Nine years after her death, the parents of a British girl have been found guilty of honor killing.
Teenager Shafi-lea Ahmed was apparently suffocated because of her desire to live what they perceived as a Westernized life style. Her parents stuffed a plastic bag into her mouth to kill her. Her body was found five months later.
Giving evidence behind a curtain, her sister described how Shafi-lea was tortured for months and then killed by her parents. A teacher testified that Shafi-lea had expressed fears that her parents were about to force her into a marriage in Pakistan.
Shafi-lea was a bright, 17-year-old who dreamed of being an attorney and was not interested in participating in a forced marriage. The court and jury were told that on one trip to Pakistan, she drank bleach in protest.
Criminologist Aisha Gill, who provided an expert report in the case, told Al Jazeera that Shafi-lea was abused most of her life. "Toward the end of her life, she just gave up because she could not fight back anymore," Gill said.
Campaigners say that honor killings are not a new phenomenon in Britain. The victims are often girls who are brought up in Britain but abused and controlled in order to protect perceived religious and cultural beliefs. Some girls simply disappear.
Polly Harrar, founder of the Sharan Project, told Al Jazeera that last year alone, 250 girls between the ages of 13 to 16 were taken off of school registers because they never returned from trips abroad. She said that between 5,000 – 8,000 forced marriages take place every year. "Within that forced marriage there are elements of honor abuse, which may lead to honor killing," Harrar alleged.
Shafi-lea's parents denied killing their daughter, but the jury did not believe them. Had she lived, Shafi-lea would be 26 years old.