HONOUR KILLINGS: Revolution against ‘mind-boggling’ acts will have to start at home

Published: November 8, 2012

Arrested Pakistani couple Mohammad Zafar and wife Zaheen Akhtar sit their respective cells at a police station in Khoi Ratta, 140 kilometres north of Pakistani Kashmir’s main city Muzaffarabad, on Nov. 6, 2012. Sajjad Qayyum/AFP/Getty Images

NAOMI LAKRITZ
POSTMEDIA NEWS

The western mind boggles. It simply cannot fathom the rationale for Anusha Zafar’s death.

Anusha, 15, died late last month after her parents poured acid on her. The reason? A boy went by on a motorcycle and she happened to glance his way.

That casual glance, her parents decided, was enough to dishonour their family.

Her father, Mohammad Zafar, reprimanded her. He told the BBC: “There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle. She turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that, it’s wrong. People talk about us because our older daughter was the same way.”

Then, as Anusha’s mother, Zaheen, also told the BBC from her jail cell: “She said, ‘I didn’t do it on purpose. I won’t look again.’ By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way.”

The family lives in the Khotli district of Pakistan, where police officer Tahir Ayub told Agence France-Presse that “Zafar beat her up and then poured acid over her with the help of his wife. She was badly burnt but they did not take her to hospital until the next morning.” This poor girl suffered absolute agony from her burns until she died.

Who carries acid around with them so that it’s at the ready in case a daughter, sister or other female relative suddenly “dishonours” the family? Who kills their own child on a whim for the “crime” of glancing at a passing boy on a motorcycle? Never mind how preposterous it is to think of killing someone for looking at a passerby, but what if Anusha had merely turned her head away because the sun was in her eyes, and her glance then fell on the motorcyclist?

According to Wikipedia, “perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones … The acid can rapidly eat away skin, the layer of fat beneath the skin, and in some cases even the underlying bone. Eyelids and lips may be completely destroyed, the nose and ears severely damaged.”

Who routinely keeps acid this powerful – something along the strength of sulphuric acid – around the house?

Again, the western mind boggles.

Statistics released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (thankfully, there is one) reveal in that country alone, 943 women and girls die each year from honour killings. That works out to approximately two a day. This column was written on Tuesday. It will be read on Wednesday. By that time, four more girls will have been killed in Pakistan alone, two on each of those two days. Of those 943, by the way, reports are that 38 were victims of acid attacks, 47 others were set afire, 98 were tortured to death in some fashion and nine had their noses hacked off.

All the western mind can do is feel utterly sickened by it.

Tuesday morning we talked about Anusha’s death. What can be done? We in the West can condemn honour killings. But that really won’t stop them. The West has been issuing condemnations for years.

Nearly 13 years ago, a United Nations study estimated the annual toll worldwide of honour killings at about 5,000 annually.

There have been some faint signs of hope that governments are starting to take women’s deaths seriously. For example, last January, the Supreme Court of India sentenced to death a man named Bagawan Dass, who six years earlier, had murdered his daughter for marrying someone the family didn’t approve of.

The CBC reported that in handing down its ruling, the court stated that honour killings “come within the category of the rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment,” adding that it’s time “to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation.”

And last March, Pakistan made honour killings a crime for which a perpetrator can be sentenced to life in prison. The western mind is cynical enough to believe the reality of a life sentence was what made Anusha’s parents suddenly repent during the BBC interview.

Zaheen wailed that no one but Allah was left to take care of her six other children, all aged 10 and under, and said, “I shouldn’t have done this.”

It’s all very well for the West to issue condemnations, but that’s pretty futile. It would be more effective if Muslims all over the world spoke out vehemently against it, but except for women’s rights organizations in the various countries where these things occur, and some remarks from state officials, no other Muslim condemnation is reported.

If condemnation could come from directly within those cultures where honour killings take place, that would be best. What those cultures need are some enlightened men to start a movement within their societies, so that the paradigm begins to shift. Revolutions always begin at home, and this one should have started long ago.

