|'Honour'-Killing In The UK|
|[Dawn] DESPITE the blanket coverage the London Olympics has been receiving, the British media devoted considerable time and space to the tragic story of Shafilea Ahmed. When the 17-year old girl's parents were sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder nine years ago, there was a degree of satisfaction that the killers had finally been brought to justice.|
Over the years, there has been much soul-searching over the entirely alien concept of 'honour-killing' brought here by certain groups of migrants. Although political correctness still blocks a full and open debate, a few high profile cases have forced this barbaric practice out into the open.
The police in the UK are now more receptive to calls for help, and more cases of 'honour'-related violence are being prosecuted. Last year, 234 cases were taken to court, and half of them resulted in a 'guilty' verdict. In this period, all 39 police forces in the country reported nearly 3,000 cases. Clearly, these numbers do not represent the full extent of these vicious crimes as many children remain silent in the face of abuse from parents and other older relatives.
Sara Khan, the director of Inspire, a women's organization, writes in the Guardian:
"Over the past two decades I have heard countless stories from women who were ostracised by their communities and let down by the agencies who should have helped them. One young woman, Laila, had been emotionally blackmailed into a marriage at the age of 18. Forced to live with her in-laws in a house with seven others, she spent her life cooking and cleaning. They didn't even allow her access to the toilet and she was forced to use a jug in her bedroom, even during labour. 'I was treated like a slave to the rest of the family', she told me..."
While sentencing Shafilea's parents, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, the judge said: "Although you lived in Warrington, your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistain and it was those you imposed on your children."
Unfortunately, these attitudes are not just rural. Time after time, supposedly educated Pak parents living in cities have reacted in exactly the same way the Ahmeds did. Just because a daughter refuses to marry whoever they have picked for her, she is bullied, brutalised and often killed. Just the other day, a man shot his own sister dead in a Hyderabad court because she dared make her own choice about who she married.
Mercifully, forced marriage is now a crime in the UK. But domestic abuse and violence continue as migrant communities insist on trying to impose backward social customs on children born and brought up in . They forget that unlike the countries they migrated from, children have rights here.
Even liberal Britons have a hard time understanding the psychology behind 'honour' killing: parents would simply not dream of interfering with their children's choice of life partners. Thus, they cannot comprehend how a couple like the Ahmeds could bring themselves to murder their 17-year old daughter simply because she refused to agree to marry a man they had chosen for her. She was also too Westernised for her parents.
One friend hesitantly opened a discussion about the case by saying although she was naturally appalled by the killing, she could understand that the parents were motivated by their religious beliefs. I immediately told her there was no compulsion about marriage in Islam. Sadly, many societies, being violent and paternalistic, condone the whole wretched concept of "honour" killing. In fact, how can there be any honour in killing for wanting to share their lives with men they care for?
According to Anup Manota, a for Karma Nirvana, a charity set up to help victims of so-called honour-related domestic violence and abuse, around half the calls they receive are from s. Out of the 550 calls they get on average every month, around 70 per cent are from people of South Asian origin, while the rest are from migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
The charity was established by Jasvinder Sanghera, and has a helpline where victims of abuse can call. Karma Nirvana then contacts social service staff, or if somebody is in danger, the police. Ms Sanghera's own sister was forced into a marriage in which she suffered terrible violence. To escape, she took her own life. For further information about the organization, the website is: www.karmanirvana.org.uk
The man who brought the Shafilea Ahmed case to a successful conclusion is Nazir Afzal, the chief prosecutor who also pursued the Rochdale sex exploitation ring, and obtained a conviction. Readers will recall that in this unsavoury case, a gang of s of mostly Pak origin were convicted of raping and sexually exploiting girls as young as 13.
Both cases have sent a wave of revulsion and anger across . All decent Paks living in the UK have been deeply embarrassed. Violence against women is so widespread in Pakistain that some migrants from our part of the world assume they can go unpunished for similar crimes here. Thankfully, officialdom is finally discarding its attitude of allowing migrants to do whatever they liked within their own families on the grounds of political correctness.
