‘Honour is more important than religion’

A volunteer rescue operation in Germany has sheltered more than 100 Muslim women who fear they will be killed if they do not go through with marriages that their families have arranged for them.

I was unlocking my bicycle outside a shopping mall one afternoon when a group of teenage boys asked me in German if I knew how to break-dance.

I thought I was hearing things, so I said, “Excuse me?”

They repeated their question in typical slang, complete with Berlin dialect, saying they would be glad to show off their hip-hop moves, if I shared some steps of my own.

I laughed and replied that, while I do love dancing, my knees are not quite up to the acrobatic task of break-dance.

Once we got talking, though, I was in for a mental head-spin that would defy any choreography.

All but one of the boys – of Turkish, Kurdish and Palestinian origin – were born in Germany.

They wore jeans and T-shirts and their hair glistened with styling gel. One sported a gold earring.

With their playful jostling, they seemed like teenagers in any Western backdrop, except for one thing: they swore they would kill their own sisters if any of them had sex before marriage.


When the teenagers agreed to let me record them, I asked if they really meant what they had said about killing their sisters.

They were adamant: “If a girl has sex with a boy without being married, we must kill both of them,” said Ali, the teenager with the gold earring.

The contrast was baffling. These teens looked entirely at ease outside a 21st Century shopping mall but their views came straight out of the Middle Ages.

“You say you’re Muslims,” I reminded them, “and killing is forbidden in the Koran, right? If you love your sister, couldn’t you just forgive her?”

“No,” one of the boys replied, “because honour matters even more than religion.”

The Kurdish teenager explained: “We have no money. We have nothing except our honour. If we lose that, it’s the worst thing that can happen to us.”



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