The Defenders

Rana Husseini

“I want to be a credible source, raise awareness, give hope to women, give solutions, and document cases and efforts around the world.”

Rana Husseini is a Jordanian investigative journalist who writes for The Jordan Times, an independent English-language daily newspaper based in Amman, Jordan. Rana’s writing has focused on social issues, especially so-called “honor” crimes―acts of violence and murders committed against Jordanian women in the name of family honor. In Jordan, women who are raped are considered to have compromised their families’ honor. Rather than pursuing the perpetrators, fathers, brothers, and sons see it as their duty to avenge the offense by murdering the victims.  

 

The Jordan Times was the first news outlet in the country to report on these crimes against women. Rana was threatened and accused by some of being anti-Islam, anti-Jordan, and antifamily for exposing these crimes, but she persisted and has gained a growing number of supporters. Her reporting has garnered international recognition. In 1998, a group of young Jordanians contacted her about creating a grassroots movement to bring an end to honor crimes. The outcome was the establishment of the National Jordanian Committee to Eliminate so-called Crimes of Honor. In just four months, the committee collected over 15,000 signatures demanding that laws offering leniency for perpetrators be overturned. The government responded by introducing legal changes that encourage tougher punishments for perpetrators of such crimes. Rana’s work also influenced a 2007 fatwa―a ruling on Islamic law―that stated that honor killings are against religious law. 

 

Rana has earned numerous awards for her human rights work, including a medal from Jordan’s King Abdulla II. She has been interviewed by a wide range of international media outlets, including Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, and The New York Times, and has spoken at local and international conferences regarding honor crimes. 

Rana has worked with women’s rights groups in the Middle East and beyond. She has served as special advisor to Freedom House on women’s issues and press freedom in Jordan. She has also worked as a regional coordinator for the United Nation's Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) campaign to eliminate violence against women in five Arab countries. Additionally, she has worked for Equality Now in the US, conducting research on human rights violations against women and children in seven Middle Eastern countries. 

WHY DOES STOPPING HONOR KILLINGS MATTER

According to estimates from the United Nations Population Fund, an estimated 5,000 women and girls are murdered every year in so-called honor killings. These killings are widely reported throughout the Middle East and South Asia in countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey. These crimes against women aren’t limited to these regions, though. Honor killings have also been reported in South America (Brazil and Ecuador), Europe (Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom), Africa (Morocco and Uganda), and North America (Canada and the United States).

In many countries, punishment for honor crimes is non-existent or inadequate. Some countries don’t recognize honor crime. Others have very lenient sentencing guidelines. Prior to Rana’s work in Jordan, it was not uncommon for perpetrators to receive six-month prison sentences for killing female relatives. Even in countries like Jordan, where laws have been passed to curb honor crimes, the laws are often either under-enforced or unenforced.

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ABOUT THE PROGRAM

Discovery Education has teamed up with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Humanity United and Fund II Foundation to bring Speak Truth to Power to the classroom. Speak Truth to Power, a global initiative dedicated to sharing the stories of human rights defenders around the world, provides compelling content for a set of flexible, standards-aligned digital resources, designed to educate, engage and inspire the next generation of human rights defenders.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Mission Statement

Led by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has advocated for a more just and peaceful world since 1968. We work alongside local activists to ensure lasting positive change in governments and corporations. Whether in the United States or abroad, our programs have pursued justice through strategic litigation on key human rights issues, educated millions of children in human rights advocacy and fostered a social good approach to business and investment.