Emran (name changed) asks urgent questions at the trial of his mother’s alleged murderers: “How can you go on living with this conscience?” asks the 14-year-old, meaning his uncles – his mother’s two brothers. “How can you just keep breathing that air after you’ve done this? What are you thinking when you fall asleep every night?”
The teenager looks at the camera. “They want to be men, be Muslims, have honor?” he asks. And says: “This has nothing to do with honor, but with dishonor. Not even animals would do such a thing.” The young man’s strong words can be seen on Friday on a screen in the Berlin district court, where the murder of the Afghan woman Maryam H. has been tried since the beginning of March.
The public prosecutor’s office accuses her brothers Yousuf H. and Mahdi H. of having murdered her in the name of “honour” – because the woman “contrary to the moral concepts of the accused pursued a partially more modern lifestyle”, as the indictment states.
Until her death in July 2021, Maryam H. lived in Berlin with her then 13-year-old son Emran and her then ten-year-old daughter Hosna (name also changed). Both children were questioned by a judge in November for their protection. They should be spared a testimony in court, right next to the accused. Now her video interrogation has been introduced into the process.
In their testimonies, both children describe their uncles as violent and controlling, especially the older Yousuf H. “My uncles were really mean to my mom,” says Hosna. “They hit her, pressured her and kept calling her.”
Hosna has long black hair, wears a floral top and plays with a massage ball. She says that her uncles came to visit every week. Then she and her mother would have had to cook and take care of the two men. If they failed, they were beaten.
“My mother was enslaved, I couldn’t do anything,” says Emran. “I wasn’t allowed to do my homework, my hair was pulled,” says Hosna. “Yousuf wanted to force me to put on a headscarf, although I didn’t want that.” Her mother, who herself usually wears a headscarf, prevented that. “We are in Europe,” she said, as her son Emran tells it.
In his interrogation, Emran – shirt buttoned up, a bit of down on his upper lip, favorite subjects sports and history – confirmed what several other witnesses had already testified in the course of the trial. Although his mother was tortured by her brothers, she always defended them. One of the brothers hit her in the face so hard that it turned red.
He still remembers the situation clearly: “Mahdi got up and gave her a cuff. They insulted her as a whore and with other bad swear words. I really wanted to do something, my body started to burn inside.” Emran later told his mother to contact the police. “They are my brothers, I love them,” she said. “I changed their diapers when they were little.”
Maryam H. was 34 when she was murdered, the two brothers 25 and 22. A horrible crime is being charged: the brothers are said to have throttled H., choked him and cut his throat with sharp force. Then they are said to have taken the body in a trolley with a taxi to a Berlin long-distance train station and from there to Bavaria. The body was buried there.
After fleeing Afghanistan, H. left her forced marriage in Germany and entered into a new relationship. According to the public prosecutor, this way of life did not correspond to the “archaic ideas of honor and the image of women” of the brothers.
During their interrogations, H.’s children Emran and Hosna describe a system of constant control calls and checks on his sister’s mobile phone. “He wanted to find evidence that my mother was a bad woman,” says Hosna. “My mother always prayed, she was a very good woman,” says Emran.
Yousuf always wanted to know what Maryam was doing – and prohibited her from meeting with friends and any men. He told the children to get in touch immediately if they saw their mother with a man. Yousuf himself, according to Emran, had contact with many women. Mahdi smoked and took drugs.
The indications that the brothers were guilty are clear: images from a surveillance camera at Berlin-Südkreuz train station from July 2021 show the men carrying a baggy suitcase to the train. A blood and corpse sniffer dog showed “report behavior” on a chair in the next room of the accused Mahdi H. and on an escalator at the Südkreuz train station, which the accused had used. A piece of disposable glove was stuck to an adhesive tape on the corpse, on which Mahdi H.’s DNA could be determined. Shortly before the crime, Yousuf H. googled “Suitcases up to 70 kg Berlin”.
Maryam H.’s son Emran is certain that his uncles murdered his mother. He says: “They are the worst thing you can imagine.”