Pakistani woman burned daughter alive over marriage dispute

Jun 16, 2016

By Jon Boone

A young Pakistani woman who was burned to death by her family on Wednesday for running away and marrying without their permission had been tricked into returning home by her mother’s promise to organise a proper wedding ceremony, her husband has said.

Seventeen-year-old Zeenat Rafiq was doused with petrol and set on fire by her mother, Perveen, in a neighbourhood of Lahore. The mother reportedly made no attempt to hide her crime, shouting to neighbours that she had killed her daughter for supposedly dishonouring her family.

Zeenat ran away with and married Hassan Khan last week, angering her Punjabi family who were furious that she had married an ethnic Pashtun without permission.

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17 comments on “Pakistani woman burned daughter alive over marriage dispute

  • Why the horrific death?

    I would think there are no shortages of firearms in that country. Does it have something to do with the honor of the family to make the death as horrific as possible?

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  • @OP- The mother reportedly made no attempt to hide her crime, shouting to neighbours that she had killed her daughter for supposedly dishonouring her family.

    This would indicate that the mother was acting in a response to intense social pressure from tribalistic bigotry.

    Zeenat ran away with and married Hassan Khan last week, angering her Punjabi family who were furious that she had married an ethnic Pashtun without permission.

    A daughter had taken important personal decisions without seeking permission from her “owners”, and had formed a partnership with an outsider “non-person” causing brain spasms in her small-minded family!

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  • 3
    Pinball1970 says:

    Not a feel good story.
    Just shows the power of this sort of tribalism can top trump even the basic human instinct to protect a child. Even ones own child.

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  • Monsters, animals, savages. Take these countries over and “civilize them,” as Dickens said. It’s 2016. (Sounds easy. Won’t happen, and shouldn’t. But it sounds good.) There have been times – and this a recent thing – when I have felt hatred of all Muslims. I know that’s wrong, is unworthy of me, and will pass; but why lie? This is a place to be honest. I am not proud of that, but I am saying what others feel but won’t say. I do have those impulses at times. Don’t we all?

    “Men [people] who hate are fools.” — Melville.

    That’s better.

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  • Horrific!

    I will try to explain how all of this fits into culture as I have lived it. My mums everyday threats were normal but I can only remember her ever hitting me twice. She would threaten to hit me so hard my guts would burst. She would burn me while I was sleeping if I did not behave. She would threaten to throw me out of the window and many other inventive threats that sounded horrific to the untrained ear but was generally ignored by me and my siblings. We did hear of wives setting their cheating or violent husbands alight but not sure if they were true. A relatives husband who was a gambler was beaten so badly after not being able to pay a debt and who suffered brain damage poorer petrol over himself and set it alight. He lived another five or six years.

    The first time I realised the significance of all this was watching an all black comedy sketch show (brilliant) in the 90’s called ‘The Real McCoy’ when the sketches of Nigerian women said all of the above for comedy effect. The one I hadn’t heard before was, “behave or I will hit you with a brick’.

    Mixed with ‘honour’ this then becomes a very dangerous as if push comes to shove, some people will act so as not to look as if their threats were empty. Silly stupid cultures mixed with religion bringing horrendous results.

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  • I feel bad about my disclosure. I said that there have been moments here and there when I have felt “hatred of all Muslims.” Let me make it very clear. Hating or blaming all Muslims or all Jews, or all Germans, or all Christians, or all fundamentalists, or all anyone is wrong! It is wrong!

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  • Dan

    Why not further note that though 91% of honour killings had Muslim perpetrators and that these exist in a narrow set of cultures and that Islam (for once!) does not condone these horrors?

    If we talk carefully, our evidence holds greater power, we can defend against naysayers, and our refined understanding may lead us to see better ways to stem this stupidity.

    Stop wishing for miracle deconversions, for ordinary folk to slap their forehead on seeing an apostate and say, but of course. Engage in something politically useful.


    Dan, I withdraw all of the above and humbly apologise.

    Stet, because it has a little information in it and #6 made my eyes prick and sparkle.

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  • 8
    Pinball1970 says:

    @Daniel- being honest is important.

    how is one supposed to feel one a mother pours petrol over their own child and sets her on fire?

    Hate is a reasonable response, it means you are civilized.

    This happens in India too, Hindu mainly, its a tribal thing in that area so Islam may only be a minor factor

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  • This isn’t a “black swan event”, but so prevalent as to be statistically predictable as to how many honour killings in a region we will see.

    Perhaps if the perpetrators were publicly shamed for this in some fashion by the authorities (and the clergy), the “motivation” of avoiding dishonour for one’s family would be removed. This act should bring dishonour to the family.

    BTW, why do people say it’s “tribalism” at work, rather than “racism”. What’s the difference (if any)?

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  • M Englishman

    In the tribe, everyone’s fate is tied closely together for life. When one of their own misbehaves significantly then they will all close ranks and punish their offending member with more or less severity. Many punishments seem arbitrary but the nuance may be lost on me. Sometimes there are alliances or old grudges that I couldn’t perceive.

    Some of these decisions are made by high ranking family members but some punishments are taken on the spot by peers who happen to be on the scene. Public misbehavior is a terrible mistake because outsiders are watching and the honor of the tribe is at stake. A tribe with a history of mental illness, money problems, infidelity, loose women, bad food, no connections in high places, no member who has immigrated to the outside and is sending money back, no grown sons to throw their weight around, a weak patriarch, a weak matriarch, no cars, no actual real estate to their name, etc. and this tribe is screwed in the marriage market for their young people.

