An average of 12 murders in the United Kingdom are identified as honor killings, and there is one man who knows too well the devastation such incidents have on a family that lives to tell the tale.
Brit Sikh Jagdeesh Singh recalls how ten years ago his sister, a mother-of-two Surjit Athwal, was murdered at the command of her mother-in-law Bachan Athwal for daring to ask her husband Sukhdave for a divorce.
AdvertisementJagdeesh, a dad of two, fought for years to bring his sister's killers to justice and is determined to raise awareness of honour killings.
The 39-year-old public sector worker from Slough, Berkshire, says: "My sister was a young, happy girl. In 1988, at the age of 16, she went into a typical Punjabi community-arranged marriage and into the family who ended up killing her."
"I remember Surjit was unhappy on the day of her wedding. She was numb. I was sad about that, but she was prepared to honour the family tradition for arranged marriage. We didn't know about any stress or strain until five years into the marriage," The Sun quotes Jagdeesh, as saying.
He recalls his sister telling him that she was living a life of misery filled with abuse.
She left her husband for several months, but returned to him after promises that things would get better. But she was never happy with him and spoke openly about getting a divorce.
Jagdeesh says: "Her youngest child was just eight months when she was killed."
In December 1998, Surjit was lured to Punjab, India, with her mother-in-law Bachan while her husband Sukhdave stayed at home with her two children.
She never came home.
Jagdeesh says: "I phoned her midweek before she left and she announced that she was off to India.
"I couldn't believe what she was talking about. At that point her mother-in-law was enemy No1. I was horrified. I can only imagine she went as a final gesture to the family before applying for a divorce. I told her that when she landed she must call me," he said.
"She never called. I asked her husband for a phone contact for her and he was evasive, saying there was no phone. We started to get increasingly worried. When the plane came back without my sister we were thunderstruck. We didn't know what to do. We just panicked," he recalls.
"But then we decided to direct our energies into looking for her. We started frantically calling all the airlines at Heathrow to see if Surjit had missed her flight. I thought instantly, 'Please let it not be that she is dead.' I was devastated, but had no time to grieve. After frantic calls I found that she had not boarded a plane and phoned the family, begging them to tell me where she was," Jagdeesh said.
It took Jagdeesh and his family ten years to bring Bachan Athwal to justice.
It was only when a new police officer was assigned to the case in 2004 and pursued it to India that evidence came to light and police in the UK were able to prosecute.
Bachan Athwal was jailed for life in September 2007, as was her son, who must serve 27 years.
Jagdeesh says: "This was a dirty, murderous plan to lure her like an animal into a cage and while she was in India she was killed. At some point between December 4 and 18 she was killed but we will never know the details."
Tulay Goren's decision to pick a boyfriend for herself was her biggest mistake, for the 15-year-old paid for that decision with her life.
According to her sister, Tulay, a pretty Brit Muslim schoolgirl was murdered by her father, Mehmet Goren, the person she should have trusted more than anyone in the world.
Goren, 49, killed his young daughter after he discovered she was involved with a man twice her age who belonged to a different Islamic sect.
Goren, of Woodford Green, Essex, was jailed for life for the "honor" killing, more than a decade after Tulay disappeared. Her body has still not been recovered.
He adds: "The story of what happened to Tulay horrifically demonstrates again that members within these communities are so obsessed with these very fragile and superficial notions of honour that they are prepared to go out and commit murder.
"We have a whole network of people across our community who would deliberately remain silent on the issue. Their silence, I believe, is just as criminal and as contributory to a murderous act as the actions of those who killed my sister. By remaining silent they are actually giving these kinds of crimes a green light and saying they are acceptable. Honour is the driving force behind these murders. We need to highlight that it is a very warped and perverse sense of honour," he concludes.
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