Parents of Shafilea Ahmed jailed for her Honour Killing

In 2003 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed (pictured here) went missing from her home in Warrington, then six months later her body was found in the River Kent in Cumbria.

Today her parents, Iftikhar, 52, and Farzana Ahmed, 49, have been declared guilty by the jury at Chester Crown Court. Mr Justice Roderick Evans said they would both serve a minimum of 25 years. The BBC reports

The judge told them: “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child.”

The couple suffocated Shafilea with a plastic bag after years of abuse.

After the trial. Det Supt Geraint Jones described the killing as a “vile and disgraceful act against someone they should have been very proud of”.

He added: “For me this is not an ‘honour killing’, it’s a clear case of murder.” …

The prosecution claimed she was murdered by her parents because they believed she brought shame on the family.

Why has it taken so long? Well the police were sure the parents had done it, in fact so sure they had bugged the family home in an attempt to gather evidence, however …

The breakthrough came when Shafilea’s younger sister, Alesha Ahmed, was arrested in connection with an armed robbery at the family home in August 2010.

It was in a police interview that she said she had seen her parents kill her sister seven years earlier.

During the trial, she told the court her parents pushed Shafilea on to the settee in their house and she heard her mother say “just finish it here”.

She said the parents then forced a plastic bag into the teenager’s mouth and killed her in front of their other children.

Taxi driver Mr Ahmed had claimed Shafilea ran away from home in the middle of the night and he never saw her again.

Mrs Ahmed had denied claims that they had attacked Shafilea, but during the three-month trial she changed her account, claiming she saw her husband beat their daughter on the night of the murder.

She also claimed he had threatened to do the same to her and their other children if she ever asked him what happened to Shafilea.

There is one key question in my mind …. in fact one word … “why?”. What does it take to so pervert the thinking of a parent that they are motivated to murder their own child?

The background here is that her parents were pressing her into an arranged marriage with a far older man in Pakistan and she rebelled and refused. It is a typical example of an honour killing. So how common is this? Sadly it is far from unique, some estimate that as many as 20,000 woman are murdered like this each year.

But once again … why?

It is a religious thing? Some would argue that followers of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity have all used their religions as a rationale to commit honour killings, and so claim that no specific belief system has been the cause, but that it is instead just an appropriate means to justify what has happened. They may also (correctly) point out that the practice of honour killing pre-dates most modern belief systems, so we should not identify such beliefs as a cause.

OK, let us make a key observation. It is all rooted in a mindset that views women as property with no rights of their own, or as a commodity which can be exchanged, bought and sold. While in the west our culture has risen above such thinking, well OK, we are still on that journey, but we are getting there, Islamic culture is still tragically stuck in the 7th century. To illustrate that point, the Islamist party in Jordan has argued that honor killings are one part of the Islamic code. This perhaps clearly explains why the concept of honour killing appears to be mostly taking place within Islamic cultures. They might not have a complete monopoly on this abhorrent and truly vile mindset, but they do dominate the practise.

The only truly viable long-term solution is cultural reform; belief systems that advocate that woman are inferior and almost akin to chattel need to be given a continuous and very vocal criticism of the irrational beliefs that serve as an incubator for this cultural madness.

People should of course be free to believe whatever they wish, but that does not imply we have to remain silent or be tolerant of crazy beliefs. Being quiet is to permit this madness to continue.

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