Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Getting Away with Murder

Farzana Parveen Iqbal was a 25 year old Pakistani woman who was excited about her pregnancy and becoming a mother.  Farzana had chosen to wed a 45 year old widower she had fallen in love with, instead of the cousin her family had selected for her to marry. 

Charges were brought against Farzana’s husband, Mohammad Iqbal, who was accused by her family of kidnapping her and forcing her into marriage.  Farzana was on her way to testify in court that she loved her husband and married him willingly. 

As the couple arrived at the Lahore, Pakistan, courthouse on Tuesday, May 27, a crowd gathered around to watch as the pregnant Farzana was stoned with bricks and clubbed to death by several of her male relatives, including her own father and brothers. She died of severe head injuries.

Mohammad Iqbal, right, husband of Farzana Parveen, 25, sits in an ambulance next to the body of his pregnant wife who was stoned to death by her own family in Lahore, Pakistan.(Photo: K.M. Chaudary, AP)

I’m glad I wasn’t born in a place like Pakistan, where an average of 1000 women are murdered every year at the hands of the men in their families defending their “family honor.”  What is even more appalling is the fact that these killings are tolerated and even dismissed by the courts and government of Pakistan.  If men are arrested and tried for these crimes, even if they are found guilty, punishments are often extremely light or non-existent. 

In fact, the way the Pakistani system is set up with regard to murder or accidental deaths, by law the victim’s family can forgive the killers.  This opens up the world of honor killings to abuse.  “The law allows (the family) to nominate someone to do the murder, then forgive him,” in essence allowing the murderers to get away with murder.  Honor killings usually specifically target women or homosexuals.  The broad and flimsy reasons given to justify honor killings range from imagined or real sexual encounters, rape victims, divorce even if the wife is being abused, refusing arranged marriages, to just merely appearing to enjoy oneself in public. 

A family member of the pregnant woman stoned to death by her family wails over her dead body in an ambulance in Lahore, Pakistan. AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

What kind of a father kills his own daughter because he feels insulted by her choice of husband?  What kind of father would rather kill his own daughter than see her happily married to a man of her own choosing?  Don’t we all, as parents, really only want our children to be happy?  What is wrong with a society that places “perceived family honor” over the happiness or freedom of a woman to live her own life and make her own choices?  

On a final note, Islam denounces honor killings.  It is a patriarchal and cultural practice with no base in religion. 



  1. As a Pakistani woman I am upset by the one sided nature of your article. I agree honour killings take place in Pakistan and condemn them totally.. But your entire post makes our that this is a predominantly Pakistani cultural practice. The UNs own figures state that countries such as Iraq, India and even Turkey have higher levels of honour killings! Why were none of those mentioned? Whilst this is a despicable thing wherever it takes place it is unfair to say the Pakistani women are the only ones that should be pittied. I am not sorry that I am a Pakistani woman.

    1. I would not wish to be born into any society that condones violence against women, not just Pakistan.

    2. Anonymous Pakistani woman, can you please post a link to your source, because all the stats I am coming across (from UN and other sources) contradict your claim. According to official figures, about a 1,000 women are murdered each year for "honor" related [imagined] crimes in Pakistan. India, also a 1,000. Turkey is at 200, and figures for Iraq are hard to come but estimates range from 200 to 300. Those are official figures, but most believe people, with good reason and evidence, that most such murders are unreported, are passed off as suicides, etc. The rule of thumb applies: For every crime reported of a particular type, another 5-10 go unreported.

      Most women murdered in such a fashion around the world are Muslim women, and among them, a majority are Pakistani women. That's a fact. Not only that, but Pakistanis, along with Arabs, Bangladeshis, Afghans, and Indians are also exporting this terrible cultural practice to Western countries. They go and settle there, and still honor-kill their daughters and wives there. Many cases have been reported in the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Sweden and Finland in the past few years.

      Perhaps more important than the numbers of those killed, which are high to begin with, is the percentage of the population that condones such killings. In a survey conducted across many countries, only about half of Pakistanis said they outright condemn honor killings. Which means the other half condemn only in some cases, or condone them, or worse, agree with them. In Afghanistan, only about 20 condemn such killings. These numbers are far more worrying than the actual murders. When half the population thinks it is ok or sometimes ok to murder female relatives, the country has a serious problem.

  2. I read that news story yesterday and too was appalled. To have it happen outside a courthouse where you'd expect a police presence and nothing was done to stop it. What kind of society would condone that?

    1. Hi Marcia - I will never be able to understand how a father could be so non-chalant about killing his own daughter because she chose her own spouse. This is not the way fathers are supposed to be. We are brought up to love our children unconditionally. I think that is a much better policy.

  3. Astaughfirullah..:(((

    I cant believe this is happening and use honour killing as an excuse? ??

    Are they human? I wonder how are they going to face each other in the hereafter in front of Allah..


    1. Hi Nur - The system that allows a huge loophole such as this allows men to get away with murdering their own flesh and blood in Pakistan and other countries that permit honor killings.

  4. This concept is not exclusive to the Pakistani culture. A family from Afghanistan emigrated to Canada a few years ago and the father & son admitted to killing his daughters & ex-wife by locking them in a car & pushing it into a lake. Nothing good will ever result from these kind of actions.

    Pharm.Tech. RDC '06

  5. Hi Susie, have you come across the twist in the story?

    The husband killed his first wife (not that long ago) because he fell in love with the other woman. He escaped punishment even though he was arrested because his sons convinced his murdered first wife's family to forgive him, and they did!

    And now, he is calling for justice and saying that those who killed his wife should be "killed with bricks" in the same manner that she was killed. Isn't that hypocritical?!!! If they should be "killed with bricks", he should be strangled to death as that's how he killed his first wife.

    And not to talk ill of the dead, but what kind of a woman marries a known wife-killer? And then develops a close healthy relationship with the man's sons, the very sons who persuaded the first wife's family to forgive their father for killing their mother??? The mind boggles....

    What will happen here is that killers will take advantage of the very "blood-forgiveness" law that lets virtually all "honor" killers get away with murder, the same law that saw the husband get away with the murder of his first wife. The dead wife's family members will be persuaded to forgive her father and brothers for the brutal murder, and so they will. I hope I am proven wrong.