Today is the first day I return to office after both an intensive and intense week spent with 13 brave, resourceful and strong-willed women rights activists from Jordan and Iraq. They came here to exchange experiences on issues related to violence against women, among each other, as well as with other organisations, women rights activists and some governmental agencies in Sweden.
A week full of discussions, smiles, inspiration, positive energy and determination but also the unavoidable share of sad stories, tears, frustrations and disappointments.
One of the visits that left a strong impression on all of us was our visit to the “National association against honour related violence”. Maybe we were touched by the big black and white photos of Pela and Fadime, the most famous victims of honour-related crimes in Sweden, or maybe it was the other painful stories we heard from Sara Mohammad, the founder of the organisation, about the scores of other victims, both men and women, whose lives were brutally interrupted by members of their families for daring to go their own way, or maybe it was our common conviction that we need to raise more awareness about this particular type of violence, in order not to lose more lives.
Hala Abu Taha, One of the exchange participants is a volunteer from No Honour in Crime Network, which focuses on documenting the stories of the victims and to create a debate in society and raise awareness about the concept of honour. It was very interesting to follow the discussions among the participants and Sara about the definition of “honour-related violence” here in Sweden versus its definition in Jordan and Iraq. In most countries in the Middle East region, there is little talk about “honour-related violence”, for example when families control the lives of their sons and daughters, or the psychological, as well as the physical pressure they are subjected when choosing an education or a partner. This is more or less the norm in most Middle Eastern societies. According to some of the participants, it is more realistic to speak about “honour killings”, when violence goes so far that a woman or man is killed by family members.
One of the phrases that Sara said and that kept ringing in my ears long after we left the office was: “If we were to commemorate all victims of honour-related crimes here in Sweden, then we would be doing this each and every day of the year!”
So what are we waiting for?!