HONOR KILLING IN PAKISTAN
Pakistan has one of the highest rates of honor killings in the world. Honor killing and crimes of honor refer to the burning, beating, stabbing, maiming, disfiguring and killing of women and girls by fathers, brothers and other male relatives. The woman are accused of dishonoring her family by seeking a divorce, eloping with of boyfriend, failing to go along with an arranged marriage or allegedly doing things like being unfaithful, having premarital sex, displaying behavior perceived as sexually promiscuous or even things like being too friendly to a brother-in-law, having "arrogant body language, eying a cute guy on the street, or sitting next to a man on a bus.
According to AFP: “Women have been shot, stabbed, stoned, set alight and strangled for bringing "shame" on their families for everything from refusing marriage proposals to wedding the "wrong" man and helping friends elope. Men can be victims too, but the violence is overwhelmingly aimed at women. The double standard is glaring. Generally Pakistanis will accept a man who has committed rape, a senior police official who has overseen honor killing investigations told AFP. But "if a woman is even suspected of an affair it is considered a shame for the family and not forgiven," the official, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorised to speak to media, told AFP. "People even sympathise (with) and praise the men who murder their women for so-called honor," he said. [Source: AFP, October 31, 2017]
Shah Meer Baloch, The Guardian,“Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed legislation against killings linked to the concept of “honor”, or “izzat”, following the murder of Qandeel Baloch in 2016. The death of the social media celebrity, who was killed by her brother in the name of “honor”, sparked international outrage. The bill authorised life imprisonment for convicted murderers. Previously, killers could win — or buy — freedom if the victim’s relatives forgave them.
“But killings of people who “violate certain patriarchal codes” have continued at the same rate, said Nida Kirmani, associate professor of sociology at Lahore University. “Honor crimes are committed as a way of policing or disciplining women, girls, men and boys who are seen to be violating these rules,” Kirmani explained. [Source: Shah Meer Baloch, The Guardian, May 17, 2019]
Zia Awan, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, told Associated Press Pakistanis who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences because of poor police work and faulty prosecutions. "Either the family does not pursue such cases or police don't properly investigate. As a result, the courts either award light sentences to the attackers, or they are acquitted," he said. [Source: Associated Press, May 28, 2014]
Honor Killing Numbers in Pakistan
It is estimated that around 1,000 women are killed every year in honor crimes and honor killings. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 8,694 girls and women, a quarter of them minors, died in honor killings between 2004 and 2015. In 2015, three people a day — a total of 1,096 women and 88 men — were killed in “honor” crimes in Pakistan according to the same commission. In 2014, the number was 1,005 women, including 82 children, up from 869 women killed in 2013. The true numbers are believed to be higher, with many cases going unreported, activists say. Human rights campaigners say more than 1,500 killings occurred between 2016 and 2018, a figure anecdotally confirmed by Asad Butt, vice chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. [Source: Shah Meer Baloch, The Guardian, May 17, 2019; Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, July 4, 2016]
The Pakistani rights group The Aurat Foundation said there at least 1,636 “honor killings” in 2012. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 943 women were killed in the name of honor in 2011. Only 20 of the women were reported to have been given medical care before they died, the report said. The real toll is believed to be higher because many of the crimes go unreported. “Throughout the year, women were callously killed in the name of honor when they went against family wishes in any way, or even on the basis of suspicion that they did so. Women were sometimes killed in the name of honor over property disputes and inheritance rights," the report said. [Source: Associated Press, November 5, 2012]
In one survey 850 women were killed by male relatives in 1998 and 1999 in the Punjab. Thousands more were maimed, disfigured or badly injured. In the Swat Valley you can find women that live in prison because they fear they will be killed if they are set free. According to Pakistani human rights organizations 461 women were killed by relatives in honor killings in 2002, an increase from the previous year. Most of the men who committed the killing were never charged. This that were usually are acquitted. According to the Sindh-based Women Rights Cell of Research and Development for Human Resources (RDHR), between January and March 2012, 66 women and 32 men were victims of "honor killings," while 49 women were killed in domestic disputes, and 30 women were killed over "other issues"
History of Honor Killing
Honor crimes and honor killings are committed against women in a number of Muslim counties but the practice has its origin in tribal customs about honor not within Islam, but Muslim law is sometimes invoked to justify the harsh penalties. A lawyer with a woman's advocacy group in Pakistan told the Washington Post, "The concept of honor killing does not exist in Islamic law. But conservative tradition is very strong in our culture. Islam gives rights to women, but society snuffs them out."
