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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 11:40 GMT
Speaking out over Jordan 'honour killings'
Jordanian woman
Some women in Jordan are regarded as their family's property, says Norma Khouri
Eight years ago a young Jordanian Muslim woman, Dalia, was stabbed to death by her father in a Jordanian "honour killing".

Dalia had fallen in love with a man, Michael, from a different religion - a Roman Catholic in the Jordanian army.

When Dalia's father found out about their meetings, he stabbed her 12 times, and waited until she was dead before calling an ambulance.

This was an "honour killing". Dalia's father did not go to prison.

Dalia's best friend, Norma Khouri, has written a book on Dalia's story - which she hopes will eventually see the law changed to outlaw honour killings.

Honour killings
UN estimates 5,000 a year
Permitted under Jordanian law articles 340 and 98
Usually carried out by brother or father of victim
Partner faces penalties if victim found not to have been a virgin

"Ninety percent of the cases that occur are based on just rumour and suspicion," Miss Khouri told the BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"So 90% of the women that are killed are still virgins at the time of death.

"The United Nations estimates that 5,000 women a year are killed in this way."

Family dishonour

Such was the case with Dalia.

Although she had begun frequent meetings with her partner after they met at her beauty parlour, she was still a virgin when she was killed.

When her brother found out that Dalia was having a relationship, he told her father.

It was he who then decided that her actions had dishonoured the family - and decided to kill her.

"He stabbed her 12 times in the chest, and waited to make sure that she couldn't be resuscitated," Miss Khouri said.

You are bringing more problems to Islam and Arab men. If you do not apologise we cannot stop what must happen - blood for honour
Hate-mail letter to Norma Khouri

Miss Khouri, who now lives in Australia, added that this was a simple part of life in her home country.

"In Jordan this is something that you hear about all the time," she said.

"You're taught about it as you're growing up.

"Women in Jordan are seen as property of their families.

"Their chastity represents the family's reputation, the family's honour. If a woman has done anything that they can interpret as having tarnished her reputation, they see it as their duty to kill her."

Changing the law

Miss Khouri said she hoped the book would allow Dalia's memory to live on.

"She was a beautiful and wonderful person - both inside and out - and I wanted the whole world to know her the way I knew her.

"I didn't agree with the fact that my family and her family expected me just to get on with my life and act as if she had never existed."

But she added that she hoped her book would also help achieve a wider aim - the revision of the Jordanian laws to outlaw honour killings.

The book has triggered a flurry of letters objecting to articles 340 and 98 of the Jordanian penal code - the two articles that sanction honour killings and excuse those who perform them.

"I'm sending the letters in to the Jordanian parliament with signatures that are going to be collected from a petition from within the country and a request to cancel the articles.

"I'm hoping that this time if we can collect millions of letters from all round the world that it would cause enough international pressure on our parliament so that they wouldn't be able to ignore this issue any longer."

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