Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sex, Family, and the Violent Protection of Virginity

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2008 at 11:05 AM

click to enlarge Ahmed_20Sankari.jpg
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This week’s Scene features an article about some pretty strange cultural norms. No, not cheerleading, although that can be weird too. I’m referring to “Spare the Rod,” a story about a teenager named Yaman Sankari, who received a group beat-down from her father, grandmother, two uncles and an aunt, after Yaman admitted to having sex with her 28-year-old boyfriend, Khalat Haji. The family is of Syrian descent and according to Jean Crow, an attorney at Nashville’s Legal Aid Society who advocates for victims of domestic violence, this kind of thing is not unheard of among Nashville’s Middle Eastern immigrant community. “The children are culturally American,” Crow says. “But the parents are still living in the old country, with the old country’s rules.” Crow speculates that this type of social disconnect may be what led to Yaman Sankari being beaten so badly that her father and grandmother had to take her to the hospital. When I spoke with Yaman’s father Mohamed, he kept returning to the fact that until Haji came along, his daughter had been a virgin. He said repeatedly that Haji raped her. As Mohamed said these things, I got the impression that I was listening to a defense of his daughter’s virtue, rather than an accusation of Haji’s guilt. “That’s not the way I raised (her),” Mohamed said. We can hope that the younger generation of immigrants is absorbing some of the more tolerant aspects of our culture — teenage promiscuity aside — and will pass those on to their children. It’s a pretty good bet that the younger Sankari will react much more reasonably if she has a daughter. Above are mug shots of Yaman's family. Left to right they are: Uncle Ahmed Sankari, Grandmother Fatima Chabarek, Aunt Manal Sankari, Father Mohamed Sankari, Grandfather Nazir Sankari. Below is Yaman's Uncle Mohamed Y. Sankari.
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