Pregnant woman beaten, stoned in honor killing

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LAHORE, Pakistan -- A pregnant Pakistani woman was beaten to death by her family Tuesday outside a courthouse in the eastern city of Lahore because she had defied their wishes and married the man of her choice, police officials said.

Police investigators said Farzana Parveen, 25, was beaten to death on a busy street as a crowd of about 30 men watched but did nothing.

Such attacks, commonly known as honor killings, are common in pockets of rural Pakistan where tribal traditions are strong. But they are relatively rare in large, cosmopolitan cities such as Lahore, and Ms. Parveen's death was taken as further evidence of the failure of Pakistan's increasingly weak police to protect vulnerable members of society.

Ms. Parveen, who came from a small Punjabi village 57 miles west of Lahore, enraged her family in January when she married Muhammad Iqbal, a widower from a neighboring village, instead of the cousin who had been chosen by her parents. Her parents brought a police complaint against Mr. Iqbal, claiming that he had kidnapped their daughter.

On Tuesday, Ms. Parveen was scheduled to appear in court in Lahore in the case. Her lawyer said she intended to tell the court that she had not been coerced into the marriage. She was three months pregnant.

As she met with her lawyer early in the morning, a large group of men from her home village gathered outside the lawyer's offices. The crowd attacked her as she walked the short distance to the city High Court.

One of Ms. Parveen's brothers stepped forward and fired a gun at her but missed, police said, and she stumbled and fell as she tried to flee. He caught her and beat her on the head with bricks from a nearby construction site.

A crowd of witnesses, including her father, failed to intervene during the beating, and Ms. Parveen died of her injuries, police said. Her brother fled, and police later arrested her father, Muhammad Azeem, over the killing.

Honor killings in Pakistan are often mistakenly described as the product of Islamic law. Some reports Tuesday described Ms. Parveen as the victim of a stoning -- an image that conjures up images of Taliban-era executions of women accused of adultery -- because she had been beaten to death with bricks.

But such killings more often stem from tribal traditions or deep-rooted cultural norms. The independent Human Rights Commission reported that 869 women were stabbed, shot, beaten or burned to death in honor killings in Pakistan in 2013, usually at the hands of close family. The attacks have a variety of names in different languages, but are usually referred to as "black work," a reference to the culturally unacceptable practice of marrying without familial consent.

In some cases, the killings are sanctioned by tribal councils or other community groups; men are also sometimes killed in such cases, but much less frequently.

As the country becomes more urbanized, and the middle class grows in size, marriages conducted through free choice are becoming more common. But for many young Pakistanis, the choice of a marriage partner is strongly influenced, if not entirely dictated, by parents.

Lawyers who defend women at risk of honor killing are routinely subjected to death threats, and the men who carry out the killings often escape imprisonment through an Islamic provision of Pakistani law that allows the perpetrator of a crime to avoid penalties by making a cash payment to the family of the victim. When honor killings take place inside a family, such a payment may not even be made.

Had she made it to the courthouse Tuesday, Ms. Parveen would have told the court that she had married Mr. Iqbal of her own free will, said her lawyer, Rao Mohammad Kharal. "Farzana was here to tell the court that she married of her own choice," he told Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Iqbal accused Ms. Parveen's father, two brothers and three other men of being behind her killing, according to a police report.

Hours later, in an interview from inside the jail cell where he was being held, Mr. Azeem said he had killed his daughter to preserve the family's honor.


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