Murder is murder. Stop trying to justify it as something else.
Until two days ago I had never heard of Qandeel Baloch, the young woman that many have referred to as Pakistan's Kim Kardashian.
Now, I, along with many in the eastern and western world know that 26 year old Qandeel, real name Fauzia Azeem, was a social media star who was murdered by her own brother for the simple fact that he disapproved of her life choices. After being arrested (handed to police by his own father) 25 year old Waseem Azeem still maintains that he has no regret. After all, it was for the matter of his honour that his sister had to pay with her life.
I am the author of a fiction book which examines how honour plays a role in the practise of forced marriages. Having spoken to survivors and women's rights activists to understand the concept which controls and determines so many lives, I was not surprised when I skimmed Twitter to gage the opinions of the murdered woman's fellow Pakistanis.
'Feel uncomfortable at the killing but 'understand' why the brother had killed her'
'Qandeel thoroughly deserved her end'
A few facebook posts included the following (verbatim):
-'First time I feel no empathy when someone has passed away'
- 'That's good news'
Of course, this is not to deny that there were many others who did condemn the murder, posting tweets which included the Quran's verse that the killing of one person is equivalent to killing all of mankind.
The majority, however, came from men and shamefully, women, who believed the killing to be justifiable. For many of us this mentality is abhorrent. Who gives anyone the right to judge or condemn an innocent murdered woman in this way? For she was innocent. Many may not have approved of her life choices but she had not committed a crime under Pakistan's legal system or indeed any other country's laws. As for breaking religious rules, well, only God can judge His believers. In Sharia law there are no grounds for killing a woman because she displeases you. If you don't like a family member, remove yourself from their life. Don't remove their right to live.
So why did total strangers think it acceptable to share their opinion openly to the world that Qandeel Baloch's murder was a good thing?
The answer lies in the two words which have accompanied her name in every news article from every media outlet.
Human Rights Watch defines it as the following: 'Honour killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female members who are held to have brought dishonour upon the family.'
From this perspective, a man's honour is determined by the actions and behaviour of his female relatives. He is not judged by society on his own good deeds and actions, but rather by his control of the women. This 'ownership' is irrespective of class and ethnicity.
It is the very use of the word 'honour' that almost excuses the action of the killer. As though somehow his actions are justified and therefore not subject to the same condemnation that other murderers would receive.
It is this patriarchal practise of control, candy wrapped as this romantic word that most of us associate with fairytale knights in shining armour, that led to Qandeel's murder. And it was about silencing the female voice.
This was a murder and it was as cold blooded as the killings of other girls of Pakistani origin around the world which made headlines. There was the 2003 murder of 17 year old Shifilea Ahmed by her parents in the UK for refusing a forced marriage. There was also the killing of 16 year old Canadian Aqsa Pervaz in 2007 for refusing to wear the hijab. Both these cases were labelled as honour killings in western law courts and therefore viewed through the eyes of the murderers. It should be noted that we in the west would never try to understand or try to empathise with a white skinned murderer. Why then do we do it for South Asian men? Is an Asian woman's life not equal to a white woman's life?
Qandeel Baloch's brother and his heinous reasons should not be in our thoughts. It should be the dead woman who has been robbed off her life.
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