A court in the German city of Detmold is currently trying the case of Arzu Ö, a Kurdish teenager who was murdered last November, presumably by members of her own family. Prosecutors say she “dishonored” her family, followers of the little-known Yazidi rel
DETMOLD - It's next to impossible for someone on the outside to decipher the way a family functions. Pressure, violence, the true nature of child-parent relationships or the way siblings interact – these realities can be kept well-hidden. To outsiders, a family can seem solid. But that same family, for someone inside it, can be hell on earth.
Realities can even be shielded when – as in the case of the Ö. family – authorities investigate. That is what happened in a case being tried now in the German city of Detmold, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. For the past couple of weeks, the district court has been hearing the case of 18-year-old Arzu Ö., the youngest daughter of a Kurdish family who are practitioners of the Yazidi religion.
Followers of this independent, monotheistic religion believe that God created the world from a pearl. There are an estimated 800,000 Yazidi followers worldwide. The religion has no concept of the devil. Evil, in fact, is not spoken about. Yazidi's religious principles and stories are passed on in songs. A core principle is that people are responsible for their acts, because God gave people eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mind to reason with.
Freiburg psychologist Jan Kizilhan also explained to the court that Yazidi followers are only allowed to marry others of the same faith, and that women must be virgins when they married. Kizilhan, himself a Yazidi practitioner, then came to the point that all those involved in the case of the Ö. family believe is the salient one: anyone who becomes involved with someone outside the religion, or a woman who sleeps with someone outside marriage, dishonors the father and the whole family.
There have been a number of indications during the trial so far that the loss of honor was the reason why Arzu was killed. Those accused of killing her are four brothers and a sister. According to the prosecution, on Nov. 1, 2011, they kidnapped her and then shot her several times in the head.
Early on in the trial, the youngest of the brothers confessed to the killing: Osman Ö., 22, testified that during the heated discussions after the kidnapping he lost control and ended up shooting Arzu. The sister, Sirin Ö., tearfully testified that she and her siblings only wanted to give Arzu a good talking to since they did not agree with the direction her life had taken.
A "well integrated" family..
In the wee hours of Nov. 1, Arzu's boyfriend, a baker named Alex K., reported to the police that Arzu had been snatched from the apartment they shared. He fingered four of her brothers and a sister as the authors of the abduction, saying they climbed into the apartment through an open window at approximately 1:30 a.m. The siblings – Osman, Kemal, Elvis, Kirer and Sirin Ö. –threatened him with a pistol, hit him, and broke one of his fingers, he reported. They then abducted Arzu.
Alex K. and Arzu Ö. got to know each other at the bakery – Arzu helped out, and her mother cleaned. Arzu's former boss got the impression that the family was "well integrated." Arzu was friendly and a hard worker. That was in fact the impression the whole family made.
In August 2011, however, Arzu was severely beaten by family members, presumably because of her relationship with Alex. She fled to a home for battered women and subsequently cut herself off from her family. She also filed complaints against her brother Osman and against her father.
During the trial, prosecutors read out e-mails Arzu received from her family. The messages offer a glimpse of just how threatening the situation actually was for the teenage victim. Arzu had mentioned the pressure these messages put her under to a girlfriend, saying they made her fear for her life. She believed her family to be capable of anything, and did not trust her father when he wrote that if she returned home nothing bad would happen to her.
Among those who testified at the trial were acquaintances of the Ö. family. Of course people noticed them, people said. For one thing, the neighborhood where they lived wasn't a very big one, and when a family – particularly a family of foreigners – has nine kids, they stand out. But the Ö. family never stood out negatively. On the contrary.
German rights organizations have called for a vigil to be held in front of the Detmold district court building as a sign of protest against archaic notions of family "honor." They have also called for a nation-wide campaign to raise consciousness about the issue; better victim protection; and counseling services for those facing such issues.
Read the original article in German
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