Monday was the release day for a really special charity project, Nothing But Red.
The purpose of Nothing But Red is to bring attention to the issue of violence against women worldwide, as well as the continuing need for equality, through art—both written and visual—and by raising money for a charity that strives to help women of all faiths, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, with the support of dedicated volunteers who share a desire to promote equality.
From the Press Room section of the Nothing But Red website:
Nothing But Red, the anthology of literary and visual arts inspired by the impassioned plea of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon in response to the “honor killing” of 17-year-old Du’a Khalil Aswad, is now available for purchase. Sales of the anthology, which is currently available in multiple formats at www.lulu.com/nothingbutred, will benefit the international human rights organization Equality Now.
“I’ve met some amazing people who’ve worked incredibly hard to put this book together over the last year, whether as contributors or volunteers,” said Skyla Dawn Cameron, originator and editor-in-chief of Nothing But Red. “We can’t change Du’a’s fate â€“ but we can let the world know that there are people who still care. That’s where this fight really happens: with each of us, challenging ourselves to do something to make the world better.”
The 313-page collection, which can be purchased as a trade paperback for $15.95 or as a pdf-format e-book for $5.95, is being released on the one-year anniversary of the death of Aswad. An Iraqi adherent of the Yazidi religion, Aswad was stoned to death by family members and neighbors; her brutal beating and murder was captured in a graphic video and spread on the Internet.
Shortly after learning of the murder, Joss Whedon, creator of the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, penned an emotional response on the website Whedonesque.com. His post, which built from the topic of Aswad’s murder to the contemplation of misogyny’s transcendence of culture, religion and era, ended on an appeal to his fans to do something active to change the cycle.
“True enlightened activism is the only thing that can save humanity from itself…” Whedon wrote. “Her face was nothing but red.”
Taking its title from those words, Nothing But Red is a response to Whedon’s call to action, which is included as an essay in the volume. A full list of contributors can be found at nothingbutred.wordpress.com.
Equality Now was chosen as the recipient of the anthology’s proceeds due to Whedon’s public support of the organization and its mission to “[voice] a worldwide call for justice and equality for women,” as stated on Equality Now’s website.
Please buy a copy of Nothing But Red and help raise awareness for violence against women. Visit www.lulu.com/nothingbutred to purchase your copy! The full colour eBook is $5.95, and the black and white trade paperback is $15.95. All profits (about $4 per book) will go to Equality Now.
April 9th, 2008 at 3:19 pm · Link
Lauren, thank you for blogging about this. I am one of the contributors to the book. Below is my submission to the anthology.
Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
“Reclaiming Honor in Jordan”
A HEARTFELT APPEAL TO HIS MAJESTY KING ABDULLAH II OF JORDAN
April 7, 2008
His Majesty King Abdullah II
Royal Hashemite Court
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Dear King Abdullah:
On this, the one year anniversary of the young Kurdish girl Duâ€™a Khalil Aswadâ€™s tragic video-recorded stoning at the hands of men who misguidedly believe she had sullied her familyâ€™s honor, I wish to make a public appeal to you to overturn the three Jordanian penal code articles that allow similarly brutal and unjust incidents to occur in Jordan, yet be treated as mere misdemeanors in the eyes of the state. Lest you think I have jumped the gun by not writing to you privately, please be assured that I have, in writing, on two different occasions in 2006, but I did not receive a response.
According to United Nations estimates, Jordan has one of the highest per-capita â€œhonorâ€ killings rates in the world. At the same time, as you are aware, it has on multiple occasions in late 1999 and early 2000 attempted to overturn Article 340 of the Jordanian penal code, one of three penal code articles that offer leniency to the perpetrators of â€œhonorâ€ killings, though one that has rarely, if ever, been used. You and the appointed Upper House of Parliament favored repeal; however, the elected Lower House of Parliament (i.e., the Chamber of Deputies) did not.
