Last Friday at Chester Crown court, Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his 49-year-old wife, Farzana Ahmed, were sentenced for the murder of their 17-year-old daughter, Shafilea Ahmed, in September 2003.
According to BBC News, the judge, Mr Justice Roderick Evans, said they should both serve a minimum of 25 years.
It appears Shafilea was violently abused by her parents from around the time she was 11 years old, when she became torn between the Western culture of her surroundings and the strict culture of rural Gujarat, imported by her parents who are of Pakistani origin.
The Independent reports that the conviction of the Ahmeds took nine years of investigation by the Cheshire police, mainly because the witnesses to the murder were Shafilea’s four younger siblings; too terrified or too conditioned by the parents to break ranks with the family.
The body of the girl was not found until February 2004 by the river Kent in Cumbria. An inquest in January 2008, in Kendal, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing. Dr Alison Armour, a Home Office pathologist, ruled out natural causes and said the actual death had occurred elsewhere.
There were witnesses from Shafilea’s school, including friends and teachers, who had seen physical evidence of abuse and heard first-hand accounts of her fear that she would be forced to marry an older cousin.
In addition, she ran away from home several times; but when questioned by social services, unfortunately within her father’s eye-line, Shafilea always returned home.
The main break-through in the case came when Shafilea’s sister, Alesha, 24, was arrested for organising an armed robbery at her parent’s home. During police interviews for that matter, she revealed that she and her siblings had watched her parents murder their sister by holding her down and suffocating her with a plastic bag.
Cheshire police have preferred not to refer to this crime as an ’honour killing’ as this may appear to partly legitimise violent acts against girls such as Shafilea. Instead, it may be argued that it is not necessarily a conflict of cultures that led to her death, but an unequal battle of wills.