    Here in my domain, if my brother was shown to have a tragic problem of bad judgement I’d be shocked, then puzzled but in the end I’d say “oh well, it doesn’t reflect on me but I’m going to fix this for him anyways.” This attitude is so far outside of tribal culture. It’s much more typical of an American nuclear family. But for that woman who assumes ownership of her daughter as part of her tribal right then the daughters actions must have been a shock that came out of nowhere. Something beyond her wildest nightmare.

    Racism is aggression turned outward. A bad reaction against a tribe or group that is perceived as being different in appearance enough to insult them. I’ve heard of tribal members refusing a marriage proposal for their own from a tribe they stated was way too dark skinned. Lighter skin is valued in North Africa for example and they make no bones about saying it. All analyses of physical attributes are delivered on the spot in a blunt form. The are exceptionally cruel to the subsaharan Africans, I’m sure you can see why.

    I’m not making a single excuse for her murderous behavior but this type of disaster will happen more and more as the young people decide that they have the right to own their own lives. They need social agencies right out in front of this running interference. I know, I know, it’s not going to happen.

    What I have seen happen is that an elaborate lie was concocted about the actual tribal identity of the groom and then a swift relocation of the couple to stay out of harm’s way. Sometimes it works if it happens fast enough and if there are some cooperative relatives living far enough away.

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  • Pinball (#8), Laurie

    I said I felt hatred of ALL MUSLIMS for a brief moment. That is what I felt bad about. That feeling does not make one “civilized”, especially if it were to continue. That aside, I do hate the lady who did that and all those who partake in and condone that kind of barbarism; and I don’t give a good goddamn about their history or their “culture”, what kind of pressures they feel, tribal or otherwise, or whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim, Hindu, or non-Hindu. I don’t care. They’re sick freaks, no longer quite deserving of being called human. They crossed a line and that’s that. Perhaps we need to round these sub-human devils all up and send them to an island somewhere, somewhere far away. There they can do what they want, set each other ablaze, celebrate, and puff themselves up with pride in their honor until they explode into dust.

    Better idea: put them in cages! Let’s build more zoos, empty out the old, boring, and inhumane ones, let the cute lions and the zebras and the gorillas, etc. free, at long last, and fill the old and new zoos with something new and interesting. That would also create jobs.

    (I’m feeling the hate again, and feeling bad about it.)

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  • Laurie 11

    Ha! Forgot about that one. Usually for talking back to your elders or bad language. Mum used it as a threat for nail biting as I had the habit. Smear it on you nails and if you subconsciously put your hands to your mouth….She never did it but I ‘thought it through’ and decided it was actually a good idea and used it on myself. The inevitable happened and I rubbed my eyes. What a plonker!

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  • 14
    bonnie2 says:

    Any “rural music’ as a threat?, lol.

    @ #1 – why the horrific death?

    Alas, also, why the horrific abuse of a u.s. boy put in scalding water as punishment (from which he died)? Trying to drive home a “point”, as only the perverted homo sapien species can do.

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  • Bonnie (#14),

    That kind of “argument” (about the US boy) gets us precisely nowhere. It is ahistorical, and borders on defeatism and obscurantism. It’s like saying that what happened under Hitler has happened elsewhere, which is true and untrue. Unless you can identify the specific historical antecedents, the cultural and social conditions associated with any given act of barbarism, collective or otherwise – especially when such acts are happening on a large scale and accepted as normal by large segments of a population, and especially if such acts are sanctioned by a religion and the refusal to perpetrate such acts are actually restricted by a religion – it will be difficult if not impossible to approach this problem, and will make any attempt to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future difficult if not impossible.

    You can’t eliminate mental illness, or cruelty. There will always be insanity and cruelty. But what are the causes of the latter? What are the specific elements bound up with acts of cruelty? If acts of abominable cruelty (Orlando, for example) constitute a pattern or a symptom it behooves us to study that. I take back my statement that the culture and history of the ignorant and ferocious human beast that burned her daughter alive, is not important.

    I am prepared to say that we don’t burn people over here in the US like that, and that in spite of the horrors in our history and individual acts of barbarism such as the one you mentioned, which there’ll always be, we are far more civilized. I have nothing but disdain for their lack of introspection and modernization, which is far more pervasive in Pakistan and other places than it is here.

    No matter how much savagery they inflict, we (in the US and in Europe and elsewhere) still need to be the enlightened protagonists and integrate them into the civilized world (a relative term). Otherwise they will stay on a dark age dystopian trajectory for a very long time – and engender more hate in the process.

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  • Dan

    Unless you can identify…

    This whole paragraph is what I’m trying to do for the reasons you explained there. If I don’t understand the root cause(s) of a social problem then how can I ameliorate it? These are massive society wide problems that we’re considering here and their evolutionary roots are very deep indeed. There are those who believe we can slap a bandaid on them and walk away. It’s not going to work and could make everything worse.

    No matter how much…

    I agree with this too. Two decades ago I wouldn’t have agreed. At that time things were bumbling along well enough but now it’s at the breaking point. Too much suffering at the hands of fundamentalists. Moderates are too slow to react for a number of reasons. At this point, I feel ethically obligated to speak out against the forces of darkness. The victim class is huge and growing. That’s the prompt for ethics based thinkers to start yelling.

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  • Dan #15

    It is ahistorical

    Yep. And mental illness picks up the nearest cultural excuse to hand.

    Though I think there is a deeper problem in the wider cultures of children as property which at some point needs needs bringing front and centre. This cannot be about more polishing of their life paths (nosiree) but it does have to do with their dignity and their direct access to state services and protections.

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