Men who can’t handle it when the law gives women rights

Men who can’t handle it when the law gives women rights

Over the past few weeks, threats have been made on social media against Syrian refugee women in Germany, especially those filing for divorce. These campaigns have escalated following the actions of a Syrian known as Abu Marwan, who murdered his ex-wife and broadcast a live video on Facebook moments after committing the crime.
I have watched part of the video posted by this person, but could not stare into the murderer’s face; instead my attention was fully drawn to the boy standing in the corner while his father explained his crime, argued for it, and justified it. The little boy stood listening to his father as he threatened Syrian women, who have found in asylum in Western countries the legal support that might rid them of domestic violence. Marwan announced very openly that his crime was a lesson for all women who want to get rid of their husbands, and warned that they would face a similar end.
There are many details surrounding the crime, starting with fleeing Syria, seeking asylum, integration difficulties, and later on legal separation under German civil law and the consequent financial blackmail that the husband used against his ex-wife — according to their neighbors — while she sought child custody.
However, Marwan justified his crime with a word that is often heard after murders against women in our communities — “honor”; an empty word that murderers use to justify their crimes.
Despite the widespread denunciations of Marwan’s crime, another aspect has emerged as a result. Many have justified such crimes by blaming the wives. Some accused Syrian women of seeking asylum in Europe solely to enjoy personal freedom and leave their husbands by refusing “family reunification,” which is a European law that allows refugees to reunite with their loved ones. There are also campaigns that accuse refugee women of going against Arab and Islamic traditions.
There were even many comments on Marwan’s video by people saluting him for preserving his “honor.”
Days after Marwan’s crime, another similar attack reportedly took place in Germany. A Palestinian man called Abdul Rahman attempted to murder his sister, broadcast his crime, and claimed he was defending his “honor.” However, his sister, Alaa, miraculously survived.
If Marwan and Abdul Rahman were still in their home countries when they committed their crimes, they would probably have used the common penal code mitigation of “rage” or “honor killing,” and someone would have legally helped them obtain a reduced sentence. But the crimes happened in Germany and not Syria, Jordan or Lebanon — and here lies the difference. 

Female refugees in the West have personal freedom previously denied to them. Many men feel this threatens their masculinity — and the result is often tragic. 

Diana Moukalled 

Let us compare refugee communities in the Arab world to those in Germany and the West. In Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and, of course, Syria, marriages are governed by social norms and religious laws that allow child marriages to the point where the practice has become a frightening phenomenon. Here in local refugee communities, a father has almost the unchallengeable right to child custody, and a man has a legal right to polygamy, divorce, and twice the woman’s share of inheritance.
All these laws take the men’s side, but in Europe they are a reason for condemnation and legal intervention. The German media has shared a variety of complaints that have reached the courts: There are women who complained of domestic violence by their husbands, while others sued their spouses for cheating on them.
Some women have reported receiving threats from family members inside Syria if they filed for divorce, and there have been many cases in which refugee women refused to be reunited with their husbands through family reunification.
These two recent crimes and the controversy they have raised will further draw attention to the social phenomena emerging in refugee communities in Europe. The likes of Marwan and Abdul Rahman feel they have lost their masculinity in a country like Germany, and are condemned to resentment and helplessness.
It is true that not all hate-filled men become criminals, but the spread of speech that justifies a crime creates a huge gap that we must face. Yes, there is in the West the phenomenon of refugee women who decide to seize the opportunity of having the law on their side. This results in a great deal of justice for the weak in the land of the mighty, which is precisely why it is the land of the mighty.

•  Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer.
Twitter: @dianamoukalled
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