Family honour key to Shafilea death

 

Shafilea Ahmed was murdered by parents who were obsessed with the idea of family honour.

Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed were two traditionalist disciplinarians who had very fixed ideas about how their children, particularly their daughters, should behave.

If they did not conform to their ways, they would be punished.

That was the way they were brought up in the small village of Uttam, Pakistan, and that was the way they would bring up their children in Warrington, Cheshire.

Shafilea, their eldest daughter, was the first to have her head turned by the ways of the West.

Growing up in the UK, she liked the taste of freedom.

Like most teenage girls she liked make-up, high-heels, clothes and boys, and continually clashed with her parents as she struggled to establish her independence.

It was a fight she would ultimately lose, as Iftikhar and Farzana proved their fear of shame far outweighed their feelings of love for their first-born child when they killed her in cold blood in what should have been a safe haven - the family home.

Mr and Mrs Ahmed are first cousins and Sunni Muslims who grew up living next door to each other in a village with a population of about 3,000.

They were joined together in an arranged marriage - or Rishta - which was organised when they were very young and without their permission.

They come from a family of farmers who traditionally tended wheat and sugar cane crops on their 50 acres of land.

It was their loyalty to their family in Pakistan and the family's need to cling on to that land, which the families jointly owned, which seemed to fuel the Ahmeds' desire to marry Shafilea off to a cousin within the extended family.

During his cross-examination of Farzana Ahmed, Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, accused the defendant of being more worried about her family in Pakistan and of land and property than about protecting her daughter's life.

He said: "That's exactly what this case is about, isn't it? You thought that things in the village in Pakistan were actually more important than Shafilea's life."

Mr Edis said it was the fact Shafilea was from Warrington and did not share the family's traditional values which "threatened" them.

Mr Ahmed's uncle, Abdul Razaq, 65, gave evidence via a video-link from Karachi, Pakistan, with the aid of an interpreter.

It was Mr Razaq who first called Mr Ahmed to inquire about his son marrying one of Mr Ahmed's daughters.

He said: "I called him because I had a son and I called him with a proposal of marriage for one of his four daughters because he had four daughters and I said 'Give me one of your daughters' hands in marriage'."

Mr Razaq claimed that Mr Ahmed told him his daughters were not old enough to marry and were studying.

But the prosecution said this was their plot to marry Shafilea off in Pakistan, a plot that was spoiled when the desperate teenager drank bleach in protest.

Mr Edis put it to Mr Razaq that after Shafilea drank the bleach in Pakistan she became "too ill" to get married and was sent home.

He added: "In your culture if the parents agree that their daughter will marry but that doesn't happen, is that something which they should be ashamed of?"

He responded: "Yes, that's right. It is shameful."

PA

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