Every year, thousands of “honor murders” occur throughout the world. Women—and sometimes their male companions—are brutally and often publicly slaughtered. Most of these incidents take place in countries where the perpetrators can act with impunity. The reasons given to justify these crimes are bizarre and nonsensical.
10 She Wanted To Become An Attorney
Shafilea Ahmed was a 17-year-old girl living in Britain who dreamed of becoming an attorney one day. On the day of her murder, she enraged her parents by wearing a short-sleeved, V-neck top without a sweater.
Originally from Pakistan, her parents were furious with their daughter for wanting to live a Westernized lifestyle and for aspiring to become an attorney. Other reports claim that her parents had arranged her marriage with a cousin in rural Pakistan, and Shafilea was horrified by the idea. When she found out about the arrangement, she consumed bleach in protest and was taken to a hospital for treatment.
After abusing Shafilea for months, her parents suffocated her with a plastic bag in the presence of their other four children. Then Shafilea’s father dumped her body in the River Kent in Cumbria.
She was reported missing by her teacher a week later. To explain her September 2003 disappearance, her father claimed that she had run away from home in the middle of the night. Six months later, her decomposed remains were found by workmen. Shafilea was identified by her dental records and jewelry.
Her mother initially denied her involvement in the crime. She claimed that she had tried to intervene to protect the girl, but her husband had physically overpowered her. However, the testimony of their daughter, Alesha, incriminated both parents in Shafilea’s murder.
During the trial, Alesha described how her parents had pushed Shafilea onto the sofa, and her mother had said, “Just finish it there.” In 2012, the parents, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.
9 She Spent Long Hours Away From Home
“I am proud of what I did,” said 20-year-old Muhammad Ismail after shooting his wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law in February 2012 in a village in central Pakistan. According to Ismail, his wife of eight months had brought him dishonor by spending long hours away from home and repeatedly flirting with other men. He called her a prostitute and accused her of “never taking care of him.”
These suspicions and grievances were the basis of the triple murder. In an interview with CNN from behind bars, Ismail recalled wounding his wife with a bullet. He left her in a pool of blood to go into the next room and shoot his mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Then he returned to finish off his wife with the remaining bullets.
When he was sure they were all dead, he locked up the house and went to the police. Despite giving them a confession, Ismail might have gotten off scot-free if his victims’ family had accepted compensation for the killings, a common occurrence in such situations.
In countries like Pakistan, where women are perceived as dispensable chattel, their lives are worth little. In these societies, being anything less than a devoted and loving wife can get a woman killed and endanger the lives of her female relatives.
8 She Failed In School
In Montreal, Mohammed Shafia, his second wife, and their son were convicted of the first-degree murders of Mohammed’s three teenage daughters and his first wife in his polygamous marriage. Afghan immigrant Shafia and wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya had confessed to plotting the murders, with Mohammed referring to his daughters as “whores.”
Apparently, they were upset with the eldest daughter for wanting to marry a man they hated. The second daughter had infuriated them by wearing revealing clothes and having secret boyfriends. The youngest girl had failed in school and tried to contact social workers to get her out of her troubled home. Shafia’s first wife had supported her daughters.
For these so-called moral transgressions, the four females had to pay with their lives. The bodies of the three daughters—19-year-old Zainab, 17-year-old Sahar, and 13-year-old Geeti—and their mother, Rona Mohammad Amir, were found inside a family car that had plunged into a canal in 2009.
Wiretapped conversations revealed that the murders were premeditated and cold-blooded. Acting on his father’s instructions, 20-year-old son Hamed used the family car to ram another car carrying the four women and push it into the canal.
Exclusive interviews with CBC News revealed that the girls’ teachers had suspected there was trouble at home. The women’s relatives had also feared for their safety. Friends and relatives described how the three girls lived in constant fear of their controlling father.
In 2012, a Canadian jury sentenced the three murderers to prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
7 She Married A Man Of Her Choice
Farzana Parveen, 25, was three months pregnant when she was publicly beaten to death outside a court of law in Lahore, Pakistan. In the presence of 20 family members, her father, two brothers, and a cousin smashed her skull with bricks.
With this ghastly murder, they believed that the family’s honor had been restored. The woman was considered guilty of refusing to marry a cousin that her family had chosen for her. Instead, she had married widower Mohammed Iqbal.
Parveen’s family had brought abduction charges against her husband. She was on her way to court to declare that she had married Iqbal of her own volition when the attack happened. According to Iqbal’s testimony, the police outside the Lahore court stood and watched as the pregnant woman was mercilessly beaten to death.