I first learned about all this in the summer of 2000 by watching a broadcast report about these crimes by Ms. Sheila MacVicar of, at the time, ABC News. In her report, Ms. MacVicar stood in front of the Jweideh Correctional Centre in Jordan and explained that the women behind her, who as I recall were dangling out the prison windows trying to capture the attention of the viewers, were all warehoused in the prison because they were at risk for â€œhonorâ€ killings but there are no womenâ€™s shelters in Jordan to safeguard them. So they lived in the prison, under protective custody, while the people who posed the risk to them walked free.
In the summer of 2003, I traveled to Jordan, in large part to speak with subject matter experts and to learn more about this issue. When I asked why Articles 97, 98, and 340 have not been overturned, I was told variously there is a lack of political will, the people do not want it, the people are not ready for it, the timing is not right, or there are too many cultural/religious/social barriers. As a businessperson, I wanted to see hard data to support these assertions, but I found none. It seemed as though the reasons provided were simply the conventional wisdom, but I have learned in three decades of professional life that the accepted view is often unsupported by empirical evidence. And that is why many corporations pay millions and millions of dollars for information.
I returned to the States and continued to research the â€œhonorâ€ killings situation. I examined what other countries facing this problem have done to address it. According to United Nations estimates, Pakistan has the highest absolute number of â€œhonorâ€ killings per annum, believed to be between 800 and 1,000. It passed promising legislation criminalizing them, though, to date, enforcement has been disappointingly lax. And so, it seems, at least so far, the laws lack teeth. In 2005, the Turkish government, in an overhaul of its penal code aimed at complying with European Union norms, also strengthened the penalties for perpetrators of â€œhonorâ€ killings, making them punishable by as much as life in prison. However, there remains on the books a penal code article that permits reductions of sentences for crimes that are considered provoked, and this loophole is being utilized in some â€œhonorâ€ killings cases. In addition, a hideous new phenomenon called â€œhonorâ€ suicide was borne. Rather than murder and risk a stiff sentence, in some cases, the perpetrators now force their victims to kill themselves. Just when one thinks it could not possibly get any uglier, this unintended consequence surfaces.
Why, I thought, could not Jordan outdo both? A second visit to Jordan in the fall of 2004 only reinforced my initial impressions of Jordan as a relatively enlightened country in the region. Why could not it become the first nation in the world to combine the continuing efforts of the activists, the attorneys, and the journalists with the techniques of modern marketing to overturn the penal code articles and to change attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and, most crucially, behaviors about â€œhonorâ€ killings? Progress and success in Jordan could serve as an inspiration and a model for other countries where these crimes are committed, such as Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Libya, Morocco, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Palestine, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. It could also demonstrate the value of using social marketing as a â€œbest practiceâ€ for addressing and resolving other social problems within Jordan.
Unable to exorcise these thoughts from my mind, in October 2005 I returned to Jordan with a donated laptop computer and a personal bank account topped off with sufficient funds to conduct the empirical marketing research that precedes any professionally-conducted social marketing campaign. Using feedback from informal focus groups, I designed a fairly lengthy questionnaire to gather dataâ€”scientifically and systematicallyâ€”about Jordaniansâ€™ media consumption habits, about their attitudes, opinions, and beliefs about â€œhonorâ€ killings, about their personal familiarity with them, and about their demographics. I pre-tested the questionnaire, tweaked it, then traveled to 21 cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps throughout the country conducting in-depth, face-to-face personal interviews with Jordanian citizens age 18 and older. People from all segments of society participated and were representedâ€”male and female, employed and unemployed, educated and uneducated, young and old, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian, East Bank Jordanian and West Bank Jordanian, nomadic and sedentary, urban and rural. To all, I continue to be deeply grateful for the cooperation, the honesty, and, in many cases, the almost heart-breaking hospitality and kindness.
