By: D.W. Duke- SCE Legal Department
No doubt Fatima, Fauzia and Jannat laughed and joked with excitement as they rode in the taxi from their home in Babakot to the
village of Usta Mohammad where they intended to meet their fiances. It was to be their triple wedding day but instead it became the day of their execution and burial. Little could they have known that July 14, 2008 would be the last day they would enjoy the fresh air and the warmth of the sun in the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. The oldest of the three, Fauzia Bibi was barely 18 years of age. The other two were believed to be 14 and 16.
Unbeknownst to the three girls the taxi driver overheard them talk of their arrangements to meet their fiances at a restaurant in Usta Mohammad then travel to a civil court to be married. After dropping the girls at the restaurant, the taxi driver returned to Babakot and notified their fathers. A local politician, along with the fathers and brothers of the girls, abducted them at gun point and returned them in a government vehicle to Babakot. There they were severely beaten, two of them suffering crushed skulls, and they were thrown into a freshly dug grave where they were buried alive. Janat Bibi, 38, Fauzia’s aunt, and Fatima Bibi, 45, the mother of one of the other girls, were shot and also buried alive for trying to persuade the murderers to forego the execution of the three girls. The murderers fired guns into the air as a warning to anyone who would approach the murder scene and try to intervene.
The crimes for which the three girls were executed, in an ancient tradition known as honor killing, was that they did not want to accept prearranged marriage to men chosen by their fathers. Instead, they wanted to marry the men they really loved. Perhaps the shock of this tragic event is overshadowed by the greater shock that this tradition of honor killing is supported by local government authorities, who covered up the crime for nearly six weeks, until it was disclosed by a local journalist named Saarang Mastoi who could no longer remain silent despite the threat to himself and his family.
Notwithstanding the tragedy of this event, and the cover up by local government authorities, the greatest shock to the people of Pakistan came when Israr Ullah Zehri, a member of the Parliament of Pakistan who represents the Baluchistan Province, stated about the murder of the five women, “These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them. Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.” What immoral act was he referring to? He was referring to the desire of a human being to marry a person of one’s own choosing rather than to marry someone chosen by one’s parent. He was referring to the desire to marry for love rather than tradition. He was referring quite simply to the pursuit of happiness. In the eyes of Israr Ullah Zehri that is a capital offense. Other members of the Parliament of Pakistan were appalled when Zehri urged them to not make an issue of the tradition of honor killings because in his mind it has the effect of curtailing obscenity.
One has to inquire how an individual of such a barbaric mentality as Israr Ullah Zehri could have earned a seat in the Parliament of Pakistan in the 21st century. How could such a despicable notion as the propriety of honor killings find a place in the leadership of a modern democratic nation? Sadly, his words represent the mentality of hate which appears under the guise of religious tradition not only in Pakistan but throughout many nations of the world. It is an evil that grows like an infestation in places where honorable people refuse to speak out. It is an evil that empowers the wicked to inflict their cruelty upon the innocent victims of the world and it is the most vulgar and despicable violation of womanhood the world has ever seen.
The only way to address this barbaric evil is to prosecute those who engage in such acts. The helpless girls who are victims of this deplorable practice are not able to protect themselves. They cannot withstand the brutal beatings and executions of the very men who should be protecting them and in whom they should be placing their trust. Only we can protect them from this mentality of hate. We can do this first by demanding that those guilty of these murderous acts are incarcerated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We can further protect them by demanding that despicable cowards such as Israr Ullah Zehri are voted out of office so that truly competent leaders can take their places. And we can protect them by assuring that human rights do not become secondary to the religious fanaticism that rears its ugly head when the rest of the world turns a blind eye. Only then can we protect the Fatimas, Fauzias and Jannats of the world who are the innocent victims of honor killings, the mentality of hate.
D.W. Duke is a principle in the California law firm of Giardinelli & Duke, APC. He received his Juris Doctorate from Washington University School of Law. Mr. Duke is a noted lecturer on various legal matters and has published several books on legal topics including Principles of Liberty, a Practical Guide to Constitutional Law, Understanding and Avoiding Medical Malpractice and California Insurance Law. D.W. assists SCE Campaign with legal research with respect to international convention and obligations and also contributes articles and reports on the subject of Child Executions.