I will never forget that New Year's Day in 2008, when Egyptian-born taxi driver Yaser Saidcoldly shot his two beautiful daughters to death in his cab. Their names were Sarah and Amina, and they had bravely tried to save their own lives – but their mother, Tissy (Patricia), had lured them back home to be murdered.
She has never been charged, although her husband, son and brother-in-law are all behind bars at last.
At the time, I spoke to some of the women in Tissy's family, who confirmed that Yaser Said had routinely battered, sexually violated, and threatened his daughters with death. His wife covered this up, minimized and denied it, and forced the girls to recant what they had once told child welfare officials.
Their brother Islam pleaded guilty last week to three felonies related to helping his fugitive father evade capture. Islam Said also stalked and threatened his sisters. He was following his father's explicit orders as well as the example he set.
Yaser Abdel Said was arrested last August. His brother, Yassein, is due to stand trial on Monday for his role in helping Yaser Said evade capture. Yassein and Islam Said harbored Yaser inside an apartment in Bedford, Texas until a maintenance worker spotted Yaser on Aug. 14, 2017. After the maintenance worker reported the sighting to the FBI, an agent was dispatched to interview Islam, but Islam refused to cooperate.
He later harbored his father inside a home in Justin, Texas that belonged to his cousin. On Aug. 25, 2020 FBI agents saw Islam and Yassein Said deliver grocery bags to the residence, then followed the men to a shopping center 20 miles away, where they dumped trash retrieved from the home.
After hearing of the girls' murders, I wanted to hear what a mother and a brother in such a family might sound like. I wanted to give them a chance to tell me the story from their point of view. I got Islam on the phone more than a decade ago, and before I could ask him anything, he started cursing, threatening, warning me never to call him again. His rage started at a super-sonic level and then escalated into the stratosphere. I once got Tissy on the phone too—she whispered, "I'm not supposed to talk to you," but with an edge of viciousness (or terror) in her voice. She told me not to call her.
What a mother. I kept calling for the police to arrest Tissy as an accomplice, but they never have. At a certain point, I decided that she might be mentally impaired as well as a victim of domestic violence. She did marry Yaser Said when she was 14-15 years old and when he was already twice her age.
Women do play a role in honor killings. I published a study in 2015 about that. It found that women's roles in honor violence tends to be minimized because male-on-female violence is far more visible, dramatic, and epidemic. That doesn't mean women aren't acting as conspirator-accomplices or even hands-on-killers of female relatives, including daughters.
Uppsala University academic Recep Doganpublished a paper in 2018 in which he interviewed four Turkish women imprisoned for their roles in honor killings. European law enforcement have sometimes been known to arrest accomplices, both male and female; but with the exception of the Shafia case, Canada and the United States have failed to do so.
Last week, Islam Yaser-Abdel Said finally pleaded guilty to "helping a capital murder suspect (his father) evade capture for more than 12 years."
U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah thanked the "dogged work of the FBI and law enforcement" and characterized Said as a man who "prioritized the whims of his father, an alleged killer, over justice for his own sisters."
And now, Texas Tissy has nothing left. Her husband and her daughters have all been gone for 12 years; her only son, Islam, is finally behind bars where he belongs.
While justice is coming, it remains frustrating that it took so long. How could this trio of violent and vicious men manage to hide in plain sight, in two nearby, nondescript houses in the same Texas city? Yaser Said essentially placed himself under house arrest, Saddam Hussein-style, in a hole. Apparently, he never went out. His son and brother brought him groceries and dropped his trash 20 miles away.
I sincerely congratulate federal and state law enforcement officials for finally arresting Yaser's accomplices. No honor murder is committed by one relative alone. Extended families, entire communities, are involved and culpable.
If the United States wants to abolish honor murders in our country, we must not only arrest the perpetrator, we must also arrest and convict the collaborators, enablers, and co-conspirators.
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at the City University of New York (CUNY), and the author of 20 books, including Women and Madness, and A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killings. She is a Senior IPT Fellow, and a Fellow at MEF and ISGAP.