Politics & Policy

The Real War on Women

Honor killing, forced marriage, genital mutilation — that is a war on women.

Her name was Derya. She lived in Batman, Turkey, she was 17 years old, and she had a problem that few American women know about, let alone have ever experienced: The men in her family were doing everything they could to get her to kill herself.

It started with text messages like this one from her uncle: “You have blackened our name. Kill yourself and clean our shame, or we will kill you first.”

What was Derya’s crime? What had she done to deserve a message like that from a relative? She had fallen in love with a boy she had met in school the previous spring.

When news of this outrage reached Derya’s family, her mother warned her that her father — her own father — might kill her. She didn’t listen.

And then the orchestrated campaign of terror began. Threatening text message after threatening text message, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes as many as 15 a day.

Young Derya was so overwhelmed that she did the only thing she could do to free herself from the shame and the pain: She tried to kill herself.

Not once. Not twice. Three times, Derya tried to kill herself, first by throwing herself into the Tigris River, then by hanging herself, and finally by slashing her wrists with a kitchen knife.

“I felt I had no right to dishonor my family,” she told a New York Times reporter in July of 2006, “that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family’s desire and to die.”

The reporter learned that every few weeks, in parts of Turkey deeply influenced by conservative Islam, young women were taking their own lives for the same reasons Derya tried to take hers. Others, the Times reported, were stoned to death, strangled, shot, or buried alive by their male relatives.

And what were the crimes of these young women? Well, in Batman, such offensive conduct as wearing a short skirt, wanting to see a movie, or being raped by a stranger. It goes without saying that engaging in consensual sex warrants death.

And people think there is a war on women in America?

But the Times story got worse, as the reporter explained the reason why Derya and other women and girls in Turkey were trying to kill themselves. It turns out that Turkey, in its hopes to join the European Union, was beginning to punish men for their attacks against women and girls. Honor killings, it seems, are frowned upon by the EU.

So the men who run things came up with a great new idea: Why not pressure girls to kill themselves instead?

“Families of disgraced girls are choosing between sacrificing a son to a life in prison by designating him to kill his sister or forcing their daughters to kill themselves,” said Yilmaz Akinci, who works for a rural development group in the region. “Rather than losing two children, most opt for the latter option.”

Now that is a real war on women.

And yet we have heard almost nothing from President Obama in his three years in office about Islam and women.

Even in his infamous speech in Egypt, he spoke only briefly about women’s rights, and among his comments was this:

Now let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

That’s right. He basically said that women are as poorly treated in America as they are in countries like Turkey and Pakistan!

What President Obama failed to mention in that speech was genital mutilation or rape or polygamy or honor killings in parts of the world where Islam is the predominant political and cultural force. And he didn’t mention those honor suicides in Turkey.

President Obama’s speechwriters must not have consulted Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute, who has been writing about this subject for years.

This March, Ms. Shea published a survey of some of the world’s worst offenders on the women’s-rights front, with brief descriptions of some of those nations. Here is how she described life for Saudi women:

Women are required to have male guardians whose permission is necessary for traveling outside the home — even for emergency hospital visits. The state dictates their appearance with dress codes that enshroud them in anonymous black robes from head to toe. Apart from lingerie stores, they are barred from retail jobs and most service work. Under a code unique to Saudi Arabia, they are also banned from driving. They cannot mingle with unrelated men. A special police force, mutaween, patrols streets, shopping malls, and other places to enforce such laws; the mutaween captured rare international attention in 2002 when, during a fire at a girls’ school in Mecca, they caused the death of 15 girls by pushing them back into the blazing building because, in their panic, the girls had run out without their veils.

Ms. Shea then proceeds to chronicle the state of women’s rights in Iran:

Women are subject to state-enforced dress codes and sequestration laws. Their testimony in court is weighed less than men’s. They are disadvantaged under family laws. Also, according to the penal code, four male witnesses or a combination of three male and two female witnesses are required for a rape conviction; if a woman brings a rape accusation but fails to meet the burden of proof, she is subject to 80 lashes. The law permits a man to kill his adulterous wife, and women convicted of adultery can be sentenced to stoning. Protesting for women’s rights is harshly punished.

