I had not realized there was some debate about what to call "honor killings." I have been awakened out of my ignorance thanks to UC Berkeley grad student Rochelle Terman and the Muslim World Journal of Human Rights.
From her recent article, To Specify or Single Out: Should We Use the Term "Honor Killing"?:
While some aver that the termhonor killingis an appropriate description of a unique and particular crime, others deem it as rather a racist and misleading phrase used to promote violent stereotypes of particular communities, particularly Muslim minorities in North America and Europe.
I recommend Ms. Terman and her colleagues to read some Turkish newspapers and also debate the naming of such phenomena as "rage killings" and "provocation rapes".
Honor killings against women, at least as understood in Turkey, come in two kinds: In the spontaneous case, a male who is involved with a female, for example her brother or her husband, is so perturbed by the "promiscuous" behavior of the female that he attacks and kills the female and anybody else who happens to be around.
In the more planned cases, a family council, consisting of the older men and women in the family, get together and assign one or more male members of the family the duty of clearing their honor by killing a female relative whose behavior is seen as staining the family's honor. If the woman's "crime" is to have been seen with or have had sex with a male who is not her husband, that man might also be targeted (in which case, the crime usually starts a blood feud between the families).
It is important to note that judges sometimes give (or, used to give, I do not follow this stuff closely) more lenient sentences to defendants for the crime of a spontaneous honor killing than murder — treating it somewhat like manslaughter.
Woman kills own daughter so her son does not have to
Here is an example of a premeditated honor killing I found using a simple web search: A Turkish woman who killed her own daughter so that her son would not have to do it to clear the family's honor. She apparently won a prize in an inmate letter-writing contest in 2007 (see news report in Turkish.)
It looks like the actual crime happened in 2005.
Serpil U adlı kadın, evli ve 1 çocuk annesi kızı Verda B (24) ile başka erkeklerle ilişkisi olduğu gerekçesiyle tartışmaya başladı. Tartışmanın büyümesi üzerine Serpil U, kızı Verda B'u bıçakladı. Verda B olay yerinde hayatını kaybederken, anne Serpil U, polisi arayarak kızını öldürdüğünü bildirdi.
Serpil U had an argument with her 24 year old daughter Verda B who herself was married and a mother of one. The cause of the argument was Verda's "relations" with other men. The argument got out of hand. Serpil U stabbed her daughter Verda B. Verda B died on the scene. Mother Serpil U then called the police and reported that she had killed her daughter.
The latter news story mentions that the mother was convicted of premeditated murder and planned the whole thing so that her son would not have to go to prison.
In fact, the term used for such killings in Turkish is
namus cinayeti. While namus is usually translated as
honor, honor is just a subset of its meaning.
Notwithstanding Ms. Terman's observation that:
there is a trend among advocacy organizations in the North American and European Diaspora to avoid, ignore, or rebuke the termhonor killingsas a misleading label that is racist, xenophobic, and/or harmful to Muslim populations.
and regardless of what the Diaspora wants us to call such crimes, they are ugly and there is no reason for them to be tolerated or treated as anything other than premeditated murder.
PS: I did not actually read Ms. Terman's paper. I do not intend to. My reaction is based on reading the abstract and thinking