The trial of a Kurdish man who tied one of his three wives to the back of a car and dragged her through the streets of a town in Lower Saxony has drawn attention to an outbreak of Muslim honor violence in Germany.
Honor violence — ranging from emotional abuse to physical and sexual violence to murder — is usually carried out by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought shame upon a family or clan.
Offenses include refusing to agree to an arranged marriage, entering into a relationship with a non-Muslim or someone not approved by the family, refusing to stay in an abusive marriage or living an excessively Western lifestyle. In practice, however, the lines between crimes of honor and crimes of passion are often blurred and any challenge to male authority can elicit retribution, which is sometimes staggeringly brutal.
On May 22, a court in Hanover heard how a 39-year-old Turkish-born Kurd named Nurettin B. attempted to murder his second wife, Kader K., 28, after she asked him to provide financial support for their two-year-old son. State Prosecutor Ann-Kristin Fröhlich reconstructed Nurettin B.’s actions:
“At around 6PM on November 20, 2016, Nurettin B. got into his car in Hamelin to meet Kader K. The trunk contained a knife, an ax and a rope. Sitting on the back seat of the car was their two-year-old son, who had spent the weekend with him. On the street, the former couple got into an argument and he begins hitting her. Then he takes the knife and plunges it into her chest. The 12.4 centimeter long blade penetrates the pericardium and heart muscle. A second stab opens the left abdominal cavity. Nurettin B. then pulls out the ax. With the blunt side he hits her head and upper body, cracking her skull.
“Then he grabs the rope. On one end he ties a gibbet knot around her neck, then he ties the other end to the trailer hitch on the back of his black VW Passat. Nurettin B. steps on the gas. He races through the streets at 80 km/h (50 mph). After 208 meters (680 feet) the rope breaks. Kader K. is hurled against the curb. Nurettin B. drives to the police station to turn himself in. The child is still sitting in the back seat.”
Presiding Judge Wolfgang Rosenbusch asked Kader K., who was comatose for weeks, to tell her side of the story. She said “the horror” began immediately after their Islamic sharia wedding (the marriage is not valid according to German law) in March 2013, when Nurettin B. prohibited her from having any contact with friends and family. She was allowed to leave the house only for grocery shopping and medical visits. She was not allowed to have a mobile phone. Rosenbusch asked: “Does he have a problem with women?” Kader K. replied: “He believes women are slaves; they must keep silent.”
Nurettin B. has confessed to the crime but insists it was not premeditated. He has been charged with attempted murder and faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
On May 9, a court in Kiel sentenced 35-year-old Turkish man to two-and-a-half years in prison for shooting his estranged wife in both knees and permanently laming her, in the hope that she would be unattractive to other men. The court heard how the man took his wife to the back of a local mosque after Friday prayers, accused her of offending his honor and shot her, saying: “Now you can no longer walk. You will stay at home.”
In court, however, the woman, possibly under pressure from her family or the mosque, told the court that they couple had reconciled and would attend marriage counselling. Some observers surmised that the dispute may have been resolved in a sharia court. In any event, the German court allowed the man to return home with his wife and it remains unclear if and when he will serve his sentence.
In Münster, a court sentenced a 36-year-old Lebanese man named Amer K. to 12 years in prison for stabbing his wife to death. The court heard how Amer K. stabbed 26-year-old Fatima S., the mother of his three children, in the chest and neck more than twenty times with a large kitchen knife because he thought she wanted to divorce him.
Meanwhile, a court in Hanau sentenced a 22-year-old Syrian refugee to twelve years in prison for stabbing to death his 30-year-old sister, Ramia A., with a kitchen knife. She was 23 weeks pregnant and was accused of having brought shame to her family. Her unborn child also died in the attack.
The true scale of Germany’s honor crime problem is unknown: many such crimes go unreported and reliable statistics do not exist. Empirical evidence indicates that honor violence — primarily but not exclusively the product of Muslim culture and Islamic law, sharia — has metastasized since Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed in some two million migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
In March 2011, the Max Planck Institute published a landmark study on honor killings. The study analyzed all such crimes known to have occurred in Germany between 1996 and 2005. The report found that there were two honor killings in 1998 and 12 in 2004. By 2016, however, the number had jumped to more than 60, an increase of 400%, according to the website Ehrenmord.
The actual number of honor crimes presumably is much higher. Increased censorship by the police and the media, aimed at stemming anti-immigration sentiments, makes it impossible to know the names and national origins of many victims or perpetrators, or the true circumstances surrounding many murders, which often appear to be honor killings but are downplayed as “domestic disputes” (Familienangelegenheiten).
2017 is nevertheless on track to be a record year for honor violence in Germany; in the first five months of this year, there have been at least 30 honor killings, including the following:
– May 18. In Berlin, a 32-year-old Bosnian, Edin A., murdered his former girlfriend, a 35-year-old German woman named Michelle E., after she ended their abusive relationship. He also abducted and tortured her 12-year-old son, who was forced to watch his mother’s murder. Neighbors said they had repeatedly alerted the police about Edin A.’s violent behavior, but the police did nothing.