Nadya Labi wrote in Time: “The exact origins of honor killings are not known; the practice likely existed among different ancient cultures. Among northern Arabian tribes, the practice predates Islam in the 7th century. In a typical honor killing, the victim is judged to have engaged in a transgression that can encompass just about anything — from wearing Westernized dress to becoming a target of gossip to balking at an arranged marriage to being raped. The murder is often a collective family decision, with the father, a brother or male cousin carrying out the act; rarely, a female relative like the mother does the killing. [Source: Nadya Labi, Time, February 25, 2011]
Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: For generations now in Pakistan, they’ve called it “honor” killing, carried out in the name of a family’s reputation. The killers routinely invoke Islam, but rarely can they cite anything other than their belief that Islam doesn’t allow the mixing of sexes. Even Pakistan’s hard-line Islamic Ideology Council, which is hardly known for speaking out to protect women, says the practice defies Islamic tenets. It doesn’t matter: in slums and far-off villages, away from the cosmopolitan city centers, people live in a world where religion is inextricably tied to culture and tradition, where tribal councils can order women publicly punished, and a family can decide to kill one of its own, even to avenge a wrongdoing committed by someone else. [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, October 3, 2016]
“In the vast majority of cases, the “honor” killer is a man and the victim is a woman. She is a sister who falls in love with a man not of her family’s choosing. She is a daughter who refuses to agree to an arranged marriage, sometimes to a man old enough to be her father. She is a wife who can no longer stay in an abusive marriage and divorces her husband.
He is a brotherwho cannot bear the taunts of other men brought up as he was, believing that women are subservient and must be kept in the shadows, their worth often measured by the number of sons they can produce. He is a neighbor who doesn’t think his friend did anything wrong in taking his sister’s life. He is a father who is angry about her killing not because she is dead, but because her death will reveal her “shame” to other members of the family and beyond.
Family Honor in Pakistan
Family honor is of upmost importance among many Pakistanis. According to a report by the Human Rights Commission, "Sections of society continued to regard any expression of independence by women as an infamy, and the way to restore the family’s honor was to promptly put an end to the life of the transgressor." The subordination of women was so "routine: that domestic violence was widely considered "normal behavior," even by the victims themselves.
Pamela Constable wrote in the Washington Post: "The cruel irony of conservative Islamic society that purports to shelter women yet condones savage violence against them in the name of male and family honor." In the case of honor crimes, if a woman has premarital sex — or is raped or engages in behavior regarded as immodest — her father or brother kills her to restore honor to the family. Often times the men who commit the crimes are only lightly punished.
It can be argued that Pakistani views on honor are root more in The Pashtun code of honor, known as “Pashtunwali”, or the way of the Pashtuns, than Islam. The Pashtun code. is an ancient and absolute set of rules that defines: 1) how a host must care and protect guests and their property, 2) the chastity of married women and the way men must defend women’s honor; 3) rules of restraint accorded those regarded as weak (namely Hindus, women and boys); 4) defense provided for those who seek refuge; and 5) how killings should be avenged. “Pashtanwali” has precedence over the law of the land and even Islamic law. It is regarded as an ideal, which Pashtun may not be able to meet but they should try to live up to and is so strong and prevalent in some areas it negates the need for a government.
Central to adherence to the male-centered pakhtunwali code of conduct is the notion of honor, nang, which is articulated in a starkly black-and-white, all-or-nothing manner. Without honor, life for a Pashtun is not worth living. Honor demands the maintenance of sexual propriety. Complete chastity among female relatives is of the essence; only with the purity and good repute of his mother, daughters, sisters, and wife (or wives) does a man ensure his honor. Thus women are restricted to private, family compounds in much of the province. Census takers, invariably male, are constrained not to ask about the women in another man's home, and the number of men in a household is often overstated because sons and brothers are a source of strength. Accurate enumeration of the population hence is not possible. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994]
Among the three most important obligations of “Pashtanwali” are 1) “nanawatai”, or giving asylum to a refugee, even a mortal enemy; 2) “melmastia”, extending hospitality to strangers, even enemies; and 3) “badal”, or obtaining revenge for a slight, which are usually over “zamin” (gold, land and women).
The punishments for breaking the code are very harsh and often involve death. Death is often regarded as preferable to dishonor. This code allows for, even encourages, revenge killings. One Pashtun saying goes: “He is not Pashtun who gives a pinch for a blow.
Honor Killing Incidents in Pakistan
In April 2000, a women in Lahore was shot dead by gunmen in a lawyer’s office, where she was seeking help getting a divorce. The gunman were reportedly hired by the woman's family who were concerned about losing face by having a divorcee for a daughter.
In September 2002, an ex-employee of the Interior Minister killed seven members of his family because he was angry over his daughter’s decision to marry a Christian. The dead included the man’s pregnant wife, who was a Christian who converted to Islam, the daughter, three other children and two relatives who were staying at the house, The man gave himself up to police but said he committed no crime and did what he did to protect the honor of his family. He was sentenced to death for his crime.
In the Sindh province a husband shot his wife dead while she slept next to her 3-month-old son because she was spotting in a field near a strange man. In the Punjab an estranged husband and five companions killed his wife, mother-in-law and four-year-old daughter by slitting their throats and hacking them to death with sickles
In August 2008, three girls were buried alive in Balochistan province for wishing to marry of their own will. Afterwards local media reported that a minister and other influential people were involved in the crime. When the incident was discussed in Pakistan’s senate, two senators at that time, Sardar Israrullah Zehri and Taj Jamali, defended the act and called it “tribal custom”.
