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Posted in: Honor Killings

Published on Oct 12, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Western Justice for Honor Killers


When girls or women suddenly disappear, we tend to assume that they've been kidnapped by pedophiles or traffickers. Some of us think they were probably prostitutes and either deserved to die or were, tragically, lured to their deaths by a serial killer.

We do not think they might have been killed by their own families. And, we always assume that the slavers are men. Both beliefs are wrong.

For example, in 1999, in a suburb north of London, a fifteen year old Kurdish Turk, Tulay Goren, suddenly disappeared. The family insisted that she had simply run away. Now, a decade later, her father, Mehmet Goren and her paternal uncles Cuma Goren and Ali Goren are on trial at the Old Bailey for her murder and for having conspired to kill her much older boyfriend, Halil Unal.

This case may be the first honor killing which the British police have re-opened after a decade and which they are trying as an "honor killing." There might be many more such cases, both here and all over the world. I am not usually one to praise the British but I will do so here. They are leading the European pack in terms of dealing with honor killings.

What was this poor child Tulay's crime? She fell in love with a Sunni Muslim; Tulay was from the Alevi branch of the faith. Her father demanded that she take a "virginity test" and felt "dishonored, humiliated." He punched and kicked her. Wisely, Tulay ran away from home twice and asked to be put in a children's home. Tulay wanted to marry Halil (he had asked for her hand in marriage) but she had already been "promised" to her first cousin.

Tulay's mother, Hanim, sweet-talked her into returning home. Meanwhile, Tulay's father consulted with his older and younger brothers on the matter and with their approval and encouragement, killed his daughter. At least one of the brothers helped dispose of Tulay's body which has never been found. At least fifteen family members attended a meeting which led to the decision to murder Tulay. Tulay was viewed as a "worthless commodity" who had shamed her entire family.

Now, her mother is testifying for the prosecution. Although she was sent away the night Tulay was murdered, Hanim has now recanted what she formerly told the police, namely that Tulay had run away. Now, Hanim admits that she noticed the "earth being disturbed in the garden, knives and bin-bags disappearing and her husband washing his shirt." She has also testified to seeing a "deep injury" to her husband's palm and her daughter's clothes missing.

Sadly, Tulay tried to escape and was even able to warn her boyfriend which saved his life.

And, by the way: Mehmet Goren apparently had a hard time assimilating. He could not master the English language, had a gambling problem, and was never regularly employed. Thus, while Mehmet may or may not have been a religious fundamentalist (I can find no information about this), he and his family certainly upheld the cultural traditions of Kurdish Turks who are Muslims.

I have recently completed a major study about honor killings on five continents over the last twenty years which analyzed the fates of 230 victims in Europe, North America, and the Muslim world. Hopefully, it will be published in an academic journal in the near future; rest assured, the findings are very powerful as well as surprising.

But I will say this: Tulay's case is a classic honor killing, one in which a fairly young girl—a female child really—is killed by multiple perpetrators, all members of her family of origin, especially her father, with her mother's complicity. Her crime? She refused to marry her first cousin and dared to choose her own husband-to-be. Based on my own study, I suspect Tulay may have been stabbed multiple times, stabbed excessively—although this may remain unknown as long as her body is not discovered.

Tulay was assimilating, she was becoming "too westernized." This alone is a capital crime. She imagined a future of her own, one not entirely chosen for her by her family. Tulay had to be stopped, an example had to be set so that other immigrant girls would not take this path and would continue consenting to arranged marriages to their first cousins so that they may "breed" acceptably inbred babies.

I wonder what influenced Tulay's mother to now break with her entire family. What will the consequences of doing so be?

Tulay Goren: Rest in Peace.


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