A recent Guardian editorial on the Shaifilea Ahmed tragedy had it just right:
"The police wisely refused to call Shafilea's murder an 'honour' killing. There can be no exonerating circumstance, no licence granted to those who claim cultural protection for brutality. Domestic violence and child sex abuse (a reference to the Rochdale case) happen across cultures and ethnicities. But that only makes it all the more important that those charged with spotting it, supporting its victims and tackling its perpetrators, have the ability to understand what they are seeing and how to respond to it, wherever it is found."
At least they have identified the problem in the UK, and are moving to minimise its impact on families. In Pakistain, the authorities refuse to acknowledge that a problem even exists.
|'Honour' and impunity|
|[Dawn] LONDON'S spectacular Olympic opening ceremony showed a nation at ease with itself. It mixed England's green and pleasant land with the grime of the Industrial Revolution before transforming into a modern portrait of a country where everyone has a contribution to make.|
A hint of bhangra, a heavy dose of rap and a scene showing West Indian immigrants arriving on the Windrush emphasised the UK's multicultural present.
One week later, and a different truth about emerged -- one that has led to a round of deep soul-searching about the country's real identity and how to protect vulnerable youngsters.
Last Friday the parents of 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed were sentenced to 25 years in prison for her murder.
It was a sickening crime. Shafilea's brother and three sisters watched as their mother and father first strangled her, then stuffed
a plastic bag in her mouth. Her body was dumped in a river, to be discovered months later in 2004.
The judge at Chester Crown Court in the northwest of England, Justice Roderick Evans, was in no doubt about the motive, having heard how Shafilea refused a forced marriage in Pakistain and that her mother attacked her after finding boys' numbers on her cellphone.
"Although you lived in Warrington, your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistain and it was those you imposed upon your children," he said. "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."
Coming so soon after the Rochdale sex grooming case, in which nine men -- eight of Pak origin -- were convicted of exploiting girls as young as 13, Shafilea's murder has put the British-Pak community in the spotlight.
Newspaper columns and blogs have been filled with difficult questions. Why was more not done to protect a young woman when teachers and friends knew she was suffering at home? Was Shafilea the victim of two unloving and desperately cruel parents or was she also killed by that clash of cultures described by the judge?
And ultimately, have we become too accommodating of foreign cultures that land in the UK with outdated ideas of a woman's place, too scared to sound the alarm for fear of accusations of racism and Islamaphobia?
These are difficult questions that many have shied away from asking in the past. For too long such questions of identity have remained the preserve of the hate-filled anti-immigration campaigners, looking for reasons to exclude foreigners, rather than those seeking an inclusive notion of what it means to be British.
Who knows what the answers are? The point is that the Shafilea's murder means these are questions that can no longer be ignored.
But what about here in Pakistain? This, after all, is where Shafilea was destined to be a reluctant bride before drinking a bottle of bleach during a visit months before she was murdered. Has such a high-profile death provoked a similar round of soul-searching?
Last year almost 1,000 women and girls were killed in so-called 'honour killings', murdered by brothers, husbands or fathers for supposedly bringing shame on their families, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistain.
There are plenty of recent examples.
In Hyderabad last week Raheela Sehto, 22, was by her brother, apparently because she had refused an arranged marriage in favour of a love match. As if that wasn't bad enough, the shooter was a lawyer and the crime happened in front of dozens of witnesses inside a courtroom.
And it is still unclear whether four women in were killed after being filmed clapping and singing with men at a wedding.
A team of visited and returned before admitting they couldn't be sure if all the women were still alive.Those are just the tip of the iceberg. Every week the newspapers are filled with stories of young women setting themselves alight, swallowing poison, throwing themselves down stairs or killed in kitchen accidents shortly after rows with family members. How many of those are investigated by the police? How often is the family's word simply taken at face value?
In Shafilea's case, her trip to Pakistain might have offered a chance to intervene, to stop her downward death spiral.
When a teenage girl was brought to a local clinic after drinking a bottle of bleach, why was no warning bell sounded? At the end of her treatment, doctors simply handed the medical records to the parents. There were no awkward questions about why a 16-year-old had tried to poison herself.
