The long arm of American justice has reached right into Pakistan, where a heinous overseas revenge-for-honor killing was perpetrated—one that was orchestrated by cell phone from the front seat of a taxi in Brooklyn, New York.
Muslims driving taxis in American and European cities have been known to park them illegally when it is time for prayer, and to help lead families to daughters on the run. At least one “horror”/honor killing was carried out in a taxi when Yasir Said murdered his two academically promising and vivacious daughters, Sarah and Amina, in cold blood.
In the case of Mohammad Choudhry, a taxi was used as a command center to terrorize a daughter as well as the people who helped rescue her from captivity. It was the moving vehicle from which Chouhdry ordered a vigilante hit on those who had shamed him.
First, Mohammad Ajmal Choudhry ordered his daughter into the marriage. She testified that “[My father] told me he would kill me if [I] do anything wrong now.” She obeyed him. But she also escaped and returned to America with the help of the State Department and with the help of the man she loved, Shujat Abbas.
After Amina escaped, she was in telephone contact with her father. She recorded these damning conversations. Her father told her: “If you don’t come back, I will kill each and every one of them… As long as you’re outside the home, my honor is at stake… Getting humiliated and living is not a life.”
Mohammad Choudhry could not find— and therefore could not kill— his American-reared daughter Amina, so he threatened to kill those who had helped her escape from the forced, loveless marriage to her cousin in Pakistan where Amina had been held captive for three years. She immediately went into hiding. She absolutely had to do so. Women are “horror”/honor killed for far less than abandoning a forced cousin-marriage and freely choosing a marriage partner.
Amina surfaced from hiding only to testify against her father at trial. Mohammad was shamed. He had planned, through this marriage, to be able to bring his nephew to America where he would become a citizen.
This, too, is a common theme. Muslim immigrants marry off their American-reared and American citizen daughters to friends or relatives back home and if a daughter refuses to go through with this, or abandons the marriage, she may very well be “horror”/honor killed. This was one of the primary motives behind the murder of the Said sisters in 2008 in Texas and the murder of Noor Almaleki in Arizona in 2009.
Mohammad Ajmal Choudhry had his own brother slaughter his daughter’s new father-in-law and sister-in-law. Witnesses observed them do so—and saw them desecrate the bodies afterwards. The daughter and sister of the two victims, Seemab Abbas, submitted a statement to the court which read: “Ajmal (Choudhry) played with us as if we were non-living toys… [He] played with the blood of my family.”
Last week, Choudhry was sentenced to life in prison following a nine-day trial which took place in June and July 2014. The judge, William Kuntz, told Choudhry: “You were an egomaniacal force who revealed yourself to be self-absorbed in your merciless pursuit of evil.” Choudhry was convicted by a jury of “conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, making threats and immigration fraud.”
Amina displayed courage and daring. She felt it was her right to marry the man she loved. This so-called “right” is considered heretical and often constitutes a capital crime among Hindus in India, among some Sikhs, and among Muslims globally. Her choice is a heroic one– but it also means that she can never again risk seeing her extended family. It may mean that she will have to live in hiding under a pseudonym for the rest of her life. Her children will have no maternal cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents. This is the terrible price of her freedom.
Pakistani-American Choudhry followed tribal a shame-and-honor code, one that is upheld by extended families and communities. When a daughter commits an act which is considered shameful or dishonorable (this includes being raped, being seen talking to a boy, veiling improperly, refusing to marry a cousin, daring to leave that cousin, etc.), her family may have trouble marrying off their other children. Her family may be shunned and thus, impoverished, both economically and socially.
This code is not Western but, clearly, it still exists in immigrant communities. America, Canada, and Europe’s daunting task is to educate such families in Western values, to help rescue those who would otherwise be “horror”/honor killed, and to punish the perpetrators and the accomplices.
Well done, America!