 7.

[119] Id.

[120] Id.

[121] Id. at 13.

[122] State, Pakistan 2007, supra note 108, at 13.

[123] Id.

[124] Id.

[125] Id.

[126] Id. at 4.

[127] Id.

[128] Id.

[129] Id.  at 14.

[130] Id.

[131] Id.

[132] Id.

[133] Id. at 15.

[134] Bilefsky, supra note 48, at 1.

[135] Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006: Turkey, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at 16 (Mar. 6, 2007), available at [hereinafter State, Turkey 2006].

[136] Bilefsky, supra note 48, at 1.

[137] Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Turkey, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at 13 (Feb. 28, 2005), available at  [hereinafter State, Turkey 2004].

[138] State, Turkey 2006, supra note 135, at 13.

[139] Id.

[140] Id.

[141] Id.

[142] Id.

[143] Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007: Turkey, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at 16 (Mar. 11, 2008), available at  [hereinafter State, Turkey 2007].

[144] State, Turkey 2004, supra note 137, at 13.  In 2004 Turkey had eight government guest houses and three municipal shelters for women victims of domestic abuse. Id.

[145] State, Turkey 2007, supra note 143, at 1.

[146] Bilefsky, supra note 48, at 1.

[147] Id.  According to Turkish women’s groups “’dishonored’ girls are being locked in a room for days with rat poison, a pistol or a rope, and told by their families that the only thing resting between their disgrace and redemption is death.” Id. One suicide survivor attempted to kill herself three times by drowning, hanging and slitting her wrists because her brothers and uncles sent her threatening text messages up to 15 times a day. Id. The seventeen-year-old girl had begun dating a boy from school and when her family found out they would text her saying “You have blackened our name,” and “Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.” Id.

[148] Id.

[149] Persecution is defined as “a threat to the life or freedom of, or the infliction of suffering or harm upon, those who differ in a way regarded as offensive.” Sangha v. I.N.S., 103 F.3d 1482, 1487 (9th Cir. 1997)(citing Sagermark v. I.N.S., 767 F.2d 645, 649 (9th Cir.1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1171 (1986) (quoting Kovac v. I.N.S., 407 F.2d 102, 107 (9th Cir.1969)).

[150] INA §101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(42)(A)(2006), see also, I.N.S. v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 428 (1987).

[151] Arrival in the United States is irrespective of whether or not the arrival was at a designated port of arrival and includes an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters. INA §208(a), 8 U.S.C. §1158(a)(2005).

[152] Id.

[153] Sangha, 103 F.3d at 1487 (citing McMullen v. I.N.S., 658 F.2d 1312, 1315 (9th Cir.1981)).

[154] The five statutorily enumerated grounds are race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. INA §101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(42)(A)(2006).

[155] Valdiviezo-Galdamez v. Attorney General of U.S., 502 F.3d 285, 289 (3rd Cir. 2007)(see In re R-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. 906, 923 (BIA 2001) (“[We] understand the ‘on account of’ test to direct an inquiry into the motives of the entity actually inflicting the harm.”).

[156] See In re S-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. at 1335. (The BIA held that although petitioner “did not request protection from the government, the evidence [supports] that even if the respondent had turned to the government for help, Moroccan authorities would have been unable or unwilling to control her father’s conduct. The respondent would have been compelled to return to her domestic situation and her circumstances may well have worsened.” Id.).

[157] Matter of Acosta, 19 I & N Dec. 211, 233 (BIA 1985) (this case has been overruled on other grounds).

[158] An innate characteristic might be sex, color, or kinship ties, or it might be a shared past experience, like former military leadership or land ownership.  Matter of Acosta, 19 I & N Dec. at 233.

[159] Id.

[160] Id. at 234.

[161] Vumi v. Gonzales, 502 f.3d 150, 155 (2nd Cir. 2007) (citing Matter of H-, 21 I. & N. Dec. 337, 342 (BIA 1996)).

[162] Vumi v. Gonzales, 502 f.3d at 155 (citing In Re C-A-, 23 I & N Dec 951, 959 (BIA 2006)).

[163] Sancho-Trujillo v. I.N.S., 801 F.2d 1571, 1576 (9th Cir. 1986).

[164] Id.

[165] Gerbremichael v. I.N.S., 10 f.3d 28, 36 (1st Cir. 1993).

[166] Vumi, 502 F.3d at 155 (citing Matter of H-, 21 I. & N. Dec. at 342).