The truth is that girls like Shafilea don't matter much in the patriarchal society found across rural Pakistain, whether the towns along the GT road or the villages of upper Sindh. It is a land far from the smart salons of or the diplomatic circuit of Islamabad where women are only valued as potential brides and jirgas can sentence rape victims to death.
So just as Shafilea tells us something about modern , she also shines a light on a facet of Pakistain in 2012 that many would rather ignore: there is a brutal underbelly that desperately needs reform.
This is not about Islam or its values. It is about murders that aren't investigated, murderers who walk free and a terrifying culture of impunity.
|British Muslim Parents Get Life For Honour Killing|
|The girl was murdered by her Pak parents for her Western ways. And it was her little sister who bravely told jurors how her mother and father suffocated the 17-year-old with a plastic bag -- gripping testimony that led to her parents' murder conviction on Friday.|
Justice Roderick Evans sentenced Iftikhar, 52, and Farzana Ahmed, 49, to life in prison for killing their daughter, Shafilea Ahmed, in 2003. The couple -- first cousins from the Pak village of Uttam -- were ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison.
|Girl scared of forced marriage 'was strangled'|
|By Nick Britten|
A Muslim teenager who was killed and her body found dumped on a riverbank was terrified of being forced into an arranged marriage, an inquest has heard.
Shafilea Ahmed, 17, told friends she was subject to domestic abuse, that she had drunk bleach and self harmed as she became depressed about being forced to marry.
Police launched a murder investigation when her body was found five months after she disappeared in September 2003. Her parents were arrested on suspicion of kidnap but released without charge. The investigation remains open.
The inquest into her death was told yesterday that she ran away for a week with a non-muslim? boyfriend before a family trip to Pakistan in February 2003, when she was introduced to a potential husband.
The hearing was also told her death was the result of being smothered or strangled and it was "not credible" she died of natural causes.
Supt Geraint Jones, of Cheshire Police, said: "Various people tell us she's been running off because she's scared of being married. She made disclosures to professionals in school and friends that she's getting frightened of being forced into marriage."
He said officers arrested her parents after they received statements alleging Miss Ahmed suffered "domestic abuse" and was being forced into marriage.
He said it was suspicious that she went missing "at a time when she just started making contact again with friends" after going to Pakistan, drinking a caustic substance and self harming.
"My suspicion grew and grew and I was satisfied there were grounds to suspect there was involvement in her disappearance," he said. Supt Jones said the family made no attempt to contact Miss Ahmed on her mobile phone. Five months after she vanished, her body was found on a Cumbria riverbank.
Police launched a murder investigation and her parents, Iftikhar, 44, and Farzana, 41, were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping her but later released without charge.
The inquest was told that her body could have been dumped close to the River Kent at Sedgwick, near Kendal.
Witnesses said they noticed a smell from the area five months later before a workman found her corpse.
Dr Alison Armour said it was "not credible" that the teenager died of natural causes. However, she could not give a cause of death.
The skull and her internal organs were missing, some of her bones had been washed away and the upper part of her body was extremely decomposed, she said. She told the south Cumbria coroner, Ian Smith, that she was most likely smothered or strangled.
Mr Ahmed, a taxi driver, said his daughter was a "normal, bright child" who wanted to become a solicitor. She was no trouble as she grew up but "problems arose" when she began sixth form. He said he was surprised when Miss Ahmed, who lived in Warrington, Cheshire, with her parents, three sisters and brother, went missing.
As well as her parents, five relatives, believed to be from Bradford, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. They were released without charge.
The case continues.
|Five relatives arrested over UK honour killing|
|Police investigating the murder of Warrington teenager Shafilea Ahmed have arrested five of her relatives. The men and women of various ages were arrested in Bradford, West Yorkshire, on Tuesday morning on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. The 17-year-old's body was found in the Lake District in February. Detectives believe she may have been the victim of a so-called "honour killing" after she refused an arranged marriage. Her parents, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, were arrested in December on suspicion of kidnap before being eliminated from inquiries in June. |
...and were threatening to sue the police for wrongful arrest. I had a spat with Gentle over this case as I had the pleasure of assisting the police with their investigation. Gentle has been quiet post-Beslan hasn't he/she...