|Sarah and Amina Said: Honor Killing victims.|
The chilling emergency call opens the documentary The Price of Honor, which recounts the lives of two vivacious American teenagers growing up in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas, and their attempts to escape the grip of an Egyptian Muslim father who planned Muslim marriages. Their father Yaser Said has not been found since that New Year’s Day seven years ago when he told his daughters to climb into his cab, he was taking them out to dinner.
Their deaths were honor killings, said Ruth Trotter - a phrase little heard in the United States for a hidden horror of murder by a close relative to protect the family name, but rarely recognised by public safety officials. Amina was secretly dating Trotter's son, Joseph, and Sarah had a boyfriend too, facts they tried to hide from their father.
Sarah and Amina's father Yaser Said, 58, has been placed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted list. He remains at large. "Amina always knew that Yaser was going to murder her, it was just a question of when and where," Trotter said in an interview. "She made Joseph promise that he would not harm himself, that when she dies he would live."
He beat the girls and took them to Egypt to find husbands when Amina was 15 and picked one man who was almost 50. She begged and pleaded with her mother to come back home, she said.
Honour violence is a crime without a name in the United States. No data is collected on its prevalence, many people think it happens in countries far, far away from the west, experts on gender-based violence said.
Its forms range from domestic violence for defying parental authority or behaving "too Westernised," to extreme sexual control including female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and ultimately killings to protect the family's reputation in a conservative community.
A separate study by the Population Reference Bureau estimates that 507,000 women and girls in the United States are at risk or have already undergone FGM, where her genitalia are partially or totally removed to control sexuality and ensure virginity until marriage, more than twice the number estimated 15 years.
"When you consider that we have many, many immigrant communities in the United States who did not leave their culture behind, the scale is huge," said Amy Logan, co-president of the US National Committee for UN Women in San Francisco who was a consultant for the documentary.
European countries are much further ahead in training police and social workers to identify those at risk of honour violence and teaching how its contours differ from domestic abuse, and how to intervene safely before it escalates toward death. Amina and Sarah had nowhere to turn in Texas. No one understood that a teenager saying "My Dad is going to kill me" is a serious cry for help, not adolescent drama, said Trotter.
James McLelland, Irving Police Department spokesman, said police do not view the case through a cultural lens, and investigated it no differently than any other homicide. "We are not giving any credence to honor, but approach it as capital murder. Whatever the motivation was, is for him to explain. The end result is the same," McLelland said.
FBI's 10 Most Wanted
|Muslim killer father Yaser Said (58).|
Authorities had ignored signs of family turmoil, he said. The maternal grandmother recounts in the documentary how she alerted the police when the girls confided that their father was sexually touching them. But she said Amina and Sarah recanted, urged on by their American mother to keep daddy out of jail.
After their deaths, police did not interview all family members and potential leads turned cold, Pamos and Trotter said. Pamos and his co-director, Iranian-born Neena Nejad, hired a team of private investigators. They uncovered a video showing the father spying on his daughter as she worked in a convenience store and his anger when she smiled at a customer.
They uncovered cellphone records that showed Yaser Said making multiple calls to family members immediately before and after his daughters' deaths. Then he disappeared. Irving police said they followed up on every credible lead. Almost seven years later, after the movie premiered, the FBI placed Yaser Abdel Said, 58, on its Ten Most Wanted list. He remains at large.
Related posts at following links:
Honor Killings of Young Girls and Women in US.