[167] Sancho-Trujillo, 801 F.2d at 1576.

[168] Matter of Acosta, 19 I & N Dec. 211 at 233.

[169] In re S-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. at 1332-33. (citing Coven, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Considerations for Asylum Officers Adjudicating Asylum Claims From Women (1995) (“Breaching social mores (e.g. marrying outside of an arranged marriage, wearing lipstick or failing to comply with other cultural or religious norms) may result in harm, abuse or harsh treatment that is distinguishable from the treatment given the general population, frequently without meaningful recourse to state protection.”).

[170] Sancho-Trujillo, 801 F.2d at 1576.

[171] Id. at 1329.

[172] Id.

[173] Sancho-Trujillo, 801 F.2d at  1329.

[174] Id.

[175] Id.

[176] Id.

[177] Id. at 1330.

[178] Id.

[179] Id.  t 1336.

[180] Id. (referring to Fisher v. I.N.S., 79 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 1996)).

[181] Matter of Chen, 20 I. & N. Dec. 16, 19-20 (BIA 1989).

[182] Sancho-Trujillo, 801 F.2d at 1336. (citing Matter of Chen, 20 I. & N. Dec. at 19-20).

[183] Id.

[184] Sancho-Trujillo, 801 F.2d at 1336.

[185] Id.

[186] Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 844 (1984)(The Supreme Court has “long recognized that considerable weight should be accorded to an executive department’s construction of a statutory scheme it is entrusted to administer, and the principle of deference to administrative interpretations.”).

[187] Gomez v. I.N.S., 947 F.2d 660, 664 (2nd Cir. 1991)(See, e.g., Sanchez-Trujillo, 801 F.2d at 1574-77; cf. Vides-Vides v. INS, 783 F.2d 1463, 1467 (9th Cir.1986); Zepeda-Melendez v. INS, 741 F.2d 285, 290 (9th Cir.1984); Chavez v. INS, 723 F.2d 1431, 1434 (9th Cir.1984)).

[188] Referring to the five statutorily enumerated grounds for asylum under INA §101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(42)(A)(2006).

[189] An asylee is defined as “a person who meets the definition of refugee under but who is either physically present in the U.S. or is at a land border of entry of the U.S. at the time he seeks refuge.  INA §208(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. §1158(a)(2005).      

[190] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, at 5.

[191] In the present discussion the focus will be on the female sex.

[192] Lieberman, supra note 20, at 1.

[193] Lieberman, supra note 20, at 1.

[194] See State, Turkey 2007, supra note 143, at 1, and State, Pakistan 2007, supra note 108, at 1.

[195] Lieberman, supra note 20, at 1.

[196] Id.

[197] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 27.

[198] Id. at ¶ 27, 28. References to a crude Arabic expression saying “a man’s honor lies between the legs of a women.” See also Ruane, supra note 20, at 1531 n. 48.

[199] Id. at ¶ 28.

[200] Wiechman, supra note 58.

[201] Id.

[202] B.A. Robinson, Islam and Homosexuality, Homosexuality in the Qur’an and Hadith; Differences between the Qur’an and the Bible; Penalties for Homosexual Activity,, (Jan. 31, 2008), available at

[203] Stephen Barris, Being Lesbian or Gay is Risking Jail Time in 86 Countries and Death Penalty in 7, International Lesbian and Gay Association [ILGA], (May 14, 2008), available at; see also Julia Beamish & Lina Tazi Abderrazik, PhD., Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health in Morocco: Status, Issues, Policies and Programs, United States Agency for International Development, at 1 (Jan. 2003), available at

[204] Barris, supra note 203, (See LGTBI Rights in the World Map available at

[205] Beamish, supra note 203, at 4.

[206] Robinson, supra note 202.

[207] Id.  at n. 3.

[208] See supra text accompanying note 122.

[209] Beamish, supra note 203, at 1 n. 21.

[210] See supra text accompanying note 104.

[211] See supra text accompanying note 99.

[212] See supra text accompanying notes 70-76.

[213] State, Morocco 2007, supra note 100, at 8.

