Bright lives cut short – the chilling brutality of “honour” killings

Shafilea Ahmed was a bright 17 year-old A-level student from Warrington.  She had aspirations to become a solicitor and was described by friends as “extremely ambitious and a great person to be around.”[1]

Unfortunately Shafilea’s parents had other plans for her – they had arranged a marriage for her in Pakistan. When Shafilea resisted the marriage her parents took drastic action to avenge her decision. Shafilea was suffocated with a plastic bag in front of her siblings in an act that the coroner described as “a very vile murder.”[2]

Shafilea’s case was one of the tragic examples of ‘honour’ killings shared by Dr Christina Julios, Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London and The Open University, at a UN Women UK event held on 11 July in London. Disturbingly Shafilea’s case is one of the estimated 5,000[3]‘honour’ killings that happen every year around the world.

Dr Julios examined the spectrum of honour-based violence that includes Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage, domestic abuse and murder. She explained that while the crimes are committed to protect or defend the honour of the family or community, they are a violation of human rights and there is no honour or justification for abusing the human rights of others.

Shafilea Ahmed’s parents were convicted of her murder and imprisoned for life. The judge told them: “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child…. For me this is not an ‘honour killing’, it’s a clear case of murder.”[4]

The event aimed to raise awareness about honour-based violence as part of UN Women UK’s mission for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Learn more about how to get involved in UN Women UK.


[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19116965

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7182887.stm

[3] http://hbv-awareness.com/

[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19068490

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