‘My daughter was innocent’

A man who killed his 18-year-old sister for 'honor' will be forgiven

‘My daughter was innocent’
Aadela, 18, was killed by her brother for receiving a phone call from a male stranger. After his neighbors reported the murder, the brother – identified as Laalko – went to the local police station to confess and surrender.

Early in the morning on May 17, when most people in the household and the neighborhood were asleep, they were shocked to wake up to the cries of a girl. Residents of the slum near the University Road in Peshawar called the police.

Musa Khan, who is in his 60s, lodged a First Informational Report and nominated his 30-year-old son as the killer of his teenaged daughter. Laalko said he was proud of what he did. “My brother had caught talking to a male stranger on her mobile phone. Someone else had seen a man enter our house last year. That is a clear violation of our code of ethics and I killed her to protect our honor.”

Aadela is not the only victim of the strict tribal codes that men claim to follow when they kill in the name of honor. In 2014, 51 cases of honor killing were registered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone, according to Mohammad Ali Babakhel, a deputy inspector general of Police. He said 85 people were killed in these instances, of which 44 were women.

“My daughter was as innocent as an angel,” said her mother as he wiped her tears. She arches her back because of a kidney illness. “She had learned the Holy Quran by heart and kept herself busy with Islamic Studies and embroidery.”

Aadela's neighborhood
Aadela's neighborhood

Aadela earned Rs 500 for each piece of cloth she did embroidery on, and spent the income on clothing. “She loved colorful clothes,” a neighbor told me.

Most such cases end without conviction, says Fazal Subhan, the police officer investigating the case. “A compromise in the family will allow Laalko a safe way out. The court will have no option but to set him free.”

Most honor killings are based on false stories, according to Usman Kakar, a member of Senate. “People kill others because of personal rivalries, and also kill a female member of their own family so that they can call it honor killing.” He calls for legal reform in which the state should be allowed to intervene if the family decides to withdraw the case.

Aadela’s mother says she has no option but to forgive her two sons who were involved in the murder. “My husband cannot provide for us if my sons go to jail.”

Because of such reasons, a large number of honor killings go unreported.

“Calling cold blooded murder ‘honour’ killing is wrong. It gives a level of acceptability to the criminal act,” says Bushra Gohar, a former legislator from the Awami Nation Party.

“The real reasons behind such killings is the patriarchal social and cultural norms that oppress and objectify women, discriminatory laws that provide protection to the oppressors, and the society’s tolerance for Human Rights violations against women.”

Bushra Gohar says such crimes should be non-compoundable and treated as crimes against the State.

Aadela’s neighbors say she was a cheerful teenaged girl who was good friends with all the girls her age in the neighborhood. “She was active, wore beautiful clothes, and loved to play Pashto music very loud,” one of them said. “She was full of love.”