Thursday, May 5, 2016
Muslim violence: More than a dozen leaders of a small village in northwestern Pakistan have been arrested and charged with burning a teenage girl to death because she helped one of her friends elope, security officials said
The crime, which is renewing attention on Pakistan’s horrific record of protecting women and children from abuse, took place on the outskirts of Abbottabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Khurram Rasheed, police chief for the northern district of Abbottabad, said that the body of Ambreen Riasat was found in a burned van in the tourist resort of Donga Gali. Her exact age was in dispute. A graphic photo of the teenager’s charred remains quickly circulated online. It appeared as though the girl’s arms had been bound before she was set on fire. Initially, police suspected that she may have been raped by a scorned boyfriend or as part of a family dispute. But Saeed Wazir, the regional police chief in Abbottabad, said that the killing was a “pre-planned act” involving 14 village leaders. Wazir said that the entire village council had sanctioned the act to send a message to other minors. “They said she must be burnt alive to make a lesson for other girls,” he said. In an act of defiance against Pakistan’s strict Islamic and paternal customs, Wazir said, the victim had helped one of her friends secretly marry her boyfriend. The bride “didn’t obey her father’s will and did a love marriage at court with a guy,” he said. After the bride’s father found out, he requested that village elders investigate. In many parts of Pakistan, women and girls are expected to receive their father’s consent before marrying. According to Wazir, the village elders investigating the marriage quickly discovered that the victim had helped her friend evade her father’s will. The elders decided that the victim needed to be punished for not disclosing her role in the marriage. Several men then dragged the teenager out of her house and tied her into the van, Wazir said. “Despite the requests and pleas from her parents, villagers forcibly brought her out and set her afire while roping her to the seat of the vehicle,” he said. Both the leader of the Jirga and the father of the newlywed girl were arrested, Wazir said. A dozen other men who participated in the Jirga also were charged, he added. The case represents a troublesome expansion of mob-like tactics that women can face in Pakistan when they disobey their parents or extended family members. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 8,694 girls and women have died in so-called honor killings here between 2004 and 2015. Those crimes involved revenge killings for dishonoring a family, village or local custom. About one-fourth of those cases involved the death of a minor. Although most common in remote areas, honor killings still occur in Pakistan even in larger, more progressive cities.