An honor killing is usually a private family matter. One family member, usually the father or oldest son, kills the family member who has disgraced or dishonored the family, usually a female who has either had premarital sex or been unfaithful in her marriage. Honor killings take place mostly in third world countries, although in November of 1989, Saint Louis gained National attention in what became one of the most publicized honor killings in the world.
The FBI unintentionally taped the brutal murder of 16-year-old Tina Isa, while doing electronic surveillance of the Isa’s home. Zein Isa, Tina’s father was a suspected Palestinian Terrorist and had been under FBI surveillance for some time. The first clue to Tina Isa’s death came one morning as FBI agents listened to the surveillance tapes from the night before. Imagine the difficulty the agents must have experienced listening to Tina’s terrifying screams, as her Palestinian father kills her and her Brazilian mother Maria helps him.
The agents quickly realize with horror, they are already hours to late and that Tina is already dead. The agents hear Tina screaming, begging her mother please help me and her mother says only shut up. Tina’s father stabs her with a butcher knife 13 times in the chest, while Tina’s mother Maria holds her daughter down. The murder of their daughter Tina Isa takes eight minutes. The tape ends with Zein Isa telling his daughter die, die quickly, quiet, little one, die, my daughter, die. Then there is silence on the tape and it is obvious Tina has died.
After hearing the murder of Tina Isa on the surveillance tape, agents must make a difficult decision. Do they blow FBI cover, turn over the audiotapes, and allowing the prosecutor to prosecute the Isa’s for murdering their daughter or do they continue their surveillance and hope that Zein and Maria Isa lead the agents to terrorists. In the end, the agents turn over their evidence to the prosecuting attorney’s office and prosecute the Isa’s for the murder of their daughter.
Tina is an honor killing. A daughter killed by her father for causing dishonor for her family in her father’s eyes. Earlier in the day, Tina had applied for a part-time job at a local Saint Louis Wendy’s Restaurant against her parents’ wishes, and without their permission. Recently she had begun seeing a black boy from school. Both of these behaviors were disrespectful to the family’s culture, enough that her father felt justified in killing her.
The number of honor killings worldwide is difficult to detect, mostly because honor killings are a taboo subject. Killing your child because they are disrespectful is not open for discussion in any country and can get you killed.
During their trial, the Zein Isa tried to get the surveillance tapes thrown out as evidence because they captured events that had no relevance to the FBI’s investigation. The court allowed the tapes as evidence, which allowed the jury to hear Tina’s voice from beyond the grave, and the stark cold method in which her father and mother murdered her in her own home.
Zein and Maria Isa were both found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Maria challenged her conviction since she felt she should not get the same punishment as her husband who stabbed Tina to death. Yet, the court felt Maria was never forced to hold her daughter down as her husband stabbed her to death. In the end, the court determined Maria was not directly responsible for her daughter’s death, and her conviction was converted from a deaths sentence to life in prison. Zein Isa died on death row in 1997 after he became ill.
Honor killings happen every day in all parts of our world. In other parts of the world, the police often are witness and some even participate in the stoning of young woman who date outside their ethnic or religious background or are sexually active before marriage. How sad the very families that should be protecting us are the cause of our death.