Iqbal begged for their help, but the police declined to intervene. When Parveen’s father was arrested, he admitted to the murder and showed no remorse. Parveen’s father, brother, and cousin were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. The other brother was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Sadly, this was not the only death related to this case. In an interview with CNN, Parveen’s husband, Iqbal, revealed that he had murdered his first wife six years earlier so that he could marry Parveen. Iqbal had served only one year in jail for his crime.
6 She Wanted To Marry A Man From The Same Subcaste
Students Nidhi Barak, 20, and Dharmender Barak, 23, belonged to the same subcaste of a village in the Indian state of Haryana. The pair eloped to Delhi, aware that their families disapproved of their relationship. In 2013, they were lured back to the village by the girl’s family with the promise of a wedding ceremony upon their return.
But what greeted them was a house of horrors. According to police reports, the couple was tortured for several hours at the girl’s house by her family members. After that, the girl was beaten to death in full public view. According to one news report, the boy’s hands and legs were chopped off before he was beheaded. His body was dumped near his house at a public square in the village.
As these events took place, villagers watched quietly because the murders were considered a family matter to restore honor. When Nidhi’s uncle was asked about the brutal incident, he angrily replied that they had to “set an example.”
The couple was not supposed to marry because they belonged to the same subcaste. Such a marriage is considered incestuous in parts of Haryana, even though the man and woman were not actually related. No one in the village condemned the killings. In fact, people in the neighboring villages echoed their approval of the ghastly double murder.
Alerted by a villager, the police caught the girl’s family cremating her body on a funeral pyre. The girl’s parents and uncle were arrested.
5 She Danced In The Rain
In 2013, two teenage sisters and their mother were shot to death in a premeditated attack orchestrated by their stepbrother in Chilas, Pakistan. In a video that was circulated in the area, Noor Basra, 15, and Noor Sheza, 16, were seen dancing in the rain on the lawn of their bungalow. They wore traditional dress and were covered in green and purple scarves.
Recorded six months earlier, the video was circulated on mobile phones when a relative sent it to his friends. According to news reports, the video caused outrage in the conservative town.
Khutore, the 22-year-old stepbrother of the teenage sisters, plotted the murders with four friends to restore his family’s honor. With masks covering their faces, the five men barged into the house of the girls’ father, retired police officer Rehmat Nabi, and opened fire on his daughters and wife.
Although Khutore got away, his four friends were arrested and confessed to the crime.
4 She Called Off The Wedding
Gul Wazir, a taxi driver from Birmingham, and his wife, Begum, listened to their daughter’s request patiently. Citing cultural and language barriers, she expressed her desire to call off her wedding to a cousin from Pakistan to whom she was promised. Her parents agreed.
With their 28-year-old son, Mehboob Alam, the parents decided to travel to Salehana, a small village in northwest Pakistan that is known for its high number of migrants to Britain. Gul wanted to meet his brother, Noor, and explain the reason for calling off his daughter’s wedding to Noor’s son.
The matter was discussed with the village elders and decided in Gul’s favor. As compensation for calling off the wedding, the Wazirs agreed to pay the hefty sum of £18,800.
Nevertheless, on a carefree morning when Gul and Begum were talking over breakfast, three men barged into their house in Pakistan and shot them. On hearing the shots, Mehboob rushed downstairs to find his parents dead.
According to the villagers, the jilted cousin was furious with Gul and his wife for calling off the wedding. He believed that he would be dishonored if his former fiancee married someone else. The murders were payback for calling off the wedding. Gul was described by a family friend as a peaceful man who loved his family.
3 She Wanted To Marry A Man From A Different Islamic Sect
Tulay Goren, a 15-year-old girl of Turkish descent, disappeared from her home in North London in 1999. Before her disappearance, Tulay was in a relationship with Halil Unal, a man nearly twice her age, who was a Sunni Muslim.
Tulay’s Shia Muslim father, Mehmet Goren, vehemently disapproved of the relationship, primarily because Unal belonged to a different Islamic sect and was much older than Tulay. In the weeks before her disappearance, Tulay ran away twice but was lured back home each time. She also sought help from the police.
Even so, she disappeared in January 1999. Although Mehmet was arrested immediately after Tulay’s disappearance, he was released for lack of evidence. Ten years later, Tulay’s mother, Hanim, decided to break her silence.
