Parents of missing teenager held on suspicion of kidnap

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The Independent Online

The parents of a teenager who disappeared after she refused an arranged marriage in Pakistan were arrested yesterday on suspicion of her kidnap.

Shafilea Ahmed, 17, from Warrington, Cheshire, went missing in September and police said at the time that they could not rule out the possibility of an "honour killing".

Iftikhar Ahmed, 44, a taxi driver, and Farzana Ahmed, 41, were arrested at their home yesterday morning. They were being questioned at a Cheshire police station while two of her four siblings were placed under the care of Warrington Council social services.

After Shafilea's disappearance, it emerged that her parents had not reported her missing for a week, arguing that she had run away on two previous occasions.

She was last seen at the family's home on 11 September in Great Sankey, after being collected from a part-time job at a call centre by her mother at 9pm. She disappeared the following morning but most of her personal belongings did not appear to be missing. The college student, who wanted to becoming a lawyer, had returned from a family trip to Pakistan in February where she drank bleach after being introduced to a suitor for an arranged marriage. Before her disappearance, she required regular medical treatment in hospital for the injuries she sustained.

Earlier this month, detectives discovered song lyrics written by Shafilea, which described her anguish at being caught between two cultures - that of her traditional Muslim family and the influences outside her home. Some of the lyrics were read out this month by the Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati who spoke of the pressures faced by British-born Asian women.

Shafilea's father spoke out about the family's grief two weeks ago. "The last few months have been absolute torture ... It doesn't make sense they [the police] have wasted three months searching my house and our cars whey they should be trying to discover where she really went. The police claim there was an arranged marriage for Shaffi but that's totally wrong," he said.

Before she went to Pakistan, she had run away twice, once in November last year and again in January, but she always returned after a few days of staying in friends' homes.

The family's home has been examined by officers and investigators have scoured nearby wasteland for a body.

The Community Liaison Unit, which was set up in 2000 by the Foreign Office, found that girls as young as 14 were being pressured into getting engaged. Daughters have been taken by their families to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh for a "holiday" and found themselves attending their own weddings.

The unit has dealt with more than 800 cases. More than 15 per cent of forced marriages, which unlike arranged marriages are illegal, also involve young men. Officials believe that hundreds more cases are never reported.