“Honour” based violence: Two guilty verdicts

“Honour” based violence: Two guilty verdicts

“Honour” based violence

Shafilea Ahmed’s parents guilty of murder

Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed murdered their 17-year-old daughter because they believed she brought shame on their family

Iftikhar and Faranza Ahmed had vehemently denied any involvement in their daughter’s death.

The parents of Shafilea Ahmed have been found guilty of murdering the 17-year-old, who was killed because they believed she had brought shame on the family.

The verdict at Chester crown court comes after a three-month trial and almost nine years after Shafilea was killed for defying her parents’ wishes for an arranged marriage in Pakistan to a much older man.

Iftikhar Ahmed, a 52-year-old taxi driver, and his wife, Farzana, 49, from Warrington, Cheshire, had vehemently denied any involvement in their daughter’s death at the family home on 11 September 2003, but the jury disagreed with their account of events. The judge, Mr Justice Roderick Evans, had earlier urged the jury to put aside feelings of sympathy and revulsion when considering the case and to discuss the evidence coolly and calmly.

Shafilea’s badly decomposed remains were found on a flooded bank of the river Kent in Sedgwick, Cumbria, five months after her disappearance, in February 2004. The jury agreed with the prosecution’s assertion that she had been killed by her parents because they believed she had brought shame on the family as the result of her desire to lead a “westernised” lifestyle. In the six months before her death, Shafilea drank bleach during a family trip to Pakistan in an apparent cry for help.

The prosecution’s key witness was Shafilea’s 24-year-old sister, Alesha, who said she and her siblings had witnessed the murder at the family home. She said Farzana issued the command in Urdu: “Just finish it here,” as her parents forced a plastic carrier bag into Shafilea’s mouth and placed their hands over her it, blocking her airways as her father held her down. Alesha said Shafilea’s eyes were wide open in horror and she was kicking her legs in protest. She realised her sister was dead when her legs stopped kicking. “That was it, she was gone,” she told the court. She recalled seeing her father punching her sister’s lifeless body in the chest after the killing. Later, she watched her mother prepare sheets, binbags and rolls of tape in the kitchen. She looked out of a window and saw her father carrying a heavy package, which she assumed was Shafilea’s body.

Iftikhar Ahmed denied any involvement in Shafilea’s death, maintaining she ran away from home in the middle of the night and he never saw her again. But midway through the trial, his wife changed her account of events and said her husband was responsible for a single, violent attack on Shafilea on the night of her disappearance. Her husband, she claimed, told her to never ask him about Shafilea again “if she cared for her dear life” and those of her children. However, the jury failed to be convinced by the couple’s version of events and found them both guilty of murder.

Helen Carter

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