An American Honor Killing
In a quiet suburban parking lot outside of Phoenix, a father floors the gas on his Jeep Grand Cherokee and heads straight for his 20-year-old daughter. His goal: to protect his familys "honor." Yes, honor crimes have washed up on our shores.
By Abigail Pesta
A photo of Noor Almaleki taken by a friend.
Around the sprawling, sunbaked campus of Dysart High School in El Mirage, Arizona, not many people knew about the double life of a pretty, dark-haired girl named Noor Almaleki.
At school, she was known as a fun-loving student who made friends easily. She played tennis in a T-shirt emblazoned with the school mascot a baby demon in a diaper. She liked to watch Heroes and eat at Chipotle. Sometimes she talked in a goofy Keanu Reeves voice. She wore dark jeans, jeweled sandals, and flowy tops from Forever 21. She texted constantly and called her friends "dude." In other words, she was an American girl much like any other.
But at home, Noor inhabited a darker world. She lived a life of subservience, often left to care for her six younger siblings. Noor's father, 49-year-old Faleh Almaleki, was strict and domineering, deeming it inappropriate for her to socialize with guys, wear jeans, or post snapshots of herself on MySpace. Her responsibility was to follow orders, or to risk a beating. From her father's perspective, the only time Noor's life would ever change would be when she married a man he selected for her back in his homeland of Iraq. Noor, however, had a different vision for herself. Having lived in the U.S. for 16 years, she held dreams of becoming a teacher, of marrying a man she loved, and, most importantly, of making her own choices.
On a cloudless, breezy afternoon in late October 2009, her father set out to end those dreams. As Noor walked across a suburban parking lot to a Mexican restaurant with a friend a 43-year-old woman named Amal Khalaf Faleh Almaleki gunned the engine of his Jeep Grand Cherokee and bore down on his 20-year-old daughter and her companion. The women took off running but were no match for the SUV, already traveling close to 30 miles per hour. Suddenly Amal turned, held up her hands in a futile attempt to stop the Jeep, and froze. Moments later, the vehicle struck the women, tossing them into the air. Amal hit the pavement; Noor landed on a raised median, in a patch of pebbly landscaping. Faleh wasn't done, though. Swerving onto the median, he ran over his daughter as she lay bleeding, fracturing her face and spine. Then, he reversed and sped away.
Passersby heard the roar of the engine, screams, the impact of the bodies as they hit the Jeep's grill. They saw the women lying on the ground, their sandals scattered across the lot. A witness called 911, and emergency vehicles converged. Amal's condition was stable; Noor was comatose.
Local police characterized the incident as an attempted "honor killing" the murder of a woman for behaving in a way that "shames" her family. It's a practice with deep, tenacious roots in the tribal traditions of the Middle East and Asia. (The United Nations estimates that 5,000 women die annually from such crimes.) Women are stoned, stabbed, and, in the recent case of a teenage girl in Turkey, tied up and buried alive. But honor killings in America are a chilling new trend. In Texas, teen sisters Amina and Sarah Said were shot dead in 2008, allegedly by their father, because they had boyfriends. That same year in Georgia, 25-year-old Sandeela Kanwal was allegedly strangled by her father for wanting to leave an arranged marriage. Last year in New York, Aasiya Hassan, 37, was murdered in perhaps the most gruesome way imaginable: She was beheaded, allegedly by her husband, for reportedly seeking a divorce. And this past spring, 19-year-old Tawana Thompson's husband gunned her down in Illinois, reportedly following arguments about her American-style clothing.