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.