And then Ms. Shea turned to Pakistan, which President Obama specifically mentioned in his speech, suggesting that that nation’s struggle for women’s rights was further along than our own here in America:

A frequent problem for Christian women in Punjab, the largest province, according to Father Khalid Rashid Asi, general vicar of the Catholic diocese of Faisalabad, stems from that country’s persistent practice of forcing rape victims to marry their rapists, a situation that becomes compounded by forcible conversion to Islam; the criminal justice system fails to protect such women and girls. A well-documented case that illustrates the problem occurred on December 24, 2010, as recorded by the Asian Human Rights Commission and reported by the British Pakistani Christian Association. Anna, a twelve-year-old Christian girl, was visited by a Muslim friend at her home in Lahore and invited to do some last-minute Christmas shopping with her. Instead, when she got into the friend’s car she was abducted by the friend’s relatives. She was taken to a house in another city where she was held for eight months and repeatedly raped and beaten, in order to convert her to Islam. Her family did not know what had happened to her; her father, Arif Masih, filed a complaint with police but they took no action. In September 2011, Anna managed to escape and run to a bus station where she called her frantic family, who drove to retrieve her. Her kidnappers then petitioned police for her return, asserting that she had converted to Islam and was now married to one of her rapists. The police told the family it would be better to hand over Anna to the rapist, since he was now her husband and they would face a criminal case if they refused. Appalled at the suggestion and terrified that their daughter would be again taken, the family has gone into hiding.

Last but not least, Ms. Shea described the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan, and as you read this excerpt from her work, it will make you wonder why groups like the National Organization for Women don’t put public pressure on President Obama to help their Muslim sisters all over the world.

Afghanistan also treats women unequally under the law and shares many features of gender discrimination and restriction found in the laws of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Those calling for greater women’s rights can be harshly punished for the crime of blasphemy against Islam. For example, Shia scholar Ali Mohaqeq Nasab, editor of Haqooq-i-Zen magazine, was imprisoned by the government for publishing “un-Islamic” articles that criticized stoning as a punishment for adultery. Afghanistan also applies, in some areas, tribal law that gives women few rights. Three weeks ago the New York Times detailed one particularly abusive tribal law that is said to be “pervasive” in Pashtun areas, aptly named “baad.” It is the abduction, lifelong enslavement, and rape of a girl — who was eight years old in the Times’s story — by a family in compensation for a wrong committed by the girl’s relatives.

That’s the real war on women happening right now around the globe. But our media will instead peddle the fake war here in America, in order to advantage one political party over another.

But for those in the media who are hell-bent on aiding and abetting President Obama, this line of attack may just backfire. Even on an issue as contentious as abortion, a 2009 Pew Press release had this stunning bit of news: “Men and women have been evenly divided on the issue in previous years; however, this is the first time in nine years of Gallup Values surveys that significantly more men and women are pro-life than pro-choice.”

Some liberals may not like the fact that more women disagree than agree with them on abortion and other so-called “women’s issues,” but the right that American women hold most sacred is their God-given right to express themselves.

Even if it means disagreeing with the mullahs at the National Organization for Women.

The fact is, not all women think alike. Ask Ann Coulter. Ask Laura Ingraham. Ask Michelle Malkin. Ask Condoleezza Rice. Ask Nikki Haley.

Heck, ask my wife, who leans to the right of William F. Buckley Jr., and the millions of other American women who don’t want to be considered a special-interest group, let alone be pandered to by bureaucrats and politicians.

One can only hope that during this hectic election season, the editors and producers pushing the phony war on women in America come to their senses and do some reporting on the very real war on women in Turkey, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and the countries affected by the Arab Spring.

And in the meantime, say a prayer for Derya and the hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of other victims of that ongoing war.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in Oxford, Miss., with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan.

Lee HabeebLee Habeeb is an American talk-radio executive and producer. He has written columns for USA Today and the Washington Examiner, and is a columnist for Townhall.com and National Review.


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