Naomi Lakritz is a Calgary Herald columnist.


Tags:





Featured

attack on Parliament Hill

Soldier, gunman who died in Ottawa rampage identified (w/photos, video) [updated]

ANDREW DUFFY OTTAWA CITIZEN Updates at 5:10 p.m. Soldier killed in War Memorial confirmed as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo Suspect, reportedly Canadian-born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed in Centre Block shootout Police call situation…
Continue Reading »

Parliament gunman shot

Shaken Surrey MPs Jasbir Sandhu, Jinny Sims calling from scene of Parliament shooting (w/photos, video)

TOM ZYTARUK SURREY NOW OTTAWA — Surrey MPs Jasbir Sandhu, Jinny Sims and their New Democrat colleagues were in a party caucus meeting in Ottawa…
Continue Reading »

LIBERTY MEDAL

Stephen Harper cancels Malala Yousafzai citizenship ceremony in light of Ottawa shooting

THE CANADIAN PRESS TORONTO – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office says two scheduled events today in Toronto with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai have…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Parliament hill

Narendra Modi condemns ‘extremely disturbing’ Ottawa shootout

IANS New Delhi – Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Wednesday’s shootout near the Canadian parliament in Ottawa as “extremely disturbing”. “News of the attack in…
Continue Reading »

attack on Parliament Hill

Soldier, gunman who died in Ottawa rampage identified (w/photos, video) [updated]

ANDREW DUFFY OTTAWA CITIZEN Updates at 5:10 p.m. Soldier killed in War Memorial confirmed as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo Suspect, reportedly Canadian-born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed in Centre Block shootout Police call situation…
Continue Reading »

Parliament gunman shot

Shaken Surrey MPs Jasbir Sandhu, Jinny Sims calling from scene of Parliament shooting (w/photos, video)

TOM ZYTARUK SURREY NOW OTTAWA — Surrey MPs Jasbir Sandhu, Jinny Sims and their New Democrat colleagues were in a party caucus meeting in Ottawa…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Vancouver-Surrey-Festival-India

Diwali celebrations in Vancouver and Surrey

DiwaliFest celebrates its 11th anniversary from Oct. 17 to 26 at various sites in Surrey and Vancouver. Diwali Celebration Friday, Oct. 24 at Firehall Centre…
Continue Reading »

Facebook photo showing Martin Rouleau

Canada is Losing the Values War

UJJAL DOSANJH SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI The dreaded happened in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a quiet historic town in Quebec. Many years ago I stayed there for a…
Continue Reading »

Butter Chicken

Light up Diwali with this delicious dinner: Butter Chicken, Basmati Rice with Peas, Chickpea Masala and Gulab Jamun

Indian festival is a fine reason for a feast BAL ARNESON POSTMEDIA NEWS Diwali is India’s biggest festival. People light candles and divas (small Indian…
Continue Reading »

INDIA-WILDLIFE-ELEPHANT

Heartbreaking photos of two elephants electrocuted in India

IANS Siliguri – Two elephants, including a female, were electrocuted in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district Saturday, an official said. The tuskers were found in a…
Continue Reading »

Aman Grewal

Gallery: Army officer’s wife wins Mrs. India Worldwide pageant

IANS New Delhi – Aman Grewal, wife of an army officer, was declared the winner of Haut.Monde Mrs.India Worldwide 2014 here. Grewal, who hails from…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Jackie Chan

First India-China joint venture film starring Jackie Chan launched

HINDUSTAN TIMES Chinese action star Jackie Chan will star in the first Sino-India joint film production slated to go on the floors in the coming…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Saif Ali Khan poses with pants down

IANS New Delhi – Actor-producer Saif Ali Khan was caught and clicked with his pants down while shooting for his new film “Happy Ending”. As…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt says ‘Going Home’ a special short film

IANS Mumbai – If the masses loved her in movies like “Highway” and “Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania”, Alia Bhatt has again won many a heart….
Continue Reading »