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4 arrested in “honor killing” of 18-year-old Pakistani woman after doctored photo with her boyfriend goes viral

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Pakistani authorities have arrested four people who allegedly killed an 18-year-old woman in the purported name of “honor” after a picture of her sitting with a boyfriend went viral on social media, police said Thursday. Police said the photo had been doctored and posted on fake social media accounts, the BBC reported.

The woman’s father and three other men were detained days after the slaying in Kohistan, a district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. Police said they were told about the killing on Nov. 24 and officers were still investigating.

According to the local police chief, Masood Khan, the four arrested men apparently killed the woman on orders from village elders, who thought she had brought shame to her family by posing for pictures with a boy.

Khan said the investigation determined that the photo of the couple that went viral had been edited by someone before it was shared on social media. He said investigators are trying to trace whoever edited and posted the image since it led to her killing.

It was not immediately clear if the photo manipulation falsely made it look like the 18-year-old had sat with her boyfriend.

Khan said the young man in the photo was detained for questioning. He said police also planned to arrest the members of the council of elders that ordered the woman killed.

Two other people — a young woman and a young man — also received death threats after their doctored pictures went viral on Pakistani social media, the BBC reported, citing police. Authorities took that woman into protective custody but released her back to her family after a court hearing, the BBC reported.

“Honor killings” in Pakistan  

So-called “honor killings” are a significant issue in Pakistan, a conservative Muslim country where close relatives take the lives of hundreds of women each year because of actions perceived as violating conservative norms on love and marriage. There 384 “honor killings” reported in 2022 alone, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. 

TOPSHOT-PAKISTAN-WOMEN-RIGHTS-PROTEST
Supporters of Tehrik-e-Minhaj ul Quran, an Islamic Organisation protest against “honor killings” of women in Lahore on November 21, 2008. 

ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images


Many such killings have been documented by domestic and international human rights groups.

Amnesty International issued a statement Thursday expressing its concerns over the death of the 18-year-old in the Kohistan district. The human rights group asked Pakistan’s government to stop tribal councils from thinking they can order honor killings and escape legal consequences.

“The continued failure of the government of Pakistan to curb the extra-legal power of jirgas, or tribal councils, to run parallel legal systems perpetuating patriarchal violence with impunity is extremely concerning,” Nadia Rahman, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for research in South Asia, said.

Rahman said authorities must do more than arrest the suspects accused of carrying out such slayings.

“The authorities must end impunity for violence and abolish so-called village and tribal councils that prescribe horrific crimes such as so-called ‘honor killings,'” she said.

The BBC reported that in 2016, Pakistan’s government amended legislation so that killers would get a mandatory life sentence. Previously, they could avoid a jail term if pardoned by the victim’s family.

Still, human rights groups say that those who carry out “honor killings” are still evading justice. Last year, the BBC reported the brother of a social media star was acquitted of murdering her. He had been sentenced to life in prison after confessing to the 2016 killing, saying it was because the star had brought shame on the family.

Last year, a Pakistani man was arrested after being accused of killing his 18-year-old daughter in Italy after she reportedly refused an arranged marriage.

In 2020, Pakistani authorities arrested two men for allegedly murdering two female family members after a video which showed them being kissed by a man was posted online.

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