Four members of the Pakistani family who honor-killed their daughter and sister on the 22nd October 2007 were sentenced to prison by a Belgian court in Belgium’s first honor-killing trial. The jury of 5 women and 7 men found all four family members guilty of shooting and killing Sadia Sheikh and the judge sentenced Tarik Mahmood Sheikh, her 61-year-old father to 25 years in prison, Zahida Parveen Sariya, her 59-year-old mother to 20 years, Mudusar Sheikh, her 27-year-old brother to 15 years and Sariya Sheikh, her 22-year-old sister to five years in prison.
Family lawyers said after the trial that Mudusar, who confessed to shooting his sister three times, was given a lesser sentence than his father and mother as they were the ones considered to have ordered the honor-killing of Sadia. Prosecutors wanted life sentences for the father, mother, and son and 20 to 30 years in prison for Sariya.
When questioned Mudusar admitted that the murder was premeditated and had been planned for a long time, but denied that the rest of the family were to blame.
All four family members stood accused of aiding and abetting the wrongful death of Sadia Sheikh which took place at her family home when the law student visited them in the hopes of patching up their differences.
When her shopkeeper parents started to arrange an unwanted marriage between herself and a cousin from Pakistan whom she had never met, Sadia decided to leave home to study in Belgium. There she was assisted by teachers and fellow students and attended meetings at a center for Victims of Domestic Violence where she drew up a will because she felt threatened by her family. She met and moved in with a Belgian named Jean who was the same age as she, but nonetheless made plans to visit her family to make peace with them on the day she was killed.
Her father, mother, and sister denied any involvement in the shooting saying that Mudusar had killed his sister because he was in a fit of rage. They are also facing additional charges for “attempting to arrange a marriage”. Rights groups were also involved in the trial pleading for gender equality as part of the civil suit.
The honor-killing of Sadia Sheikh, although the first in Belgium, seems to be only the tip of an iceberg as it emerged from interviews with professionals for the weekly magazine Knack that thousands of women and girls in Belgium deal with the fear of honor-revenge in the broad sense, as well as a complex series of other violence related problems which nothing is being done about.
Maybe the death of Sadia Sheikh will have a bearing on how these issues are dealt with in Belgium going forward to try and prevent girls who defy their families by refusing to partake in arranged marriages from being the victims of honor-killings. This highly publisized trial could help to bring more awareness to the very real threat to young girls and older women who are denied the basic human right of choosing for themselves who they want to spend their lives with.