When I finished gathering and analyzing the data, I found that the people in the sample overwhelmingly support overturning Articles 97, 98, and 340 of the Jordanian penal code. It is not even a close call. It appears that the people are far ahead of the legislation and (dare I say?) the leadership on this issue. The news is goodâ€”most people do know right from wrong.
When asked if â€œhonorâ€ killings are morally just, 94.5% of the survey respondents said no (3% were neutral and 2.5% said yes). One respondent went so far as to equate â€œhonorâ€ killings with terrorism. Even among the few respondents who replied affirmatively to this question, there was strong support for codifying into law the specific behaviors that a victim must engage in before a successful â€œhonorâ€ killings defense can be had (80% agreement) and for clearly placing the onus of proof on the defendant that one or more of these behaviors was engaged in (100% consensus).
When asked whether â€œhonorâ€ killings should be punished the same as other murders, 87% said yes (3.5% were neutral and 9.5% said no). If anything, the extent to which the survey respondents agreed with this statement is understated. About 25% of the way through the administration of the survey, one of the respondents who replied negatively to this question added that he did so because he believes â€œhonorâ€ killings should be punished more harshly than other murders. Up until then, it had not occurred to me that respondents might reply negatively for that reason and not because they favor leniency. So, thereafter, each respondent who initially disagreed with this question was probed for his/her reasons. Many of the respondents who were surveyed after that expressed a desire to see the perpetrators of â€œhonorâ€ killings receive the death penalty. One respondent even went so far as to say, â€œâ€œHonorâ€ killers should be decapitated at Hadrianâ€™s Arch [in Jerash, Jordan], in front of people. I will personally oversee the event.â€
When asked if the perpetrators of â€œhonorâ€ killings deserve to be treated with leniency, 95.5% said no (2% were neutral and 2.5% said yes). Again, many of the survey respondents favor the death penalty for perpetrators of â€œhonorâ€ killings.
When asked if the victims of â€œhonorâ€ killings deserve what they get, 86% said no (7.5% were neutral and 6.5% said yes). A number of the survey respondents who either were neutral or responded affirmatively had quite nuanced explanations for their reply to this question. A recurring one was some variation of â€œyes, if the victim is married; no, if s/he is single, but then s/he should receive [variously] 80 or 100 lashes.â€
When asked whether there is any honor in â€œhonorâ€ killings, 89.5% said no (8% were neutral and 2.5% said yes). One male survey respondent added, a womanâ€™s â€œhonor does not reside in the lower body.â€
When asked if the penal code articles that offer leniency for â€œhonorâ€ killings will ever be overturned, 66.5% said yes (11.5% were neutral and 22% said no). Many who responded negatively to this question added that they hoped they were wrong. A number of the survey respondents even speculated as to what the time frame will be for overturning the three penal code articles, and it ranged from â€œQueen Rania [already] overturned themâ€ to â€œit will take centuries.â€
And when asked whether they support stiffening the penalties for â€œhonorâ€ killings, 89% said yes (3.5% were neutral and 7.5% said no). One respondent stated, â€œIf I were king, Iâ€™d execute every person who murders.â€ Others noted that, if the relevant penal code articles were overturned, even the people who purport to believe in â€œhonorâ€ killings would be relieved because finally the peer and the social pressures would be removed.
And should you wonder whether my results might be statistical flukes, even though they were attained using standard scientific methodology, there is corroborating regional data. In an online referendum on â€œhonorâ€ killings conducted by Dubai-based Al Arabiya News Channel (www.alarabiya.net), 63.0% of the respondents stated that they believe these crimes are not justified, that they are unsupportable by any religion or law (24.7% were neutral and 12.3% indicated that they are sometimes warranted to eradicate bad influences and people from society).
In the face of this much support, it does not seem prudent to invest large sums in developing and implementing a social marketing campaign in Jordan for this issue, though plenty of data were gathered that would assist in such an effort. But marketing is expensive, and it just is not warranted in this instance.
