When marrying for love gets you buried alive

A request for tribal leaders of the world: Could you stop with the honor killings?

Published September 2, 2008 4:50PM (EDT)

If I had to list small things that would improve my personal existence, most would be pretty simple: shorter lines at the DMV, milk that never spoils, a universal ban on "Visualize Whirled Peas" bumper stickers. I like to focus on these self-involved minutiae because they keep me distracted from the bigger problems in the world. But just for the hell of it, here is my large-scale request for the day: Will people please stop with the honor killings?

The latest horribly depressing tale: Three girls from the Umrani tribe in Pakistan, murdered because they insulted the "honor" of their tribe by trying to marry men they loved. As the Globe and Mail reports, "the three teenage girls were kidnapped, taken to a remote area, and shot. Then, still alive, they were dragged bleeding to a ditch, where they were covered in earth and stones, suffocating the remaining life out of them."

According to the Globe and Mail, even though "honor killings" are not unusual, being buried alive is rare even by Pakistani tribal standards. This was supposed to "revive the respect of the Umrani tribe [and] serve as a warning."

Depressed yet? Consider this: The girls died over one and a half months ago and no one has been arrested; when the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent organization, tried to register a criminal complaint about the case, the local police refused. Worse, several male legislators from Baluchistan (the province where the killings occurred) defended the killings in Pakistan's national parliament. "These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," said one senator from Baluchistan, Israrullah Zehri. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

One might argue that shooting someone and burying her alive are the definition of an "immoral act," but hey -- why let rationality get in the way of a centuries-old tradition? After all, as Samar Minallah, a human rights activist who investigated the killings, stated to the Globe and Mail, "Never in Pakistan's history have we seen the perpetrators of such crimes punished."

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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