Last Wednesday, a Pakistani woman was shot dead by her brother in the middle of a courtroom in the city of Hyderabad. The murder took place during court proceedings after the victim married a man her family disapproved of, sparking rage and pushing them to file a complaint against the married couple.
The Guardian reports that the young woman, 22-year-old Raheela Sehto, married a young university graduate named Zulfiqar Sehto, fomenting rage throughout her family. The case was brought to court as a kidnapping in the family’s attempt to reclaim their daughter. Raheela was shot by her brother, Javed Iqbal Shaikh, in the middle of the courtroom. He took matters into his own hands after a short break in court proceedings last week, shooting her in the left side of her head and killing her almost instantaneously.
The August murder took place after an earlier attempt made by Raheela’s uncle to strangle her in court in July with a scarf. Javed Iqbal Shaikh appeared not to feel any remorse about his actions telling journalists, “I did that in rage because she had dishonored the family.”
He had also attempted to shoot Raheela’s husband before security tackled him and stopped him from continuing to fire into the courtroom. Shaikh had originally smuggled the gun into court proceedings under a large coat, the Daily Mail reports. Four other family members have been charged in the killing along with Raheela’s brother. This is the first so-called “honor killing” to happen publicly in a courtroom in Pakistan.
The couple at the center of the recent murder was trying to get the court to throw out the kidnapping charges and receive official protection from the threats of Raheela’s family.
Although the Guardian notes that the family members involved in the murder were quite well-educated and lived in a populous city, an uncommon mixture of factors in such a murder case, Raheela’s murder can be understood in the wider context of honor killings. Just last week, the parents of a teenager were charged with murdering their daughter after officials discovered her body. Sources in that case revealed that her parents had abused her because she did not want to enter an arranged marriage.
This most recent shooting ended in tragic melancholy. The young groom, Zulfiqar Sehto, was deeply grieved and told reporters that he hopes Raheela’s murderers are brought to justice. The Guardian notes that there was a 27% increase in honor killings between 2010 and 2011 in Pakistan. The term “honor killing” has a long and uncomfortable history in court proceedings. The term has a subjective undertone that can complicate the way motives and sentences are defined and meted out.
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