On honour killings in Pakistan

Tariq Ali on honor killings in Pakistan for The London Review of Books (Diary), December 18, 2008

If cheating in bed was always settled by the bullet, many of us would be dead. Gerald Martin’s new biography of Gabriel García Márquez reveals that Chronicle of a Death Foretold was based on the murder of the novelist’s friend Cayetano Gentile in Sucre in 1951. He had seduced, deflowered and abandoned Margarita Chica Salas. On her wedding day Margarita’s husband was told that she was no longer a virgin. The bride was sent back to her family home. Her brothers then found Gentile and chopped his body into pieces. Márquez blamed the socio-moral dictatorship of the Catholic Church.

But of course it is usually women who are killed for breaking codes of sexual conduct. There have been several recent cases in Britain. Banaz Mahmod, a 20-year-old of Kurdish origin, was murdered in Surrey at the behest of her father because she’d left an arranged marriage and her father didn’t approve of her new boyfriend. Iraq has lately seen a spate of such murders. Last month acid was thrown at three women in Basra who were talking to a male friend. Yet Iraq once had the highest proportion of women integrated into every level of society of any Arab country. read more