– May 17. In Pforzheim, a 53-year-old Tajik man stabbed to death his 50-year-old wife at her place of employment, a Christian daycare center. It remains unclear if the woman was a convert to Christianity.
– May 17. In Wardenburg, a 37-year-old Iraqi man stabbed to death his 37-year-old wife while she was asleep in her bed. The couple’s five children, between the ages of four and 15, were at home at the time of the murder and are now living with relatives.
– May 8. In Neuendettelsau, a 24-year-old Ethiopian asylum seeker, Mohammed G., stabbed his 22-year-old girlfriend in the stomach at a restaurant after she allegedly “provoked” him. The woman was five months pregnant; the unborn baby died in the attack.
– May 4. In Freiburg, a 33-year-old Syrian asylum seeker stabbed his 24-year-old wife, a Kurdish Christian who had moved out of the couple’s apartment, but had returned to collect some personal belongings. The couple’s three children — aged six, three and ten months — are now in protective custody.
– April 29. In Prien am Chiemsee, a 29-year-old Afghan man stabbed to death a 38-year-old Afghan woman, Farima S., who had converted to Christianity. The attacker ambushed the woman as she was exiting a grocery store with her two children.
– April 23. In Syke, a 32-year-old Iraqi man, Murad B., strangled his 32-year-old wife, Mehe K., in front of the couple’s three children, ages one, two and nine.
– April 23. In Dresden, a 29-year-old Pakistani refugee, Shahajan Butt, murdered his girlfriend, a 41-year-old Vietnamese woman named Thu T. Police say the man, who arrived in Germany in December 2015, became enraged after he noticed that the woman had not posted any photos of him on her Facebook page, and suspected that she may have had another boyfriend.
– April 16. In Mainz-Finthen, a 39-year-old Egyptian asylum seeker stabbed to death his 32-year-old wife. Police said the couple had been arguing at the time of the attack. Their two children are being held in protective custody.
– April 5. In Leipzig, a 34-year-old Syrian man stabbed his 28-year-old wife because she wanted a divorce. The couple’s two children witnessed the attack; they are being held in protective custody.
– March 31. In Gütersloh, a 43-year-old Syrian man burned his 18-year-old daughter with a cigarette and threatened to kill her. When the police intervened, the father refused to allow his daughter to leave the house. After police succeeded in bringing the girl to safety, the father and son attacked the police, who used pepper-spray to fend them off. The girl is being held in protective custody.
– March 15. In Kiel, a 40-year-old German-Turkish man stabbed to death his 34-year-old Turkish wife in front of a daycare center. Neighbors said the couple, who were separated, had quarreled about moving their three children to Turkey.
– March 4. In Duisburg, a 30-year-old Syrian asylum seeker, Mahmood Mahrusseh, stabbed his 32-year-old ex-girlfriend. The woman survived; her attacker remains at large.
– March 3. In Mönchengladbach, a 32-year-old asylum seeker, Ahmed Salim, murdered a 47-year-old German woman, Nicole M., apparently after she ended a relationship with him. The man, who also uses the alias Jamal Amilia, was arrested in Spain. In his asylum application, he had written that he was from Israel. In another asylum application filed in another country, he had written that he was from Morocco. He is believed to be from Iraq.
– March 2. In Scheeßel, a 42-year-old Iraqi man stabbed to death his 52-year-old wife, also from Iraq. Police described the murder as an honor killing. The couple’s children are now in protective custody.
– February 25. In Euskirchen, a 32-year-old German-Turkish man stabbed to death his former girlfriend, a 32-year-old German woman who had begun dating someone else.
– February 17. In Offenbach, a 32-year-old Turkish man, Volkan T., shot to death his former girlfriend, a 40-year-old woman, Silvia B. The man said he was angry that the woman, who had two children, had ended her relationship with him.
– February 15. In Bielefeld, a 51-year-old Iraqi man tried to murder his 51-year-old wife by attacking her with a hammer while she was attending a German class at a local language academy. The man was apparently angry that his wife was mixing with other language students.
– February 10. In Ahaus, a 27-year-old Nigerian asylum seeker stabbed to death a 22-year-old woman after she seemingly offended his honor by rejecting his romantic advances. The woman, a Hindu, was employed at the same asylum shelter where her attacker lived. He was arrested in Basel, Switzerland.
– February 7. In Hanover-Mühlenberg, a 21-year-old Serbian man stabbed his ex-girlfriend after she ended their relationship and had begun dating someone else.
– February 1. In Hamburg, a 26-year-old Afghan man stabbed his estranged 28-year-old wife during an argument; she survived the attack.
– January 15. In Bremen-Vegesack, a 39-year-old Turkish man murdered his 40-year-old Syrian wife, who was nine months pregnant, because she wanted to divorce him. The unborn baby also died during the attack.
– January 5. In Waldshut-Tiengen, a 47-year-old Turkish man stabbed his estranged wife as she was walking with a friend. When she tried to run away, he pursued her and plunged a knife in her back.
– January 4. In Köln-Buchheim, a 44-year-old Iraqi man murdered his 19-year-old daughter because he did not approve of her boyfriend. Two days later, he called police. “I killed my daughter,” he said. The man may never face justice; he is believed to have fled to Iraq.