On honor killings in 2016, Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: “In one case, a mother slit the throat of her pregnant daughter who had married a man she loved. In yet another a jilted suitor doused a teenage girl with kerosene and set her on fire. In the city of Abbottabad, a teenage girl was tortured, injected with poison and then strapped to the seat of a vehicle, doused with gasoline and set on fire. Her crime was helping a friend elope. A jirga, or council of local elders, ordered her killing and dictated the manner of her death. The vehicle was parked in a public place, outside a bus stop as a message to others. [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, July 4, 2016]
Karo Kari and Tribal Pressures
Saba Imtiaz wrote in the New York Times: “In rural areas, in a traditional practice known as karo kari, landlords and leaders of tribes convene a meeting after a couple has eloped or is discovered to have a relationship, and they issue a verdict that the couple be put to death. Eloping couples are often hunted down and killed. Many of these leaders wield considerable political influence and escape prosecution. “These landlords don’t let anyone into their houses — that’s where these decisions are made, not in our police stations,” said Bilquis Bano Edhi, who runs one of the largest charitable networks in Pakistan with her husband, Abdul Sattar Edhi, and their family. [Source: Saba Imtiaz, New York Times, March 2, 2016]
“The killings are not limited to rural or remote areas, however. In one of the best-known cases of honor killings in Pakistan, Samia Sarwar, who belonged to an affluent family and wanted to divorce her husband, was shot dead in the office of her lawyer, Hina Jilani, in Lahore in 1999. “Very few people get to the court,” said Farida Hashmat, a lawyer. “There is so much pressure from the tribal leaders and landlords, and even from the families. There is maybe one case out of dozens that ends up in court.”
Not all honor crimes lead to death. In December 1998, a woman, in her third month of pregnancy, was attacked with a razor by her husband who suspected her having an affair with a brother-in-law. The husband tied her hands and feet and sliced off her ear lobes, a large piece of her nose and cut her eyes so badly she was left blinded. The woman told the Washington Post, "He came home from the mosque and accused me of having a and characters. I told him it was not true, but he didn't believe me. He caught me tied me up, and then started cutting my face. He never said a word except, 'This you last night.'" The husband was charged with assault. He based his defense on the concept of “ghairat”. "I did these things, but I was going out of my senses...She was provoking me and ruining my life. What I did was wrong, but I am satisfied. I did it for my honor and prestige." [Source: Pamela Constable, Washington Post, May 9, 2000]
Dozen of 'Honor' Killing in a Fortnight in 2019
It has seemed almost if the international intention and negative coverage of honor killing in Pakistan led to an increase in them rather than a decrease. Shah Meer Baloch wrote in The Guardian: The killer was unrepentant. “I killed my sister because she brought [a] bad name for the family,” he told neighbours in the Kachi district of Balochistan, Pakistan. “I killed her and her lover for family honor. I want it to be a lesson for all girls in the town.” Locals believe other members of the man’s family may have been involved but, a fortnight after the bodies were found , no arrests have been made, although police are aware of the allegations.” [Source: Shah Meer Baloch, The Guardian, May 17, 2019]
In a separate incident, “the Dawn newspaper reported that a woman from Lahore had been shot dead, allegedly by her son, brother and brother-in-law, after leaving her husband and taking refuge at the house of a friend. Police said they found the body of Arooj Shahzad a day after she approached officers over fears that her family would come after her. Chutala police have registered a case against five suspects. Shahzad’s killing was the 12th in a fortnight linked to “honor” recorded by the Pakistan authorities.
“Every week in Pakistan brings fresh news of wives strangled, daughters shot or sisters drowned for a perceived slight to family “honor”. Sometimes a single person is responsible; more often, a group of male family members is involved. The vast majority of the killers go unpunished. Just as matters related to family are settled in blood, so too those who try to alert the authorities risk their lives. Afzal Kohistani, a whistleblower who called for the punishment of those involved in the Kohsitan scandal, in which five women died as well as Kohistani’s three brothers, was murdered in March this year.
“In Pakistan, the state system runs in parallel with a more regressive societal system that reinforces patriarchy and disempowers women. “I don’t blame people, rather I blame government for not empowering women and supporting patriarchy,” said a government official speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is government that is run by tribal lords and elites. And local police or administration refrain from making arrests in “honor” related cases. This happens in most rural areas of Pakistan.”
Pakistan Police Arrest Three over 'Honor Killing' of Teenage Sisters
In May 2020, two sisters, 16 and 18, were shot dead in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Their father and brother were arrested in connection with the crime after a mobile phone video of them with a man surfaced online. The man who shot the video was also arrested, but a relative suspected of carrying out the killing was still at large, local district police officer Shafiullah Gandapur said. [Source: Zofeen T. Ebrahim, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Reuters, May 19, 2020]
“Police have come under mounting pressure to investigate these crimes. “Our intentions are sincere. We first heard about the incident through social media and decided to confirm it," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from North Waziristan. “We reached the crime scene and found traces of blood as well as a blood-stained fabric. We arrested the brother and father of the two girls who were murdered and today successfully arrested Umar Ayaz, who made the video."
