Gizem Yarbil, an associate producer at Worldfocus who grew up in Turkey, argues Turkish immigrants may cling even more strongly to their customs– including honor killings– when faced with the difficulties of life in the West.
The first honor killing story I delved into as a journalist was of a Turkish girl from Germany.
Hatun Surucu was 23 years old when her youngest brother shot her at a bus stop in Berlin in 2005. She was training to be an electrician and she had a son.
She was born in Germany to Kurdish parents who had migrated to the country from Turkey. From the day she was born, she was confined to a secluded lifestyle under the strict scrutiny of her parents and her brothers. When Hatun was 16, she was married to her cousin in Turkey in an arranged marriage. She moved to a village in Turkey and had her son when she was 18. When Hatun decided to leave her marriage and moved back to Berlin, she knew she couldn’t return to her family home. She took refuge in a women’s shelter, got rid of her head scarf and started to rebuild her and her son’s life.
Hatun’s new western lifestyle was deemed dishonorable by her family. They decided she was bringing a bad name to the family so she had to be killed.
Hatun’s story is only one example of honor killings among Europe’s Muslim immigrant communities. A report by the Council of Europe warns that honor killings are far more prevalent in Europe than previously believed. Reasons for an honor killing range from having sex out of wedlock, refusing to consent to an arranged marriage, refusing to wear a head scarf– even having been raped.
Joschen Blaschke, the president of the European Migration Center at the time we interviewed him in 2006, traced the problem in Germany with the Turkish immigrant communities to the economy. He said that when the economy slumped in the 1980s in Germany, most immigrant Turks had to settle for lower wages and inferior work. He argued that this caused the community to become more isolated, and that many families became more religious and determined to preserve their culture, including the concept of “honor.”
In an article in 2008 by BBC reporter Alexa Dvorson about her chilling conversation with a group of boys in Germany of Turkish, Kurdish and Palestinian origin, echoes Blaschke’s sentiment. Confronted by the reporter, a Kurdish teenager tries to justify honor killings. “We have no money,” he says, “We have nothing except our honour. If we lose that, it’s the worst things that can happen to us.”
– Gizem Yarbil
Deutsche Welle reports on women’s groups in Turkey working to stop honor killings: