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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Police delve into 'honour killings'
Commander Andy Baker with a school portrait of Heshu Yones
Mr Baker said his force was 'treading on eggshells'
Police are to carry out new research into the culture around so-called 'honour killings'.

The Metropolitan Police said a new strategic taskforce would look into how common such killings are and how they can be stopped.

Advisers from outside the police will be consulted and it is hoped the initiative will extend current research into domestic violence murder prevention.

The force's undertaking follows the conviction of Abdalla Yones, a Kurdish Muslim, on Monday, for the murder of his 16-year-old daughter Heshu after she formed a relationship with a man he disapproved of.

Commander Andy Baker, head of the Metropolitan Police's Serious Crime Directorate and the chair of the new strategic taskforce, said the force needed to understand the culture surrounding "honour killings".

"I think we've been unaware, we've been ignorant of the crimes going on," he said.

"The crime of murder is recognised, but the motive has not been recognised. We have to understand the culture in order to police it," he told the BBC.

Police have been criticised in the past for mishandling "honour killings" or failing to act on warning signs.

'This is murder'

The latest conviction has reignited the debate over what "honour killings" are, how common they are, and what action should be taken to stop them.

Commander Baker admitted that in trying to tackle the issue, he was "walking on eggshells" and added: "We are actually pointing the finger - this is murder, we've got to deal with this as murder."

We don't have to accept things such as 'honour killings' in the name of cultural diversity
Ram Gidoomal
South Asian Development Partnership
He said in the course of the research his team would be talking to women within minority communities, faith leaders and minority media.

Frontline police officers are now being instructed to take reports of honour disputes seriously, without immediate evidence that a crime or violence has been committed, as with reports of domestic violence.

But some representatives of minority communities affected by "honour killings" have expressed frustration at what they see as police reluctance to tackle the issue head-on.

"I keep hearing about more research being done - I think it's time to take action," said Ram Gidoomal, of the South Asian Development Partnership charity.

'Not religious'

Mr Gidoomal said too often honour-related incidents are not treated with the same vigour as other violent incidents for fear of offending cultural sensitivities.

"I have absolutely no problem with cultural diversity - we need to celebrate it - but we don't have to accept things such as 'honour killings' in the name of cultural diversity," he told the BBC.

"It's abhorrent - the [taking] of any life, of any faith or any religion, is totally unacceptable and must be rooted out."

Dr Nazand Begikhani
It is not about the clash between different cultures... 'honour killings' are as old as the patriarchy system
Dr Nazand Begikhani
Kurdish Women Action Against Honour Killings
He said "honour killings" cut across many different religious faiths and were not limited to Muslims.

"This is not religious, this is cultural, and it's so deep-rooted, it's in the way we are brought up, and in the expectations put on us from childhood."

Mr Gidoomal said he hoped the issue could be debated in citizenship classes proposed by the government for immigrants to the UK.

Dr Nazand Begikhani from Kurdish Women Action Against Honour Killings rejected the suggestion made by many - including Judge Neil Denison when passing sentence on Yones on Monday - that "honour killings" were the result of a clash between "traditional" and Western values.

"It is not about the clash between different cultures... 'honour killings' are as old as the patriarchy system," she told BBC One's Breakfast.

"Some societies have gone through change and transformation - some haven't. These societies which are still limited by codes and rules - that's where this is more in practice."

Women at centre

She questioned an apparent rise in honour-related crimes, saying it was likely to be due simply to increased awareness.

Dr Begikhani stressed that women, who were almost always the targets of "honour killings", were central to any new measures.

"The authorities should seriously address the situation of women... and identify their needs and problems and also address resources in order to help women to get protection and someone to talk to," she said.

"The women inside these communities who defy [honour codes] and put their lives in danger - it's important that the authorities support these women and collaborate in order to find the best measures."

Jordan's dilemma over 'honour killings'
10 Sep 03  |  Middle East
'Honour killings' law blocked
08 Sep 03  |  Middle East
Rise in Pakistan 'honour killings'
11 Dec 02  |  South Asia


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