#SaveDinaAli: Why We Need to Talk About Honor Killings
On Monday, April 10th, Dina Ali — a 24-year-old Saudi woman— was off-loaded from her flight, detained for 13 hours without being officially charged with any crime, at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Dina was traveling from Saudi Arabia to Australia via the Philippines hoping to seek asylum from her abusive family.
The Filipino government, however, had a different plan for Dina. Upon request from Dina’s family, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manila asked the Philippine government to detain her.
Not only did the Filipino officials at the airport detained Dina for 13 hours but they also took away her passport.
Dina, in a desperate plea for help, managed to post a video on social media platforms recounting what had happened to her, and explaining that if she were captured by her abusive family, she would likely face abuse and death.
The organization “S.A.F.E” — a non-profit organization that seeks to empower and advocates for the rights of Saudi women — took social media with the hashtag #SaveDinaAli. They told her story and posted her video in juxtaposition with the hashtag #SaveDinaAli.
The hashtag started trending on social media platforms, with thousands and thousands of social media users demanding the attention of human rights organizations, human rights lawyers, and activists.
With all the attempts, it was still too late to save Dina, as her uncle and father shortly arrived at the airport, where they duck taped Dina’s hands and feet, beat her, covered her with a bed sheet and forcibly led her onto a flight heading to Riyadh. This all happened, under the eyes and watch of local Filipino authorities.
Dina will likely either be killed or detained and abused, and no one will be outraged. This is because honor crimes are largely socially and culturally accepted, if not entirely legal in some Arab states.
Yes, the detain, abuse, and murder of female members of society is deemed acceptable by the honor culture’s code, so long as this female has done something that — in the opinion of her male family members, or in the view of some highly restrictive sexist cultural consensus — has done something to shame the family’s honor.
The patriarchs who commit such crimes are celebrated as heroes, not punished as criminals. This is because they are believed to have washed the family’s honor from the shame brought to it by the behavior of the female member.
Yes, they receive lightened jail sentences, if any at all. This is not a phenomenon that is isolated to some remote parts of some Arab countries, this is a normalized notion held by a lot of Arabic men and women.
This is made evident by the tweets using the Dina Ali hashtag to celebrate and encourage the actions of her male family members if they were to kill her, abuse her, or detain her.
This is not the time to be accepting, open, or neutral towards a different cultural practice. When any woman’s literal life and/or quality of life is genuinely threatened to this extent — due to the sexism of existing aspects of honor culture that are legally condoned — cultural relativism fails to be an argument that comes to the rescue of those espousing the honor culture values in question.
Just because Dina Ali is a Saudi woman, she is expected to condone the domestic terrorism she had been facing for years on end and be reprimanded for any attempt at escape.
WE SAID THIS: It is safe to say that women face countless situations where the mere fact of their gender literally continues to pose a genuine threat to life, mobility, rights, and free choice. #IamDinaAli