[214] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 12. Female Genital Mutilation (“FMG”) has affected more than 135 million girls and it is estimated 2 million are at risk each year. Id.  FMG is practiced to make a female pure and to define a women for her future role in life and marriage. Id. at ¶ 14. It is also rationalized as a test to prepare a woman for the pain of childbirth. Id. FMG differs from community to community but can be broadly classed into four groups. Id. at ¶13.  The first, and mildest form, is circumcision where the hood of the clitoris is cut. Id. The second is excision where the clitoris and all or part of the labia minora are cut. Id. The third category is infibulation where most of the female genitals, clitoris, labia minora and labia majora are cut. Id. The fourth category is intermediate and falls somewhere between excision and infibulation. Id.

[215] The Problem, What is Battering, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, (2005), available at

[216] In re R-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. 906 at 939.(citing Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, U.N. Comm. on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 47th Sess., Supp. No. 38, para. 26, at 8, U.N. Doc. A/47/38 (1992)).

[217] See supra text accompanying note 93.

[218] Ruane, supra note 20, at 1571.

[219] See supra text accompanying notes 100-03, 105-07.

[220] Id.

[221] Id.

[222] See supra text accompanying notes 136-44.

[223] Id.

[224] Id.

[225] See supra text accompanying notes 146-48.

[226] ECOSOC 2002, supra note 16, at ¶ 5.  (Noting that “women identify with their culture and are offended by the arrogant gaze of outsiders who criticize their way of doing things.”) Id.

[227] Ruane, supra note 20, at 1564.

[228] Parussimova v. Mukasey, 533 F.3d 1128, 1133 (9th Cir. 2008)(referring to the Real ID Act, Pub.L. No. 109-13, div. B, 119 Stat. 231.).

[229] 8 USC §1158(b)(1)(B)(i)(2005), see also Parussimova, 533 F.3d at 1133.

[230] Borja v. I.N.S., 175 F.3d at 736. (citing In re T-M-B-, Interim Dec. No. 3307 (BIA Feb. 20, 1997). See also Singh v. Ilchert, 63 F.3d 1501, 1509-10 (9th Cir.1995) (“Persecutory conduct may have more than one motive, and so long as one motive is one of the statutorily enumerated grounds, the requirements have been satisfied.”).

[231] See supra text accompanying note 24.

[232] Parussimova, 533 F.3d at 1134.

[233] Id.

[234] Id. at 1135.

[235] Id. at 1134.

[236] See supra text accompanying note 226.

[237] See supra text accompanying notes 190.

[238] See supra text accompanying notes 130-33.

[239] See supra Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4, see also  ECOSOC 2000, supra note 1, at ¶ 36.

[240] ECOSOC 2000, supra note 1, at ¶ 36.

[241] See supra text accompanying note 15.

[242] See supra text accompanying note 18.

[243] See supra text accompanying note 34.

[244] See supra text accompanying note 105.

[245] See supra text accompanying note 32.

[246] Id.

[247] See supra text accompanying notes 77-78.

[248] See supra text accompanying note 20.



  1. Thanks very much for posting this useful article. It’s my opinion that the dynamics of HBV (honour- based violence) are rooted in the system of gender, and in marriage practise in particular, and so have become categorised with violence against women: where some writers do not even acknowledge the existence of male victims!

    On another point, would you happen to have this piece in a more printable format? I’d love to keep this for my records.

  2. Ijma is already plural, there is no need to add an “s” to it.

    New Testament etc do not provide a basis for Shari’ah. Word is not interchangeable with “laws where Moslems live” or something. The constitution declaring Islam as the state religion does not mean country is ruled by Shari’ah. Only three countries, to my knowledge, claim to rule partially or totally by Shari’ah, but this is not so. Outside sources can never, ever be part of Shari’ah. They do not get traffic laws from the Shari’ah, for example, as Shari’ah does not concern itself with these matters. The use of civil code is illustrative of how these countries are, in fact, not ruling by Shari’ah law. In most Muslim majority countries, Shari’ah is limited to use in family court and inheritance – which is the only place where “two sets of laws, one for Muslims and one for non Muslims” is actually existent.

    As for heroes, not so much. Not in the closed confines of our homes. I come from one of these countries. People afraid to speak out in public, but in private detest people who do this. Most families will not do this to their daughters and sons, but find other ways to deal. Still, afraid of what people will think or do if you come out publicly. We need more support for the cowards of our society, to turn them into people who aren’t afraid to speak out. However, in general, our countries punish people who speak out about injustice, so it is a whole cultural change that must happen and includes the right to speak out against the governments.

  3. […] A paper on the misclassification of honor killing. […]

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