A 16-year-old girl’s friend begged her for a harmless favor. She agreed. A little while later, 15 people attacked her, drugged her, tied her up, threw her into a locked car, and then set the car on fire. Here are photos and video of the men and what they did to her.
Ambreen Riasat was just 16 years old when she was viciously murdered in a heinous killing that drew international attention when at least 13 suspects from a tribal council were apprehended in Pakistan for their part in the savage killing, the Independent reports. Ambreen was burned alive in the village of Donga Gali, near the north-western city of Abbottabad and about 30 miles northeast of Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad, according to Reuters. But, that’s not all.
What’s worse, the savage murder came at the hands of the girl’s own family and community in what’s described as an “honor killing,” CNN reports. Although “honor killings” are sadly nothing new, the sheer pre-meditated brutality of this one thrust the incident into international headlines, drawing worldwide attention to the practice of killing those who bring “shame” onto their family.
A group of 15 members of a local tribal council, or “jirga,” allegedly ordered the killing of Ambreen Riasat in retaliation for the girl’s role in helping a couple elope. They wanted her punishment to be so severe, no girl would ever consider running away from the village again, and if she did, no one would dare help her.
Although the subject of honor killings isn’t new to Pakistan, the young girl’s murder was so heinous that it “shocked even a country used to 25 years of debating such ‘honor killings,'” explained Sherry Rehman, an opposition Senator in Pakistan’s parliament who previously served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States as well as Federal Minister and became the first parliamentarian in the country to introduce a bill against honor killings.
The victim was taken from her home to an abandoned building where she was drugged and also strangled, according to some reports, until she fell unconscious. Then, she was placed in the backseat of a parked van. Her hands were reportedly tied to the seats to prevent escape before the vehicle was doused with gasoline and she was set ablaze in the same van that was reportedly used to help her school friend flee the village to marry of her own free will.
Prior to her murder, Ambreen Riasat confessed to assisting the local couple in eloping. “The accused confessed during the investigation that a few months back Saima, a schoolgirl from the same village and tribe, eloped with her boyfriend and Ambreen facilitated their frequent meetings and later their elopement,” district police officer Khurram Rasheed said. The couple appears to have escaped, but Ambreen wasn’t so lucky.
When the members of the jirga realized the couple was missing and heard Ambreen Riasat’s part in the elopement, they called a 6-hour meeting during which they agreed to kill the girl as punishment for damaging the village’s reputation. “Then they seated the girl in a van in which the couple had escaped. They tied her hands to the seats and then poured petrol on her and the vehicle,” district police chief Saeed Wazir said. “I hadn’t seen such a barbaric attack in my whole life.”
After the teen’s burned body was found by authorities, district police eventually arrested at least 13 elders of the village who were involved in the council and the killing, along with the girl’s own mother, who is said to have agreed to the sentence. The girl’s brother was also arrested over her death. The suspects are seen following their arrest in the footage below.
Additional news coverage, seen below, shows the girl’s burned remains in a body bag, as well as the charred vehicle where her remains were found. Although the report is in another language, it still gives a disturbing real-life view of the horrors some people face, especially females, in countries were honor killings take place for the smallest of “crimes” against the family.
Sherry Rehman explains that the shock and outrage over Ambreen Riasat’s death aren’t just about murder. “It is also the nature and scale of brutality against women that Pakistan’s government continues to tolerate despite a growing clamor for reform,” she explained. “High profile cases like this one shine a light on more than just a conspiracy of silence when it comes to crimes against women. They also refract in sharp contours the costs of political inaction at the top.”
She goes on to explain that, according to recent reports by Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission, there were not only more than 1,100 “honor killings” in one year, there were also 900 cases of sexual violence reported against women and nearly 800 women committed or attempted to commit suicide as well. She warns, “These reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg, however.”
“While murder or injury is in most cases seen as a serious crime, with harsh penalties, this is not the case when it comes to crimes against women, especially those that involve the supposed ‘honor, of families or communities,” Rehman points out. “The law allows for the exchange of ‘blood money’ for family pardons in certain crimes, preventing police or prosecutors from taking action and saving the perpetrators from justice,” she adds, describing a type of “justice” most of us can’t imagine in America.
She rightfully concludes that change must come, saying that “there is no reason that Pakistan’s people, mainly its women, should have to live in fear of the savagery and brutality of honor killings.” It would seem that in this day and age, no woman or person anywhere should live in fear of this kind of nightmare, but it’s going to take mounting public and international pressure to bring about change. So, will you raise your voice for girls like Ambreen? She can no longer tell her story, but we can.