Last year, 18-year-old Pakistani woman Zeenat Rafiq eloped and married the man she loved, a man her family had not consented to but later pretended to accept. Yesterday, her mother was sentenced to death for burning her daughter alive in June of 2016 in a case of “honor killing” for bringing shame to the family.
On Monday, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Lahore convicted Parveen Bibi for killing her daughter a little over a week after she had eloped. The “free will marriage” Zeenat Rafiq participated in displeased her family to the point that they beat her until she bled. A few days later, the mother of the young woman burned her alive. The Evening Standard wrote that Bibi previously confessed to murdering her 18-year-old daughter, saying that the girl had to die for “bringing shame to the family”.
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The police also suspected that the girl’s brother was involved, and Bibi’s son Anees Rafique was also sentenced to life in prison for alleged helping his mother kill his sister. However, his defense lawyer still proclaims his innocence and says that it was a wrongful conviction. Judge Chaudhry Muhammad Ilyas from the Anti-Terrorism Court handed down the guilty sentences to the two family members in the honor-killing case but acquitted the husband of Zeenat’s sister, who had also been a suspect, of any wrongdoing in the death.
Hassan Khan is the man who married Zeenat Rafiq and in speaking to the media he said that his wife had been very reluctant to return home following their marriage. Khan says that her family never approved of their relationship, and Zeenat had spoken to him about the abuse she had often suffered at the hands of her family members.
“When she told her parents about us, they beat her so severely she was bleeding from her mouth and nose.”
However, the newly married woman finally agreed to visit her family’s home after they gave many assurances regarding her safety. One week after the marriage, Zeenat’s family promised a reconciliation and that they would also arrange a traditional wedding reception for the couple. Rafiq did not trust the promises of her family, telling her husband that “they are not going to spare me. Khan says his own family helped to change her mind, never thinking that she would meet her end in such a horrific honor killing.
The authorities reported that Zeenat Rafiq’s body had shown signs of strangulation in addition to the beating her mother and brother Rafique are said to have given her. Later, Parveen Bibi would pour kerosene on and set her daughter on fire. Dawn reported that emergency rescue service was called in by witnesses who noticed smoke coming out of the family’s home. The body of the honor-killing victim was recovered from the home in the low-income Lahore neighborhood once the officials were able to put out the fire. Afterward, police say that none of the murdered girl’s relatives would claim her body.
The family of Hassan Khan claimed the charred remains of his wife’s body. In the darkness, in a graveyard near the city, the family buried the young woman.
It was only last year October that a much-anticipated new law mandating a stiff penalty for anyone convicted of any so-called honor killing was passed by Pakistans National Assembly. It also closed a legal loophole that previously gave perpetrators of honor killings the chance to be forgiven by the family members of the victim and be pardoned. According to the new law, a minimum 25-year prison sentence is mandated for anyone convicted of carrying out an honor killing and also prohibits the families of the victims from forgiving the killer, which was a very common occurrence in these types of crimes.
Statistics from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan show that in 2015, more than 1,000 women in the country were murdered by their own relatives in the name of the family’s honor.
Even knowing that she would be sentenced to death, Parveen Bibi told the police that she had no regrets about killing her daughter.
[Featured Image by K.M. Chaudary/AP Images]