Day By Day

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cultural Depravity

A couple of days ago I commented on the case of a Pakistani father killing his four daughters because the eldest disobeyed him, labeling the crime "utterly repulsive and incomprehensible." One of my correspondents sent me this followup. Things were even worse than I imagined. Here's a horrifying account of this "honor" slaying.

Ahmed's killing spree — witnessed by his wife Rehmat Bibi as she cradled their 3 month-old baby son — happened Friday night at their home in the cotton-growing village of Gago Mandi in eastern Punjab province.

It is the latest of more than 260 such honor killings documented by the rights commission, mostly from media reports, during the first 11 months of 2005.

Bibi recounted how she was woken by a shriek as Ahmed put his hand to the mouth of his stepdaughter Muqadas and cut her throat with a machete. Bibi looked helplessly on from the corner of the room as he then killed the three girls — Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4 — pausing between the slayings to brandish the bloodstained knife at his wife, warning her not to intervene or raise alarm.

"I was shivering with fear. I did not know how to save my daughters," Bibi, sobbing, told AP by phone from the village. "I begged my husband to spare my daughters but he said, 'If you make a noise, I will kill you.'"

"The whole night the bodies of my daughters lay in front of me," she said.

And how does the murderer feel about his crimes?
Ahmed showed no contrition. Appearing disheveled but composed, he said he killed Muqadas because she had committed adultery, and his daughters because he didn't want them to do the same when they grew up.

He said he bought a butcher's knife and a machete after midday prayers on Friday and hid them in the house where he carried out the killings.

"I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated," he said, his hands cuffed, his face unshaven. "We are poor people and we have nothing else to protect but our honor."


"I told the police that I am an honorable father and I slaughtered my dishonored daughter and the three other girls," he said. "I wish that I get a chance to eliminate the boy she ran away with and set his home on fire."

Although the Pakistani government denounces such "honor killings" no effective steps have been taken to halt them. The government claims that there has been a reduction in such crimes, down from 579 last year, but women's rights activists say that those figures are unreliable.

Read about it here.

Few such crimes are punished. Police and judges are reluctant to interfere with Islamic law. Usually the compensation is a cash payment made by relatives.

Moral relativism, anyone?


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