The tragic story of Shafilea Ahmed is not necessarily one of honor killing; however, the girl was upset enough at the prospect of an arranged marriage to swallow bleach. As young Muslims in the West are increasingly caught between two cultures, we will see more of such stories. From the Telegraph, :
The parents of Shafilea Ahmed, the murdered Asian teenager, upstaged detectives yesterday when they gatecrashed a televised police briefing to deny that they were guilty of a so-called “honour killing”.
Senior officers had just given details of how their daughter’s badly decomposed body was found concealed in undergrowth when Iftikhar Ahmed, 44, and his wife, Farzana, 41, arrived with their legal team.
The couple, from Warrington, both of whom are on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of kidnap, were weeping and dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs as they entered a privately-hired suite in a Cheshire hotel.
Det Chief Insp Geraint Jones, who is leading the investigation, looked surprised at their arrival and refused to allow them to sit at a table positioned in front of a Cheshire Police screen. A few minutes later, clearly embarrassed by the interruption, he and his team left the building.
Neither of the Ahmeds spoke during their protest. However, through their solicitor they insisted they were in no way involved in the death of their “beautiful and irreplaceable daughter”.
They went on to accuse police of having become blinkered by a racial stereotype which dictated that as Asian parents they must have been involved in their daughter’s murder. This was a course of action, they claimed, that was allowing “the real culprit” to remain at large.
Shafilea, 17, disappeared six months ago, shortly after returning from a trip to Pakistan where she had resisted the overtures of a distant cousin to take part in an arranged marriage.
While in Pakistan she became so distraught she swallowed a quantity of bleach. This burned her gullet so severely that she required hospital treatment both there and once she had returned to Britain. Shafilea spent most of Sept 11, 2003, at Priestley Sixth Form College and later went to a local call centre where she worked four nights a week.
Her mother picked her up and drove her home. She went to bed, as she did every night, with her seven-year-old sister. When the household awoke she had gone. She was reported missing eight days later by her former teachers at Great Sankey High School.
Cheshire Police have been convinced almost from the outset that Shafilea was kidnapped and possibly murdered. At press conferences they consistently refused to rule out the possibility that she was the victim of an honour killing.
Instead, they portrayed the “intelligent, ambitious and popular” teenager as a girl torn between traditional family ties and the Western culture she sought to embrace.
At home she spoke Urdu and observed Muslim prayers with her three sisters and younger brother. But at the same time she idolised R&B singers, wore tight jeans and secretly stored the mobile telephone numbers of male friends at college.
She and her 15-year-old sister, who was also her closest friend, shared a love of pop stars such as Justin Timberlake and Kelly Rowland. They frequently travelled to the Trafford Centre, Manchester, to go window shopping.
Police fears that Shafilea had been murdered were confirmed when workmen found a girl’s body beside a riverbank five miles from the M6 near Kendal, Cumbria.
However, the remains were so badly decomposed it took forensic scientists three weeks to confirm her identity. During that time the Ahmeds said jewellery found on the body was “similar” to some their daughter had owned.
Mr Jones did not invite the girl’s parents to yesterday’s press conference. But they turned up anyway, arriving at the Village Hotel, Warrington, in a dark blue Mercedes.
Milton Firman, their solicitor, asked police if he and the Ahmeds could sit at their table. When they refused, he stood in the corner of the room and began reading from a prepared statement.
Nothing, he said, could change the cruel reality that the couple had lost a beautiful daughter – “a reality made all the more painful in view of the unsubstantiated allegations against them”.
He went on: “Mr and Mrs Ahmed wish to confirm once more that they strenuously deny any direct or indirect involvement in their daughter’s untimely demise.
“If called upon to do so, they shall not hesitate to defend their good and unblemished names in any court.” Police should begin to work with the family, rather than to carry on an inquiry based upon a form of ethnic stereotyping, he said.
The Ahmeds should now be left to grieve while the authorities “go elsewhere to find those truly responsible for any foul play”. Later Mr Firman accused detectives of “putting two and two together and coming up with 14”.
He said the couple “despised” the term “honour killing”, and in their daughter’s case it was entirely inappropriate.
He said the Ahmeds had not reported their daughter missing in September because she had run away twice before and on each occasion the police response had been poor.
Mr Firman added: “It is very easy to stereotype parents in an Asian family and look for tell-tale signs. There is certainly an in-built prejudice in the way these inquiries are handled.”
Mr Jones had earlier refused to be drawn on questions about the Ahmeds. But he said the discovery of Shafilia’s body meant that “the net is now closing” on whoever had murdered her.
The teenager’s body was found in bushes beside the River Kent, in the first area of woodland off Junction 38 of the M6. Her killer or killers had deliberately concealed her beneath undergrowth. A pathologist has yet to confirm the cause of death.