Gulalai Ismail, a Pakistani women's rights activist exiled in the United States, said the swift action by police in filing a case the day after the murders was a "win for tribal women" in the province area. “In such crimes time is of essence," she said. "And if this is delayed, like seven such murders that happened earlier this month, the incident is swiftly swept under the carpet, with many passed off as suicide or natural deaths." Human rights experts say enforcement of justice is often lax in cases involving violence against women, with proceedings at times being drawn out while accused killers were freed on bail and cases faded away.
“That is particularly true in remote, socially conservative areas like North Waziristan, where women enjoy little freedom and local customs often hold greater sway than federal laws. “Before 2018, this kind of murder was not considered a crime in the tribal area, neither was it reported," she said. Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal areas only came under full federal jurisdiction in 2018. Ismail said a tribal leader had urged locals to punish the teenagers featured in the video after it emerged online. “In the tribal code of conduct, this punishment for such acts is always murder," she said. The whereabouts of a third girl who also appeared in the video are unknown, Ismail said, adding: "She needs protection too."
Pakistani Kills 4 Daughters after the Eldest Marries for Love
In December 2005, Associated Press reported. a father, angry that his eldest daughter married for love, slit her throat as she slept and then killed three other daughters in a remote village in eastern Pakistan, police said Nazir Ahmad, a laborer in his 40s, feared that the younger girls, ages 4 to 12, would follow in their sister’s footsteps, officer Shahzad Gul said. [Source: Associated Press, December 25, 2005]
“Ahmad surrendered to police after the killings in Burewala, about 70 miles east of Multan, a main city in eastern Punjab province, Gul said. “He told us today that he has killed his daughters, and we arrested him,” he said. Gul said Ahmad’s eldest daughter, Muqadas Bibi, 25, had married the man of her choice against her father’s wishes weeks earlier.
“Ahmad contacted Bibi only this week, saying he was ready to forgive her, Gul said. But when Bibi visited her parents’ house, Ahmad slit her throat as she slept and then killed the other three girls, Gul said, adding that police were investigating whether anyone helped in the killings. Gul said police were also looking for Bibi’s husband.”
Saba Qaiser: “A Girl in the River”
Saba Qaiser was the subject of “A Girl in the River,” awarded the Oscar for best short subject documentary in 2016. The film is about the 19-year-old’s survival after an attempted “honor killing”. Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times: “Her odyssey began when she fell in love against her family’s wishes and ran off to marry her boyfriend. Hours after the marriage, her father and uncle sweet-talked her into their car and took her to a spot along a riverbank to murder her for her defiance — an “honor killing.” [Source: Nicholas Kristof, New York Times , January 30, 2016]
“First they beat Saba, then her uncle held her as her own father pointed a pistol at her head and pulled the trigger. Blood spewed, Saba collapsed and her father and uncle packed her body into a large sack and threw it into the river to sink. They then drove away, thinking they had restored the family’s good name.Incredibly, Saba was unconscious but alive. She had jerked her head as the gun went off, and the bullet tore through the left side of her face but didn’t kill her. The river water revived her, and she clawed her way out of the sack and crawled onto land. She staggered toward a gasoline station, and someone called for help.
“The police arrested Saba’s father, Maqsood, and the uncle, Muhammad, and their defense was that they did the right thing. “She took away our honor,” Maqsood said from his jail cell. “If you put one drop of piss in a gallon of milk, the whole thing gets destroyed. That’s what she has done. … So I said, ‘No, I will kill you myself.’” Maqsood said that after shooting Saba he went home and told his wife, “I have gone and killed your daughter.” He added: “My wife cried. What else could she do? I am her husband. She is just my wife.”
“Tremendous pressure was applied to Saba by community elders to pardon her father and uncle. In the end, her husband’s older brother — the head of her new family — told her to forgive and move on. “There is no other way,” he said. “We have to live in the same neighborhood.” Saba complied, and her father and uncle were released from prison. “After this incident, everyone says I am more respected,” her father boasted. “I can proudly say that for generations to come none of my descendants will ever think of doing what Saba did.” The families still live near each other, although the father insists he will not try again to kill Saba.”
Honor Killing of 18-Year-Old in Lahore Who Married Her Childhood Friend
Reporting from Lahore, Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: “ Pakistan — Parveen Rafiq closed her hands around the neck of her youngest daughter, Zeenat, and squeezed and squeezed until the girl was almost dead. Then, in the tiny apartment where the family lived, she doused the 18-year-old with kerosene and set her on fire. Neighbors saw the smoke and rushed to the home. Someone inside, apparently one of Rafiq’s daughters-in-law, was screaming, “Help her! Help!” But the door was bolted from within. Moments later, they heard Rafiq scream from her rooftop: “I have killed my daughter. I have saved my honor. She will never shame me again.” [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, July 4, 2016]
“Zeenat’s crime was marrying a childhood friend she loved, defying her widowed mother’s pressure for an arranged marriage and, in the mind of her mother and many of her neighbors, tarnishing her family’s honor. Zeenat was her last chance to save her honor. She planned an arranged marriage for Zeenat with a member of their own social caste, the Rajput, which traces its origin to the Indian subcontinent and is said to be descended from kings.
