‘Honour’ and ‘Killing’ – two words that don’t belong together
August 4, 2012 2 Comments
In 2003 following years of systematic physical and mental abuse, some of which was known to school teachers and social services, 17 year old Shafilea Ahmed was murdered by her own parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed. Following nine years of investigation and a decisive statement from Shafilea’s sister Alesha Ahmed who witnessed the murder, both Iftikhar and Farzana were this week found guilty at Cheshire Crown Court and each sentenced to a minimum 25 year life sentence.
What however had Shafilea done to deserve such fate?
The answer is simply nothing. Having been forced by her parents to travel to Pakistan, Shafilea merely refused to submit to a forced arranged marriage as was her inalienable right, both by law and within the prevailing faith of her family. However by doing so, and in her parents eyes, she apparently brought dishonour upon her family to such an extent that for her parents it seems, the only way to restore their family honour was to sacrifice Shafilea in what is often referred to as an ‘honour killing‘.
This they carried out by evidently suffocating Shafilea with a plastic bag in front of her siblings, bundling her lifeless body out of the family home in a blanket, dismembering her, and then dumping her remains in a Cumbrian river. Shafilea was then found badly decomposed 5 months later, and was identifiable only from her dental records.
However, so righteous was their seemingly restored ‘honour’, that for nine years following their murder, Iftikhar and Farzana sought to conceal the truth of their actions. They compelled their remaining children who witnessed the murder to lie for them. They sought to discredit the findings of an inquest that returned a verdict of unlawful killing. They lied and denied their crimes to the police and in court.
In short, right down the line they attempted to pervert the course of justice.
The simple fact is that Shafilea did nothing to deserve this fate. No one deserves such fate. If Shafilea was guilty of anything, it was of attempting to live a normal life with all the rights, privileges, freedoms, happiness and complete lack of guilt in doing so that life in our modern society should convey. She was by all accounts a bright, promising young woman; a poet who tragically found inspiration in the torment visited upon her by her parents; a student with an ambition to train as a lawyer, an ambition which should have led to a bright future, but which tragically will no longer be realised.
In everything Shafilea was denied and abused by her parents throughout her short life.
Were these the actions of honourable people? Not by a long shot, no; these were the actions of deeply dishonourable, reprehensible individuals who knew at the time that what they were doing was terribly wrong, evidenced by their long attempt to evade justice.
Truly honourable parents and families would seek to support, guide and encourage their children through life.
Truly honourable parents would have been deeply proud of Shafilea in her ambitions and achievements.
Truly honourable parents Iftikhar and Farzana however are not. Having destroyed the life of their daughter, and likely seriously damaged those of their remaining children, Iftikhar and Farzana are devoid of anything even remotely resembling honour.
The words ‘Honour’ and ‘Killing’ are in my mind two words that should rarely inhabit the same sentence, and certainly should never exist side by side. Murder is not honourable under any circumstances, that is an absolute, and even more so when it comes to a disgusting act of filicide as this was.
Geraint Jones the detective superintendent who led the investigation into Shafilea’s murder over the last decade has said: “Over the years, many people have asked me ‘is this a so-called honour killing?’”
His answer: “For me, it’s a simple case of murder“.
I have to agree, a deeply tragic case, one which could have and should have been prevented.