Brave Alesha Ahmed has finally brought her parents to justice, but it’s too late for Shafilea
Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed were convicted today after their daughter Alesha told Cheshire Crown Court that she saw her parents suffocate her older sister Shafilea in September 2003.
“By breaking her silence, Alesha Ahmed has ensured justice for her sister Shafilea. She deserves enormous recognition for telling the truth about this brutal ‘honour’ killing, and we hope her bravery will encourage others to come forward,” said Diana Nammi, Director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), which helps victims of ‘honour’ based violence.
While welcoming today’s verdict, Nammi insisted that lessons must be learned from Shafilea’s death, as evidence revealed during her parents’ three month trial suggested that the teenager’s life could have been saved.
“Shafilea ran away from home several times, came to school covered in bruises, told a teacher she was going to be married off and even drank bleach to escape a forced marriage, yet she was not removed from her home or protected from her parents,” said Nammi.
Although awareness of ‘honour’ killing has increased since Shafilea Ahmed’s murder in 2003, IKWRO claims that many social services, teachers, police and staff in other public bodies still do not understand the risks and are reluctant to intervene out of misplaced cultural sensitivity.
“A government review of local authorities’ responses to ‘honour’ based violence was undertaken in 2010 but the results were never published,” Diana Nammi said. “As a result, gaps have not been addressed and girls like Shafilea are still being returned to their families on a regular basis.”
For further comment or to arrange an interview with Diana Nammi call 07841 526949.
Notes to editors
Seventeen year old Shafilea Ahmed disappeared from her home in Warrington on 11 September 2003 and her remains were found near a flooded river in Cumbria the following January. Her parents were charged with her murder in September 2011 and their trial at Chester Crown Court began on 17 May 2012.
The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) is a registered charity which provides advice and support to women and girls who are experiencing ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage and other forms of abuse.
The Home Office estimates that there are twelve ‘honour’ killings each year in the UK. Research by IKWRO found that 2823 incidents of ‘honour’ based violence were reported to police forces across the UK in 2010.
‘Honour’ based violence is any act of violence which is committed by a family or community in order to defend their perceived honour. It is normally collectively planned and carried out by the victim’s family, sometimes with the involvement or collusion of the wider community, and can include forced marriage, rape, forced suicide, acid attacks, mutilation, imprisonment, abduction, beatings, death threats, blackmail, emotional abuse, surveillance, harassment and ‘honour’ killing.