“For months, neighbors said, Zeenat’s mother had complained about her two elder daughters, who had married men of their own choice. But Zeenat had her heart set on a young motorcycle mechanic named Hassan Khan. They had met when she was 12 and he was 14 and quickly became playmates. They lived about two blocks apart in Changi Amar Sadhu, a crowded Lahore shantytown where electrical wires and phone lines crisscross overhead in a crazy jumble that obscures the sky. As they grew older, friendship became romance. “We were in love,” Khan said, his voice barely a whisper.
He fumbled through his phone until he found a collection of selfies that Zeenat had put together to the rhythm of their favorite song, an Urdu pop tune called “You Made Me Your Lover.” She loved taking selfies, loved music and poetry, he said. As the music played, Zeenat in the photos struck different poses, sometimes coy, sometimes playful or teasing, but always smiling, her long black hair falling loosely past her shoulders.
She also taught the neighborhood children the Quran, Islam’s holy book. She could recite the entire book from memory. Her mother knew about Khan, and she and Zeenat were constantly fighting. Zeenat told him her mother beat her. Over long hours on the phone, Zeenat pleaded with him to marry her so she wouldn’t be forced into an arrangement. Rafiq and one of her sons suspected of helping her in the killing are now in police custody. And they may actually face punishment.
Marriage and Romance That Set Off Honor Killing in Lahore
Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: “Finally they sneaked off and registered their marriage at the local courthouse and Zeenat moved into Khan’s home. They had defied her mother. They were together. A few days after Zeenat and Khan were married, her mother and uncle showed up. They pleaded with her to come home. Just for a few days, they said. During that time, they would arrange a proper wedding for her and Khan. That would save their honor, showing neighbors she left “respectably” from her mother’s home, instead of eloping. [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, July 4, 2016]
“As is tradition, Khan’s elders did the negotiating, and eventually they agreed that Zeenat would go with her mother. Zeenat’s uncle gave his promise she would be safe. Zeenat and Khan spoke every day. The first three days were qood, Khan said. It seemed her mother had accepted their marriage. But on the fourth day, Zeenat called him and said, “The mood has changed.” Her mother was yelling at her threateningly. She was scared. “I told her to not worry. It was just two more days and she would be back home with me.”
“The next morning, she was dead. Khan saw his wife for the last time in the morgue. They had been married for less than two weeks. In the two-story concrete home he shared with Zeenat in their brief, doomed marriage, Khan cradled the few keepsakes of hers that he possessed: her slippers, new clothes, a bright red cup emblazoned with the word “love.”
On a white tissue paper, she had written a poem, part in English, part in Urdu.
“I love you. I kiss you
I love you. I miss you
I take your name with every breath
I see you in every dream
I want to see you all the time”
Carefully, Khan refolded the fragile tissue and returned it to his wallet. Finally, he spoke. I want her hanged,” he said of Zeenat’s mother. “She has to be punished. This is the only way this will stop.” When I saw her, 100 thoughts were in my head. But my first thought was that I will kill myself. Then I thought, I will kill her family,” he said. “But now I have decided I will fight the legal battle. I will not find peace until I get punishment.”
Community Sentiments About an Honor Killing
In regard to the honor killing of Zeenat descri Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: “The neighborhood women outside Rafiq’s home all agreed that she was driven to kill Zeenat, and she should go free. Daughters are duty-bound to maintain the honor of the family,” said Muneeba Bibi, her head and most of her body hidden under a white shawl. “It’s better to have no children than to have a daughter who brings you shame.” [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, July 4, 2016]
Bibi said she has daughters of her own and that, as far as she was concerned, education was ruining girls today. “The problems are all because the girls go to school. They see boys, they fall in love,” she said. “I will not send my girls to school. That is the only answer.” Of Zeenat’s killing, she added, “This is a good lesson for all the girls here to protect the family honor, to not bring disrespect.”
The little girls playing in the alleys knew all about Zeenat’s death. Some had heard her mother’s cry from the rooftop that morning. But they weren’t sure why. All they knew was she had done something very bad. When asked if they might fall in love with a boy, they broke out into giggles. The eldest of them, 11-year-old Sameera, seemed to have some idea but was too shy to say. When asked why Zeenat was killed, she looked down and was silent. “She was strangled and then they burned her,” said Sameera, who wore a white shawl covering her head. “When I think about it I get scared.”
