Pakistani Girl Axed 15 Times: Why Did Brother Of Gul Meena Attempt ‘Honor Killing’?

By Philip Ross on April 5, 2013 1:56 PM EDT

afghan
Female employees in Kabul sew blankets at a textile factory. Engaging women in the workforce in Afghanistan is part of an initiative to effectively end violence against women in the region. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A young Pakistani woman who was axed 15 times by her brother and survived the gruesome attack now lives with the painful memory of and the deep scars from her sibling's failed "honor killing."

CNN reports that last November, 17-year-old Gul Meena ran away from her home in Pakistan after enduring years of physical abuse from her husband and her family. The young woman fled her husband's home with an Afghan man whom she had fallen in love with. The couple headed North and managed to cross the border into Afghanistan, where they believed they would be shielded from the family's influence.

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But Meena's brother pursued them. When he caught up with Meena and the young Afghan man, he hacked her friend to death with an axe before bludgeoning his sister with the same weapon and leaving her to die in a puddle of blood.

Meena was taken to the Emergency Department of Nangarhar Regional Medical Centre after a passerby found her bleeding to death in her bed. The Daily Mail reports that doctors were able to save her life and kept her in the hospital for two months before Women for Afghan Women, a human rights organization founded in 2001 to shelter victims of domestic violence, took her in.

She now lives in a women's shelter in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. Her face is marred by scars, which crisscross like train tracks along her left cheek and temple and wrap around the side of her head. These, and the painful memory of her brutal attack, still haunt her.

"I've tried to kill myself several times since arriving at the shelter but they won't let me," she said.

According to CNN, Meena was married at the age of 12 to a man who was 48 years older than her. Meena says that under his iron grip, she was abused, beaten and mistreated. When Meena confided in her family about the abuse, their response was all but empathetic.

"My family would hit me when I complained," she told CNN. "They told me you belong in your husband's house -- that is your life."

The United Nations calls "honor killings" an "extreme symptom of discrimination against women", an epidemic that knows no political boundaries and happens in every corner of the world, from the Middle East to Southwest Asia to the United Kingdom. The Independent reports that the prevalence of so-called "honor killings" is dishearteningly high, with around 20,000 instances of "honor killing" homicides occurring every year - four times as many as the U.N. initially reported.

Women - and, less commonly, men - are beheaded, burned to death, stabbed, strangled, electrocuted and even buried alive, because of a perceived shame they brought upon the family. "Most of the victims are young, many are teenagers, slaughtered under a vile tradition that goes back hundreds of years but which now spans half the globe," Robert Frisk wrote for The Independent back in 2010.

The Independent led a 10-month investigation in Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank and found that Muslims, Christians and Hindu communities all practiced "honor killings."

From the U.N. News Center:

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that in a number of countries' domestic legal systems, including through discriminatory laws, still fully or partially exempt individuals guilty of honor killings from punishment. Perpetrators may even be treated with admiration and given special status within their communities.

Malou Innocent, a journalist for CNN, underscores the difficulty of correcting gender-based oppression in certain parts of the world. "We are not very good at spreading Western-style, Jeffersonian democracy ... to foreign cultures," he said. "In the end, our military and diplomacy cannot transform deep-rooted societal norms."  

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