February 27, 2004

Frost Hits the Rhubarb

Culture Clash, Arranged Marriages and Muslim Honour Killing?

Honour Killing: 'We didn't kill our beautiful daughter'
Nigel Bunyan, Feb. 25, 04, Telegraph

The parents of Shafilea Ahmed, the murdered Asian teenager, upstaged detectives yesterday when they gatecrashed a televised police briefing to deny that they were guilty of a so-called "honour killing".

Senior officers had just given details of how their daughter's badly decomposed body was found concealed in undergrowth when Iftikhar Ahmed, 44, and his wife, Farzana, 41, arrived with their legal team.

[. . . . ] Det Chief Insp Geraint Jones, who is leading the investigation, looked surprised at their arrival and refused to allow them to sit at a table positioned in front of a Cheshire Police screen. A few minutes later, clearly embarrassed by the interruption, he and his team left the building.

Neither of the Ahmeds spoke during their protest. However, through their solicitor they insisted they were in no way involved in the death of their "beautiful and irreplaceable daughter".

They went on to accuse police of having become blinkered by a racial stereotype which dictated that as Asian parents they must have been involved in their daughter's murder. This was a course of action, they claimed, that was allowing "the real culprit" to remain at large.

Shafilea, 17, disappeared six months ago, shortly after returning from a trip to Pakistan where she had resisted the overtures of a distant cousin to take part in an arranged marriage.

While in Pakistan she became so distraught she swallowed a quantity of bleach. This burned her gullet so severely that she required hospital treatment both there and once she had returned to Britain. Shafilea spent most of Sept 11, 2003, at Priestley Sixth Form College and later went to a local call centre where she worked four nights a week.

Her mother picked her up and drove her home. She went to bed, as she did every night, with her seven-year-old sister. When the household awoke she had gone. She was reported missing eight days later by her former teachers at Great Sankey High School.

My Commentary:

Reported missing EIGHT days later? My mother would have been out looking within the hour after my curfew -- but maybe they thought she had run off with a boy and the embarrassment would have been unbearable. Now, she is dead. Who would want her dead and why? What follows is background to this. NJC

Parents of missing 'culture clash' teenager are arrested Nigel Bunyan, Dec. 12, 03

[. . . .] A fortnight ago officers released excerpts from some of the songs Shafilea wrote in the weeks leading up to her disappearance.

The verses, found in her bedroom, have helped detectives build up a picture of a teenager torn between her family's traditions and the western culture she was seeking to embrace.

In one song, titled Happy Families, Shafilea referred to a clash of cultures and her family's preoccupation with "honour".

Shafilea, the oldest child, spoke Urdu at home and observed Muslim prayers with her three sisters and younger brother. But at the same time she idolised R&B singers, wore tight jeans and secretly stored the mobile phone numbers of male friends at college.

[. . . .] Earlier this year Shafilea's parents took her to Pakistan in the hope of arranging her marriage to a distant cousin. She refused. A short time later, distraught at the conflict in her life, she apparently tried to commit suicide by swallowing bleach.

The incident left her with a damaged oesophagus that required frequent medication to keep her alive. A nationwide sweep of hospitals and clinics has satisfied police that they cannot have issued her with further supplies.

[. . . .] Shafilea had twice run away; once last November and again in late January. The following month she joined her family on the trip to Pakistan.

Having taken the bleach, she spent a number of weeks in a local hospital. She flew back to England on May 27 where her treatment was resumed at a hospital in Warrington.


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