Honor Killing in Pakistan for Marrying a Christian
Reporting from Lahore, Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: Mubeen Rajhu told his coworkers “he had bought a pistol, and one day in August he stopped coming to work. Rajhu discovered that his sister Tasleem had defied the family and married the Christian. For six days he paced. His rage grew. How could she? He watched her laughing on the phone, ignoring their mother’s pleas to leave the man. On the seventh day, he retrieved the pistol from where he had hidden it and walked up to his sister and with one bullet to the head, he killed her.” [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, October 3, 2016]
Rajhu, who thinks he’s 24 but isn’t sure, occasionally wavers when he tells his story, revealing a hint of remorse. It is brief, however; only when he speaks of her as a child is his voice soft and his gaze somewhere in the distance. He helped raise her, he says, fleetingly seeming to wonder at how things had gotten so out of control.” One the day she was killed, “ Tasleem said she was going to buy medicine, and his younger brother was sent with her. They were gone a long time. The next day Rajhu grilled his younger brother, beating him until he confessed that Tasleem had married and he had been a witness. “He was right there in court when they married,” he says, as if he still can’t believe it.
Tasleem returned to her parents’ home because she wanted them to accept her new husband, Rajhu says. For one week she stayed, talking every day to her husband, planning their reunion. Rajhu remembered the taunting. His anger grew. “I could not let it go. It was all I could think about. I had to kill her,” he says. “There was no choice.” On August 14, Rajhu got his gun. Tasleem was sitting with her mother and her sister on the cracked concrete floor of their family kitchen. “There was no yelling, no shouting,” he says. “I just shot her dead.”
“The man Tasleem married, Jehangir, fled the night she was killed. The gate to his home, barely a block from Tasleem’s, is padlocked. But the fallout from his love for Tasleem has engulfed the members of the small Christian community living in the area. Just weeks after the killing, gunmen fired shots into their homes. No one was hurt, but no one has slept well since. In this majority Muslim country, Christians in recent years have come under increasing attack by militants. “We have been scared since the killing took place,” says a neighbor, Shahzia Masih, sitting in a small room decorated with pictures of Jesus and Mary. “There are just a few houses of Christians here, but we have nowhere else to go.”
Mentality of Brother Honor Killing His Sister in Pakistan
Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: For many who have been fighting honor killing, “it is the mindset of the boy who could kill his sister, or the parent who could kill a daughter, that has to be understood and changed. Rajhu says he loved his sister, a quiet young woman who had never before rebelled against her family.
For two months, over the thunder of machines at the steel mill, the men taunted Mubeen Rajhu about his sister. Even now, they laugh at how easy it was to make him lose his temper. Some people had seen Tasleem in their Lahore slum with a Christian man. She was 18, a good Muslim girl, out in public with a man. Even though the man had converted to Islam out of love for her, this couldn’t be allowed. “Some guys got to know that his sister was having a relationship,” says Ali Raza, a co-worker at the mill. “They would say: ‘Can’t you do anything? What is the matter with you? You are not a man.’” [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, October 3, 2016]
Raza can barely contain a smile as he talks about the hours spent needling Rajhu. “He used to tell us, ‘If you don’t stop, I will kill myself. Stop!’” Raza says. He raises his voice to compete with the sounds of the coal-powered mill, and workers blackened by its dust gather to listen. They too smile. A few laugh at the memory of Rajhu’s outbursts. “The guys here told him, ‘It would be better to kill your sister. It is better than letting her have this relationship,’” Raza says.”
Rajhu “fidgets as he remembers the taunts. Then his eyes harden and his voice becomes steely. His anger grows as he talks about the day his sister married the Christian. It was the same day their grandmother died.” Rajhu said he had given Tasleem “a chance, he says; he demanded that she swear on Islam’s holy book, the Quran, that she would never marry the man. Frightened, she swore she wouldn’t. “I told her I would have no face to show at the mill, to show to my neighbors, so don’t do it. Don’t do it. But she wouldn’t listen,” he says.
Community Feelings About an Honor Killing for Marrying a Christian
Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: At the entrance gate to his brick shack, the siblings’ father, Mohammed Naseer Rajhu, peeks out, reluctant to admit visitors into his cramped home. In the kitchen, Tasleem’s blood still stains the rough wall. He is adamant that his image not be taken either on video or in a photograph in keeping with his interpretation of Islam, which some say forbids human images. He says that is the reason the family has no photos of Tasleem, whom neighbors call a beauty. The only image of Tasleem, her thick black hair falling carelessly over her face, was taken by police after her death. “Never can you show my face. My son killed my daughter to save his face, to not have anyone see his sister’s face, and now you are asking me to do the same thing,” he says. [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, October 3, 2016]
“He agrees for a brief few minutes to speak with his head turned away from the camera until even that is too much. His outrage grows — all of it directed at his daughter. He is angry that his son killed his sister for two reasons only: the young man is in jail and no longer earning nearly US$200 a month, and his family, spread throughout Pakistan, will soon learn of Tasleem’s indiscretions. “My family is destroyed,” he says, his voice rising. “Everything is destroyed only because of this shameful girl. Even after death I am destroyed because of her.”
“The elder Rajhu weaves a tale of Tasleem’s deceit and deception. He says they discovered she had two mobile phones, swearing he knew nothing of them until after her death, when they also found sleeping pills. He accuses Tasleem of drugging the family, putting powdered sleeping pills in their tea so she could sneak off at night to meet Jehangir. His tale of conspiracy rings hollow. He is unable to explain how she could be so surreptitious in a home without doors and only a curtain concealing a small bathroom. He sees his family as victims of Tasleem’s deception.
