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On a hot summer day in late May 1994, I drove to an eastern suburb of Jordan’s capital, Amman, to investigate the reported murder of a 16-year-old schoolgirl by her own brother. With limited information, questions roiled my mind as I drove up the hill towards the neighbourhood. Why had this girl’s life been cut short by her brother? What had her final thoughts been? My questions would soon be partially answered by a man who was walking through the neighbourhood when I arrived. “Yes, I know why she was killed,” he answered calmly as if talking about the weather: “She was raped by one of her brothers and another sibling murdered her to cleanse his family’s honour.” I asked him again if what he was saying was really true. “Yes, it is true. That is why she was killed,” the man answered me, before ushering me to the house where the murder took place. The same “justification” was used by the girl’s uncles when I sat with them to discuss the murder. “She seduced her brother to sleep with her and she had to die for that,” they said. That sentence rang in my head throughout my career as a senior reporter at the Jordan Times and as an activist on this topic.

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