Nonetheless, there remains a continued need for efforts to educate people in general and women in particular about their rights and the limits of them. In my research, compared to their male counterparts, the female respondents were both less likely to know that â€œhonorâ€ killings in Jordan are not punished as ordinary murders and less likely to be aware of â€œhonorâ€ killings that have occurred within their extended families. And these differences between the genders were highly statistically significant.
Similarly, there is an important role for both parents and religious leaders to play. Twenty-one-and-a-half percent of the survey respondents believe that Islam requires that sexually promiscuous behaviors be cleansed through â€œhonorâ€ killings, while another 2% are unsure. The experts and the imams I have consulted tell me this is absolutely not the case. In the sample, parents and religion/religious leaders (in that order) were named by the respondents as exerting the strongest influence on their attitudes, opinions, and beliefs about â€œhonorâ€ killings. And so it is crucial that they discuss â€œhonorâ€ killings, ensure that any miseducation and misinformation be corrected, and offer better means of addressing this issue.
Although it was outside the scope of both my research and my skill set to attempt to estimate the number of â€œhonorâ€ killings that have taken place in Jordan, because I sought to analyze what impact it might have on their responses to other questions, the survey respondents were asked about their personal familiarity with â€œhonorâ€ killings. Thirty-three percent of the survey respondents reported that they personally know someone who has been threatened with an â€œhonorâ€ killing. Indeed, one of the respondents herself had been threatened. Twenty-seven-and-a-half percent said that they personally knew a victim, while 27% stated that they personally know a perpetrator. Four percent confessed that an â€œhonorâ€ killing has occurred in their extended family, while 1% claimed that one has occurred in their nuclear family. Quite a few of the survey respondents know of multiple cases. These figures lead a reasonable person to believe that the number of â€œhonorâ€ killings in Jordan is vastly underestimated.
So what is the bottom line? The conventional wisdom is wrong. Generalizing from the survey sample to the wider population, there is not much justification or support for continuing to offer legal leniency to the perpetrators of â€œhonorâ€ killings.
And so I appeal to you, Your Majesty, to revisit this issue, to do so post haste since human lives are hanging in the balance, and to overturn Articles 97, 98, and 340 of the Jordanian penal code. And, while you are at it, please remove the 10-year statute of limitations for these crimes. Bring the laws into alignment with the hopes and the wishes of the people, be sure to enforce them, and leave no loopholes. Act as though it were the lives of your wife, your daughters, your mother, and your sisters at stake for, in the broader context, it is. If the Lower House of Parliament will not support such a move, use your power of Royal Decree to make it so. Or, if that is too unilateral and unacceptable a move, use your influence and leadership skills and the traditional Arab methods of consultation, collaboration, and consensus building to bring the naysayers over to your, the Senateâ€™s, and the publicâ€™s side on this issue. There is plenty of evidence to indicate that your royal subjects will support you and be rightly proud of Jordanâ€™s moral leadership on this issue. Other leaders struggling with this problem in their countries will envy your success and seek to replicate it in their own lands. The international community will applaud you. The timing is right, perhaps even overdue. â€œHonorâ€ killings are against the tenets of Islam, in opposition to at least 17 international human rights conventions on which Jordan is a signatory, and inconsistent with the Jordanian constitution. Please correct this problem and ensure that there is justice for all the Jordanian Duâ€™a Khalil Aswads, as well as a bright future and a network of safehouses and shelters for the people who are at risk. Jordan is a beautiful country with many traditions of which it can rightly be very proud. Your subjects deserve to be heard and to live outside the umbrella of fear created by the daily possibility of sudden, violent death. Show the rest of the world that it can be doneâ€”because truly it canâ€”and show them how to do it. Please.
Ellen R. Sheeley
Ellen R. Sheeley is the author of “Reclaiming Honor in Jordan: A National Public Opinion Survey on â€œHonorâ€ Killings.”
Copyright Â© 2008 by Ellen R. Sheeley. All rights reserved.