“Later, sitting on the broken steps of his neighbor’s home, he nods firmly as his neighbors heap praise on the boy who killed his sister. “I am proud of this man that he has done the right thing, to kill her,” says one of them, a man with a scraggly beard named Babar Ali. “We cannot allow anyone to marry outside our religion. He did the right thing.”
“After his son killed Tasleem, the elder Rajhu went to the police and filed a complaint. In Pakistan, parents often do so not to see the killer punished, but to lay the legal groundwork so they can forgive the culprit — a legal loophole that activists are fighting. He wouldn’t explicitly say he forgives his son, but it is clear that he thinks the young man had every right to kill his sister. Not everyone agrees — women in particular. Down the dirt street, Fauzia Javed runs a hole-in-the wall shop selling penny candy and biscuits. She knows too well the double standards of her society. “Why did she have to die?” she asks. “My husband is having an affair and he left me with four kids to support and no one is killing him. Why?”
Couples Targeted in Pakistani Honor Killings
In June, 2014, a couple was killed in knife attack in an eastern Punjab village by the woman’s family for getting married with out their permission. Associated Press reported: “17-year-old Muafia Bibi and her husband Sajjad Ahmed, 30, were killed in Satrah village allegedly by her parents, two uncles and her grandfather, said Asghar Ali, the area police chief. “He said the couple were hacked to death with a butcher's knife, and that all five suspects have been apprehended. Ali said the pair married” earlier “and that the family had lured them back home by saying it accepted the marriage. He said it was Ahmed's third marriage, with the first ending in divorce and his second wife leaving him after he married Bibi.” [Source: Associated Press, Islamabad, June 29, 2014]
Reporting from Karachi, Aftab Borka of Reuters wrote: “Pervez Chachar and his young wife live in a makeshift room in the police headquarters in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Their crime? They fell in love and married without their families’ permission. The newlyweds dare not venture out of the police station as they fear their families will hunt them down and kill them. “I know they will kill her and I have to protect her,” Chachar said of his wife’s family who are enraged that the young woman chose to marry a man from a rival tribe. In traditional rural society in Pakistan, getting married without permission is deemed such a serious slight to the “honor” of a family or a tribe that death is seen as fitting retribution. Shortly after Chachar married Humera Kambo a year ago, the couple fled to Karachi from their home in Sindh province. Humera has been abducted by her family and Chachar has been beaten by them. [Source: Aftab Borka, Reuters, January 23, 2009]
“Still defiant, they fear death if they stray too far from the cramped room next to the police canteen which they share with another young couple in the same position. They have been there for four months and they don’t know when they can safely leave. Under Pakistani customs still followed in much of the countryside, a man or woman can be declared an outcast for having sexual relations outside marriage, or choosing their own spouse.
Male Victim of Honor Crime
Associated Press reported from Multan: “Outraged in-laws slashed the nose and ears of a college student who married a woman without the consent of her higher caste family, and then fractured his legs with blows from an ax, police and the victim said. Mohammed Iqbal told The Associated Press about 30 male relatives of his wife stormed into his mother's village home during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, demanding vengeance for the "dishonor" the marriage had brought to their family. [Source: Associated Press, January 4, 2007]
“Iqbal, 22, speaking from his hospital bed, said the attackers chanted, "You have mixed our honor with dirt," as they assaulted him with a dagger and ax. They also slit his brother's ears and shot his mother in the thigh, he said. Police officer Manzoor Ahmed in the city of Multan, where the three victims are recuperating, said seven men suspected of involvement in the attack in the village of Inayatpur Mahota have been arrested. Police were hunting for 22 other suspects.
“Iqbal's wife, Shahnaz Bibi, 19, was not at home at the time of the attack. She has been living in another town following a similar assault against Iqbal two months ago at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in which he suffered broken fingers. Iqbal, whose nose and ears are now severely scarred with surgical stitching, said he and Bibi did nothing wrong when they wed last year. “We married in court with our consent. We like each other. Islam gives us permission to marry out of our own choice," he said.
“He said they fell in love after they met in a mango orchard. Iqbal used to buy fruit from Bibi's father to sell for profit. Bibi's family, considered to be a higher caste clan of land owners, was against the union. Days after the wedding, Iqbal said police arrested him following allegations by his wife's family that he had abducted her. He was freed after his wife gave a statement in a court that she married him of her own free will. The couple have a 3-month old daughter, Shaista.
Why Honor Killings Are Increasing
Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: “Some human rights and women’s rights activists believe honor killings have been inching up and showing greater brutality as the older generation tries to dig in against creeping change. Over the years, more women have been going to school and working outside the home, even among lower and lower middle class, and use of social media has helped women raise their voices. [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, July 4, 2016]
“The old order of misogyny and extremism is falling apart, is really crumbling,” says Marvi Sermid, a political commentator and women’s rights activist. Conservative Muslim clerics are furious over the creeping change and are fighting back with regressive changes targeting women, she said.
