Unsettling Twist On Story: Pakistani Women Tortured And Killed For Dancing

An unthinkable crime for something that seems so trivial- that is how many view the story of several young Pakistani women losing their lives horrifically simply for clapping and dancing to music.

A short clip of the young women dressed for a party or perhaps a wedding while donning orange headscarves and floral robes, and clapping their hands to the beat of music in the background, brought their lives to an abrupt end. The cellphone video was made six years ago in a remote area in northwestern Pakistan in a village within Kohistan. It was the last time that the women known only as Bazeegha, Sareen Jan, Begum Jan, Amina and Shaheen were seen alive.

The mysterious happenings following the night the video was made are covered over by a system of beliefs and religious leaders who likely ordered their deaths and the families who allegedly followed these orders. The Washington Post shared what is known of the women’s fate following the order for them to lose their lives.

“Even in Pakistan, where hundreds of ‘honor killings’ are reported every year, the details of this case are extreme. According to court filings and interviews with people who have investigated the case, the families confined the disgraced girls for weeks, threw boiling water and hot coals on them, then killed them and buried them somewhere in the Kohistan hills.”

Groups of investigators appeared in the town to determine the whereabouts of the women and relatives as well as community leaders told officials that the girls were still alive. They then produced a set of women looking much like the women who had been killed. They even disfigured one woman’s thumb prints so she wasn’t able to be checked against government identity cards of the victim she was impersonating.

This story is an illustration as to why honor killings have unsuccessfully been curbed in Pakistan. Leaders of small villages have sway and people of their towns backing them and believing that this is how such behavior should be handled. They defy any intrusions by the state and see women as worthless with little to no rights at all.

The truth is finally being made clear and is the result of the efforts of a few lone individuals including Afzal Kohistani, a 26-year-old whose brothers were also killed in relation to the incident. He sought help for years from local and provincial officials and petitioned the Supreme Court on two occasions. The case was dismissed in 2012 but the high court surprisingly reopened his case over the past month.

The publication relays Kohistani’s words about the case which has left his family in pieces.

“This has destroyed my family. The girls are dead, my brothers have been killed and nothing has been done to bring justice or protect us. I know I will probably be killed, too, but it doesn’t matter,” he said in an interview last week. “What happened is wrong, and it has to change. Someone has to fight for that.”

The young man has received numerous death threats and is no longer able to visit his hometown. One new law within Pakistan is the igniting force that caused the case to be reopened. A law which strengthens the judicial power in Pakistan’s parliament when it comes to honor-killings that remain frequent in the nation. Prior to the new law being passed, even if the killings were brought to the court there was usually no punishment that resulted because the law allowed victims’ families to forgive the assailants, who are usually their own relatives.

The new law that was passed in October gives judges more power to instead impose life sentences for honor killings in extreme cases. However as the Post notes. “women’s rights advocates said other factors, including traditional culture and political timidity, will continue to weigh against the odds of justice being done.”

[Feature Image by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]