Is Facebook Responsible For Honor Killings?

When we’re browsing our favorite social media platforms, most of us don’t stop to consider the full scope of what we’re doing. Who are we talking to, and what effect are we having on those we correspond with? What are the consequences of our actions, both seen and unseen? Those questions are experiencing dynamic shifts as we begin to search for the answers in a rapidly advancing age of connectivity and higher technology. Here’s a new one: are there honor killings over the use of Facebook?

In some Middle Eastern countries, arranged marriages are tradition. Straying from the path set forth by your parents is a dangerous option that few would exercise, but some choose to anyway in hopes of finding greater freedom through the outside world. When one Saudi Arabian woman was caught perusing Facebook by her father, she was beaten for her curiosity–especially because she had been speaking with a man she had met online. After the beating she was forced to endure, her father shot her.

This isn’t a complete surprise because many religious leaders in the region are convinced that Facebook and other social media platforms just like it are an unprecedented source of evil–and they work tirelessly to convince others of this odd belief as well. When people fall prey to these beliefs, their actions can transform into a kind of extremism that most people in more developed regions of the world can’t even fathom.

These same religious leaders believe that women shouldn’t be allowed to use Facebook or any practice management software at all because it supposedly leads them towards a life filled with lust. Even so, there are nearly 8 million Facebook users residing in the country out of a population with only 32 million people. That’s a gigantic swath of people who are giving into temptation–if you believe in that sort of thing.

In the past, many of these profiles used aliases and fake pictures in order to avoid discrimination. Saudi officials have also moved to block Facebook entirely, but the measure did not pass. In 2016, Facebook Messenger was successfully banned because of privacy concerns.

The use of Facebook in Saudi Arabia and similar countries today is very different than it is in other regions throughout the world. If you share someone else’s post or tag them in content which they could find offensive or embarrassing, then you could end up the target of a defamation suit–or much worse. Even drinking is illegal in the country, and so photos of such behavior could get you in big legal trouble.

It’s important to realize how enormously different traditions are in other regions of the world, and we need to take a moment to consider how we can best implement meaningful change to make the lives of citizens who live in those regions a whole lot better. Facebook might be the first step towards reducing the number of honor killings, but only if we can effect change the right way.

Details About The Honor Killing Of Hina Saleem

If you were born in Pakistan and decide to travel abroad to learn a little bit more about the world, you should probably be wary of your new environment and the people in it–but even moreso, perhaps you should be wary of your own parents. Hina Saleem, a twenty-year-old Pakistani native living in Northern Italy was the victim of ritualistic honor killing because she was becoming too westernized.

Hina’s father, Mohammed Saleem, was open and honest about his feelings regarding his daughter’s new outlook on life. He didn’t like it. According to him, she had dishonored and shamed the entire family, and it was up to them to make sure that she paid the price and saw his family’s honor redeemed. He says that he had no desire to kill her–no, he only wanted his baby girl to move back home where she belonged. She refused.

He dragged a knife across her throat no fewer than twenty-eight times, and is now serving a thirty year sentence for the unthinkable crime he committed. Back in 2011, he was allowed to grant an interview that showed the outside world a window into the other side of this horrible crime and the people who most often it out. Why do parents choose to kill their own children rather than see them adopt different customs and traditions, date a different kind of person, or wear different clothing? The answer is a complex one, and for most people it doesn’t make much sense.

Mohammed thought himself a decent, caring father who had done a good job raising his daughter. That ideal vision of his daughter came to a crushing halt the moment she refused to give in to a traditional marriage that had been arranged for her. She began smoking. She dated an Italian man. These were shocking betrayals. Mohammed saw this as a devastating blow to his family, and the pain of that blow radiated outward into their surrounding community, who would inevitably come to look at him differently.

After the murder was committed, he buried Hina in the garden out back. His family knew where her final resting place was located, and they supported Mohammed’s decision. This type of honor killing occurs not only because of the clash between traditions in new regions, but because the family dynamic is one of ownership over freedom. Hina Saleem was not free to fly wherever she chose–her father had the final say, and that’s why the murder was eventually committed. She was unrelenting in her desire to live a life of freedom.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, an estimated 5,000 women and girls are murdered every year in apparent honor killings, although men are not exempt from this type of violent response. The world must adopt a different attitude if these killings are to be prevented in the future, and we must acknowledge that there are countries that fail to provide legal justice in the face of such crimes. Only then can we really stand a chance to stop this trend from continuing.

The Death of Shafiela Ahmed

A lot of people feel that honor killings happen “over there” in the Middle East or in other remote Asian countries. Back in 2003, on English soil, Shafilea Ahmed, a 17-year-old British Pakistani woman, was murdered by her parents.

It all started when Shafilea went to visit Pakistan in 2003. During her trip, she swallowed bleach in what was reported to be a suicide attempt. Her father, on the other hand, claimed that it wasn’t a suicide attempt that she mistakenly drank the bleach thinking it was water during a blackout. Her throat became very damaged and she was required frequent medical treatment. Meanwhile, the media reported that she turned down an arranged marriage during her trip to Pakistan.

She disappeared on September 11, 2003. After a week long manhunt, and noticing that Shafiela didn’t seek medical attention for her throat detectives started to believe that she was potentially murdered.

In February 2004 her body was found. The body was badly decomposed and the cause of death could not be determined.

A break in the case came in August of 2010. When the Ahmed family home was burglarized, Shafilea’s younger sister admitted to the police that her parents had murdered her sister. She then went on to explain the details of how her father and mother conspired and executed Shafilea.

On September 7, 2011, her parents were charged with murder. On August 3, 2012, they were both found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 25 years. Below is a documentary that details much of the case: