Rana Husseini: Murder in the Name of Honor

Journalism is a message. Rana Husseini lives by this motto, turning her career into a pursuit of justice. As a journalist working for over 25 years, Rana used her position to shed the light on societal issues. She focuses on violent stories and prefers to report on crimes against women since they are prominent in Jordan and have received little exposure in the past. Rana’s stories raised a public outcry in the 1990s and 2000s that the government should take action to end this catastrophic phenomenon.

Although violence against women exists in different forms, including domestic violence, Rana tends to focus on a type that exists around the world, including in our region, violence in the name of family honor. This type of violence allows men to murder women, mainly members of their families, when they feel that they violated any of the societal norms, hence violating family honor. This sort of murder is usually justified in most Arab countries where the murderer would get away with his action with no concrete consequences and would not be held accountable by the law. Rana’s work in reporting women’s stories never ends. No matter what changes happen in society around them, she feels the urge to tell the stories to be able to reach ultimate justice.

What inspired Rana to pursue this career is a horrifying story that made her want to shed the light on honor crimes. In 1994, a 16-year-old schoolgirl was murdered by one of her brothers out of the protection of his “honor.” This young girl was raped by another brother who attempted to kill her after she told her family. She got pregnant and then her father married her to an older man who later divorced her. Her divorce caused one of her brothers to kill her. Knowing that this story was not typical, Rana was still shocked and wanted to report this story and its likes.

When she first decided to pursue this path, Rana did not think that anyone would stand in her way. Rana believed that reporting these victims’ and survivors’ stories would be highly appreciated among members of the Jordanian society since it would be helping in developing a better environment. However, she received a backlash not only from men but from women too. When reporting certain stories, Rana received calls from the family members of the victims who were against having the story be shared with the public and having the murderer held accountable for his wrongdoings. This, however, never stopped Rana from doing what is right because these stories need to be shared to raise awareness and limit such actions.

With time, Rana has been approached by young men and women who wanted to use her articles and books as resources for their work. This made her realize that not enough research and documentation of honor crimes are available in Jordan. This scarcity in produced work makes it difficult to analyze any current situation and to fight for justice. For these reasons, Rana published her first book Murder in The Name of Honor in English in 2009 and Arabic in 2010 and was then translated to both Finnish and Dutch in years to follow. Her second book entitled Years of Struggle…The Women’s Movement in Jordan was published in 2021.

Rana realizes that some changes have occurred at the constitutional level. She states that there are laws in place to limit the happening of any so-called honor crimes. However, this is not enough in her opinion. She says that although these laws exist, they are far from being implemented and that judiciary procedures take long to reach conclusive decisions with regards to murderers who committed honor crimes. For her, she believes that the lack of implementation defies the purpose of the law itself and that the first step to reaching justice is to set examples of harsh consequences imposed on murderers for others to learn. 

No matter how difficult it is to report crime stories, Rana points out that we need to acknowledge the source of the problem and how to solve it. Her purpose behind reporting stories is not just to let the public know what is happening, but also to allow them to analyze the social constructs that they need to overcome. Rana notes that we can never generalize. We can never say that all men are alike, or all men want to fit into these societal norms imposed on them. In some cases, Rana states, men are forced to commit wrongdoings just because they are asked to, by superior family members for example. In societies wherein critical discussions do not often occur, she notes that some men do not have a choice but to abide by the norms, even if they do not wish to do so. Acknowledging the latter makes Rana notice that the change should happen from the core.

As a journalist, writer, and advocate, Rana offers to participate in panels and seminars to discuss the problem of honor crimes. She noticed that, over time, people started becoming more interested in learning more about the topic and listening to the cruel stories despite how harsh they are on the ears. At first, Rana notes that not a lot of men used to attend the talks that she held, and her audience was mainly women. Now, in 2021, she is observing more men in her audience who want to ask critical questions and are more engaged in this topic, despite being of relevance to their lives or not. Rana states that even if a certain issue does not affect a person, it does not mean that they should be uninterested in learning more about it and trying to solve it.

Whether they want to pursue a career in journalism or not, Rana advises girls to follow their dreams and go after what they believe in. To Rana, girls should believe that they can make a difference even if it is not at the beginning, but they will reach that goal at one point in their lives if they are passionate enough. She mentions that girls will learn more each and every day and will find their ways no matter how discouraged they are. Rana points out that girls can reach their ambitions as long as they do not hurt anyone in the process of getting there.

This story was written by Tamara Sleiman

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