The changes are a serious challenge to the status quo in Pakistan, where centuries of tradition and culture have tied the idea of a woman as a pristine and untouched commodity to a family’s honor. Deeply conservative traditions have been further strengthened by decades of governments and military dictators who have often curried the support of religious hard-liners with legislation enshrining the old ways.
“But more than 70 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are under 30, and among the younger, more tech-savvy generation, some are vocally challenging the traditions of their elders to an unprecedented degree. Salman Akram Raja, a lawyer, said the young are pushing traditional boundaries even if the state is lagging behind and even if the conservative old guard is lashing back. “I don’t think this archaic order will win,” Raja said. “But it is going to go down violently.”
Honor Killing Incidents Abroad Involving Pakistanis
In Britain, Pakistani women who married non-Pakistanis often have had to go into hiding to escape their own brother and fathers who threatened to murder them. Women who have gone against their family's wishes have been kidnapped, tracked own by bounty hunters, beaten and even had acid thrown in their faces. In the British town of Bradford, one girl was run over and killed on a sidewalk by her brother-in-law.
In December 2007, a 16-year-old Pakistan-Canadian was strangled by her father, who immediately called police afterwards and confessed, because she rebelled against her family's conservative ways and did things like refuse to wear the hijab. In Britain, 20-year-old Banaz Mahmod was strangled with a bootlace, stuffed into suitcase and buried in a backyard on the orders of her father for falling in love with the wrong man. The father, Mahmod Mahmod, and his brother, planned the murder during a family meeting. He was found guilty of murder in a U.K. court.
Parents Jailed for Life in the U.K. for her Honor Killing Their Daughter
In August 2012, the parents of Shafilea Ahmed, an A-Level student whose body was found on a river bank in 2004, were found guilty of murdering her. A judge said the Pakistani couple murdered their Westernized daughter because they were more concerned about shame in their community than about their children. [Source: Nigel Bunyan and Martin Evans, The Telegraph, August 3, 2012]
Nigel Bunyan and Martin Evans wrote in The Telegraph: “Iftikar and Farzana Ahmed, strict Muslims who are first cousins from the same village in Pakistan, were jailed for life after being found guilty of the 2003 honor killing of their “determined” and “ambitious” daughter Shafilea. They were told they would serve at least 25 years. They suffocated the 17 year-old in front of their four other children at their home in Warrington, Cheshire after she rejected a forced marriage in Pakistan. The couple escaped justice for almost nine years, accusing officers of victimization and stereotyping for suspecting them after her body was found months later in a river in Cumbria. [Source: Nigel Bunyan, and Martin Evans, The Telegraph, August 3, 2012]
Detectives made a breakthrough in 2010, when Shafilea’s younger sister admitted having seen her mother and father kill their daughter. Mr Justice Roderick Evans, at Chester Crown Court, told her parents: “Although you lived in Warrington, your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistan and it was those you imposed upon your children. “She [Shafilea] was being squeezed between two cultures, the culture and way of life that she saw around her and wanted to embrace, and the culture and way of life you wanted to impose upon her … an expectation that she live in a sealed cultural environment separate from the culture of the country in which she lived was unrealistic, destructive and cruel.” He added: “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than your love of your child.”
“Shafilea, who was born in Bradford and dreamed of being a lawyer, was always aware that her parents wanted an arranged marriage for her in Pakistan. Her father imposed his strict code despite having previously been married to a Danish woman, with whom he had a child and enjoyed drinking and discos. She left him after he married Farzana who was already pregnant. In her teens Shafilea regularly clashed with her parents over clothing, money and especially boyfriends. In 2003, after she had run away, they drugged her and put her on a flight to Pakistan, to be married to a man ten years older. But while staying with her grandparents in rural Punjab, she deliberately swallowed bleach. Her throat was so badly damaged that she had to return home, preventing the marriage.
Back in Warrington Shafilea was regularly locked in her room, starved and beaten. On September 11 2003, Farzana picked her daughter up from her job. Seeing Shafilea in what she considered indecent clothes, she accused the girl of bringing shame on the family. At home, she pinned Shafilea down and told her husband in Punjabi: “Just finish it here.” The other children saw them force a plastic bag into her mouth and choke her to death. The couple were arrested in December 2003, but when detectives held a public appeal for information, the Ahmeds gatecrashed and protested their innocence.
“Finally, in August 2010, police arrested Shafilea’s younger sister Alesha on suspicion of organising a robbery at the family home. Alesha, who is now 21, told officers that she had seen her mother and father kill Shafilea. During the trial the couple, with the support of three of their children, maintained their innocence. But after eight weeks, Farzana changed her story, claiming her husband had been behind the attack and she had supported him out of fear. Shafilea’s brother Junyad remained loyal to his parents. The judge said: “I have no doubt that, as the result of the distorted upbringing and values to which you subjected him, he told his surviving sisters within minutes of them seeing Shafilea murdered by you that Shafilea deserved it.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (tourism.gov.pk), Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (pakistan.gov.pk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated February 2022