Nothing seems to stop honor killings. One would think that with COVID-19 gripping the world, there would be more compassion for human life and caring for each other –as well in the Muslim world, especially during the month of Ramadan during which there is an emphasis on kindness, compassion, self-reflection and charity.
However, some things never change as we read about the recent honor killings in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
When the Clarion award-winning documentary Honor Diaries was released in 2013, there was a surge of awareness and some changes did take place internationally which were a step in the right direction. In October 2016, Pakistan passed a bill that fixed a loophole that allowed killers to escape prosecution if pardoned by the victim’s family.
Previously, family members who were complicit in the crime could also forgive those who had committed it.
That new legislation came three months after Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media star and feminist, was killed by her brother for “dishonoring the family.”
While honor killings in Pakistan now carry a life sentence, they remain common in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas — and the majority are against women perceived to have brought “shame” to their families.
The cousins, aged 22 and 24, were shot and buried on May 14 in a remote village in Pakistan’s North Waziristan province.
In a statement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that many people who had condemned the Waziristan murders on social media had been “threatened or ridiculed” and called on the authorities to “make it clear to all that it will not tolerate any support for this heinous practice.”
Adding to the horror of the act, the father of one of the victims and the other victim’s brother confessed to killing the women.
This clearly shows that the concept of honor is more important to the men than the lives of the women they kill.
In Afghanistan, with the departure of U.S. troops, there was always fear that the Taliban would go back to their inhuman practices. Yet, the latest honor killing in Badakhshan, Afghanistan was not even Taliban related.
Nazela, an 18-year-old woman, was strangled with electric wire and then stabbed to death by her brother on May 1. She allegedly ran away with her boyfriend, taking refuge in a police station. Her brother came and had her released, took her home and killed her. The brother then escaped to an area where Islamist militants live. He has now taken refuge with the Taliban.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission writes in its 2018/2019 Summary Report on Violence against Women that violence against women in 2019 was about 8.4 percent higher than in 2018.
According to this report, while various types of violence against women are on the rise, “one of the shocking forms of physical violence that leads to the killing of women is honor killings. The Commission has documented about 238 incidents of murder of women separately during this period , 96 of which constitute honor killings. This figure was about 261 in 2018.”
Until the time that men and women in rural areas are educated about respect for human life and especially for women, this horrific cycle of honor-related killings will not go away.
Unfortunately, the perpetrators are not afraid of prison or death because they have been brainwashed into believing that the honor of the family, tribe and village is embodied in the actions and bodies of women whom they treat like second-class human beings, and that preserving the so-called honor of the family is more important than a human life.