Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
A Pakistani-born couple convicted of murdering their teenage daughter in 2003 because of their opposition to her Westernization has been sentenced to life in a British prison.
The Associated Press reports that the sentencing was clinched by the testimony of someone who witnessed the killing: the victim’s younger sister. The verdict comes almost nine years after the death of Shafilea Ahmed and after a three-month trial that ended in two days of deliberations.
Ahmed had regularly fought with her parents about clothing, money, and makeup. Multiple reports to U.K. social services were dismissed, and in 2003 Shafilea ran away to avoid an arranged marriage to an older man. Her parents drugged her and put her on a flight to Pakistan, but she then swallowed bleach to avoid the marriage. The BBC has published poems by the teenager that record some of her frustration and sadness.
Ifikhar and Farzana Ahmed repeatedly denied involvement in their daughter’s death after being first arrested two months after the murder, when they originally reported her as missing. Their younger daughter, Alesha, now 21, recounted her parents pushing Shafilea onto the couch, stuffing a plastic bag into her mouth, and holding it over her face until she died.* "Just finish her here," her mother reportedly said in Urdu. Alesha was 12 at the time.
Justice Roderick Evans, announcing a sentence of at least 25 years for each, told Ifikhar and Farzana Ahmed that they imposed their social and cultural attitudes from Pakistan onto their daughter. He called the constant tension between worlds she lived in as enforced by their rules "unrealistic, destructive, and cruel," the Telegraph reports. "Your concern about being shamed in your community," he continued, "was greater than your love of your child."
*Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated Alesha Ahmed's age. She is now 21.