‘Honor Killing’ or Robbery?

According to multiple media accounts, young Yusra al-Azami, an engaged student from Gaza, was executed several days ago in an “honor killing,” and her fiancé and future-brother-in-law were brutally beaten by members of Hamas’ “vice and virtue” unit.

The media reports–British, Israeli, and an international wire service–provided shocking detail about the “honor killing,” a prevalent phenomenon in the Muslim world.

For instance, Donald Macintyre of the British Independent reported April 13 (“Hamas Admits its Gunmen Shot Betrothed Woman in ‘Honour Killing'”:

Hamas has mounted a desperate damage-limitation exercise after one of its units shot dead a 20-year-old Palestinian woman for “immoral behaviour” as she enjoyed a day out with her future husband.

Angry residents of Beit Lahia, close to Gaza City, have demanded “so far in vain” that the Islamic armed faction hands over three of the gunmen still at large to the Palestinian Authority after what the victim’s family believes was a tragically unjustified type of “honour killing” . . .

A Hamas spokesman said the woman was shot because there was a mistaken “suspicion of immoral behaviour” by the couples. . . .

Mushira Masri, a Hamas spokesman, said last night that the gunmen had not known that the couples were betrothed. “The brothers who did this made a mistake. There was suspicion of immoral behaviour” . . .

Likewise, the BBC’s Alan Johnston reported:

Witnesses said the men claimed to be a squad “morality police.”

It seems that –in the eyes of the gunmen–something in the behaviour of the couples had been deemed unacceptable in Islamic terms.

Similarly, Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post reported on April 12:

Hamas has begun operating a “vice and virtue commando” in the Gaza Strip to safeguard Islamic values, Palestinian security officials and residents told The Jerusalem Post.

The new force, called the Anti-Corruption Unit, is believed to be behind the gruesome murder over the weekend of Yusra al-Azzami, a 22-year-old university student from the northern Gaza Strip.

Her “crime” was that she was seen in public with her fiancé.

Although “honor killings” are not a new phenomenon in Palestinian society, the perpetrators were almost always relatives of the victims. But this is the first time that one of the Palestinian groups has openly acted against a woman suspected of “immoral behavior.”

Hamas’s “morality” patrolmen first spotted the young couple strolling along the beach in Gaza City, together with Azzami’s younger sister. . . .

What happened immediately [after the shooting] left many passerbys traumatized.

The assailants dragged the young woman’s body out of the car, pouncing upon it mercilessly with clubs and iron bars. . . .

The Palestinian Authority police, who have since arrested two suspects, confirmed that the attack was carried out by Hamas vigilantes who have been waging a campaign of intimidation against people exhibiting un-Islamic behavior.

“They are behaving like the Taliban in Afghanistan,” a senior police officer told the Post. “We won’t allow them to take the law into their own hands, because we are not in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia or Iran.”

The same day as this Jerusalem Post story, Ha’aretz, often considered Israel’s “leading daily,” reported the murder as a robbery. The five paragraph article by correspondent Arnon Regular begins:

Hamas published an unprecedented statement yesterday apologizing for the murder of a young woman by its gunmen near the town of Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip.

According to Palestinian sources, several armed Hamas gunmen stopped a car with four passengers at around 9 P.M. last Friday. The gunmen, who apparently were attempting to rob the couples–two brothers and their girlfriends–suddenly opened fire at the car and killed Yusra al-Azami, 20, a student at Gaza’s Islamic University.

Hamas issued a statement several days later admitting that its people were responsible for the murder, calling it “an isolated act by irresponsible people, from which Hamas dissociates itself.” (Emphasis added, “Hamas apologizes for murder of Gazan”)

When challenged to provide substantiate the murder was the result of an attempted robbery, Regular stood his ground and said he based his information on inquiries in both Palestinian Authority civilian and security officials operting in Beit Lahiya, in addition to interviews with two family members, including Yusra’s fiancé.

Yet, the reports in the Jerusalem Post, the BBC, and the Independent–all of which allege the murder was an “honor killing,” not a robbery–are also based on interviews with family members and security forces. Why did all the officials and witnesses decide to share the robbery story with only Ha’aretz‘s Arnon Regular, and not any other reporters?



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