In her testimony, Hanim described how she found her daughter lying on the floor of her room. Tulay’s hands and feet had been tied and showed signs of torture. Hanim tried to untie her daughter, but Mehmet appeared and ordered her to leave.
When Tulay disappeared, Mehmet told his wife that the girl had run away. But Hanim did not believe him. She noticed that knives and garbage bags were missing from the kitchen and the back garden had been freshly dug. She also observed a gash on her husband’s palm that he could not explain.
Police believe that Tulay’s body was buried temporarily in the Gorens’ back garden, but her remains have never been recovered. Tulay has been described as a “feisty” girl who often clashed with her domineering father. Her older sister, Nuray, confirmed that Tulay liked Unal and had moved into his house before her 16th birthday.
In 2009, Mehmet Goren was found guilty of his daughter’s murder and sentenced to serve a minimum of 22 years in prison.
2 She Kissed A Man On The Street
Banaz Mahmod was a 20-year-old Kurdish woman from Iraq who had escaped an arranged marriage that was physically and sexually abusive. But her family considered her decision to be disgraceful. After leaving her husband, Banaz met and fell in love with Rahmat Sulemani, 29, a man belonging to a different Kurdish clan.
One day, when Banaz was out with him on a South London street, some men saw them together, followed them, and captured the two kissing on camera. For her family, it was the last straw.
Banaz’s father, Mahmod, and her uncle, Ari, decided that the girl had brought great shame upon the family and must die to restore their honor. Banaz’s father and uncle first attempted to kill her at her grandmother’s house on New Year’s Eve 2006. But Banaz broke a window and escaped.
In the hospital, she recorded her fears on a video, which was later used as evidence against her murderers. Banaz’s boyfriend was also threatened and almost kidnapped, but his friends intervened to foil the plan.
In January 2006, Banaz’s family went outside, leaving her alone at home. When they returned the next day, she was gone. On behalf of her father and uncle, her cousins, Mohammed Saleh Ali and Omar Hussain, and a third man, Mohammad Hama, brutally raped, tortured, and murdered her.
In a taped account given to a visitor while he was imprisoned, Hama described how he kicked and stamped on her neck to “get her soul out.” The narrative was full of jokes and laughter and described the sexually abusive acts carried out on Banaz for more than two hours.
Three months later, her half-naked, decomposed body was found in a suitcase buried in a pit. The shoelace with which she had been strangled was still around her neck. Banaz’s uncle and father were found guilty of ordering the murder. They were given minimum prison terms of 23 years and 20 years, respectively.
The two cousins who had murdered Banaz fled to Iraq but were later extradited to the UK. Ali and Hussain received minimum prison terms of 22 and 21 years, respectively. Hama was given a minimum prison term of 17 years.
1 She Married A Man From A Different Caste
Bhawna Yadav, a 21-year-old college student from the Indian state of Rajasthan, fell in love with 24-year-old Abhishek Seth, a man from a different caste and state. When Bhawna informed her parents about her relationship with Abhishek, they vehemently opposed it.
Bhawna’s parents had arranged her marriage with a man from their caste and region—a man she hadn’t seen since she was six years old. The engagement was supposed to take place in November 2014.
Ten days before the engagement, Bhawna and Abhishek secretly got married at a temple without informing their parents, hoping that her family would eventually accept the union. After they broke the news to Bhawna’s parents, her father wanted them to keep the marriage secret until a formal wedding ceremony was organized. Otherwise, her family’s local prestige would be destroyed.
The newlyweds consented, and Bhawna went with her parents to their New Delhi home. Over the next two days, she was tortured by her parents. She escaped on November 14 and told Abhishek about her ordeal. Soon after, Bhawna’s parents appeared at the newlyweds’ house, apologized profusely, and took her away again.
This time, they strangled her. They drove her body to their village in Rajasthan and cremated her quietly. When Abhishek’s calls to Bhawna went unanswered, he became worried and went to the police station to file an abduction case against her parents.
The police called in Bhawna’s parents for questioning. At first, they claimed that she had died from a snakebite, but they eventually confessed to their daughter’s murder.
According to Abhishek, Bhawna was a girl with small dreams. Although her parents had wanted her to get married right after school, she wanted to go to college and wear jeans. “She was a fighter,” Abhishek told the BBC in an interview. “I wish she would come back.”
A published writer and a consultant by profession, Kanika loves traveling and reading. When she’s not busy introducing the world to her one-year-old, she likes to take up new challenges for self-improvement. She also strives to promote gender equality.