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  • In Honor of Fadime: Murder & Shame
  • Aysan Sev'er
Unni Wikan , In Honor of Fadime: Murder & Shame. Translated by Anna Paterson. 2008 [2003]. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 305 pp.

Sometimes for purely humanitarian reasons, sometimes because of general globalization, but at other times, for the sheer need for cheap/docile labor power, the Northern European states have increasingly opened their doors to refugees, immigrants and guest workers from much less developed parts of the world. These new comers, whether from Southeastern Asia, Northern Africa or the Middle East, have brought with them many aspects of their rich traditions, arts, belief systems, customs and strong family values. Occasionally, a few have also brought with them some of the most problematic aspects of their intrafamilial violence. In fact, the level of violence has turned their host countries aghast and horror struck. The pattern which Wikan explores is called 'honor-killings,' and the case study she explores in detail is the 2002 murder of Fadime Şahindal, in Uppsala, by her biological father. [End Page 611]

In Honor of Fadine is divided into seven parts, each with several chapters. Wikan first explores some aspects of the lives immigrants/refugees lead in Sweden. Although it is clear from the start that her main focus will be on Fadime, she takes an early detour and discusses two earlier honour-killings (Sara's and Pela's), which made "Swedish history" (p. 27), but not brought about an international outcry like Fadime's murder. Wikan's next step is to discuss differential conceptualizations of 'honor,' especially (but not exclusively) amongst the Kurdish newcomers, and their countries of origin. Wikan then launches into the details of Fadime's murder trial. The fact that the transcripts of Swedish trials are open to public, coupled with the fact that Fadime's case has drawn extraordinary attention have allowed Wikan to provide detailed profiles. The profiles of the older and the younger sisters of Fadime (Songül & Nebile), as well as the parents (Elif & Rahmi) are complex and even paradoxical. The profile of Elmas (another sister) and Mesut (the brother who has attacked Fadime in at least two other occasions, and has likely tipped the father about her whereabouts) are less clear. In general, brothers are major players in honour-killings, a fact which is not adequately emphasized.

In Part IV, Wikan takes another detour, and discusses additional honor-killings from neighboring states (Norway). She meticulously tries to find parallels between killings, but is also careful to highlight some important differences amongst the cases (i.e., what is not an honour-killing). In Part V, she returns to Fadime's case, but this time, the focus is on the (unsuccessful) appeal of Rahmi's sentence. In the last two Parts (VI & VII), the readers are presented with Wikan's almost superhuman effort to put these heinous and monstrous crimes into a continuum of humanity, responsibility and 'love.' Her efforts are so intense that I often felt she was trying more to convince herself than her readers in trying to find some humanity in these inhuman crimes against young women.

Overall, Wikan's book is timely and important. Indeed, troubles transplanted by some immigrants/refugees have shattered the comparatively 'mundane' problems of affluent Northern Europe. Indeed, it is time that the Western world takes a good look at what else exists outside of its own much acclaimed Western ideas and ideals, human rights, democratic principles, values of equity/equality, and individual freedoms. It is indeed time to look at the savage remnants of illiteracy, poverty, misery, socialization into cultures of violence, the overt inequalities against women and children that lurk in some other parts of the world. Once, it may have [End Page 612] been much easier to ignore these naked truths when they reigned unabated in their places of origin. But, now, it is happening in the most modern cities of the most affluent countries of the world—including North America. Wikan acknowledges the new emphasis when she points out that Fadime's murder may not have drawn the international attention it did, if she were not a 'Swede.' Wikan addresses these disturbing murders to lay the path...


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