Karma Nirvana

We asked the public to tweet #RememberShafilea to help us restore the memory of Shafilea Ahmed who was brutally murdered by her own parents in an ‘honour’ killing.

In an attempt to erase this ‘stain’ on their family history and have Shafilea forgotten forever they suffocated her with a plastic bag.

#RememberShafilea

For the Annual Day of Memory our aim was to counter this dark intention by using plastic in a positive way, to restore Shafilea’s memory and create a memorial in her honour, and in honour of the 141 other women and girls who have lost to their lives to ‘honour’ violence since her death.

The thousands of tweets in support enabled a 3D printer to build the sculpture to ensure her memory lives on and that the victims of honour killings are never forgotten.

Click play to watch as the memorial statue is revealed below.

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Described by her friends as a bright, ambitious, shy and beautiful 17-year old, Shafilea Ahmed wanted nothing more than to attend law school. But her dreams of a career in justice only lead to her own unjust murder.

In the months before her death, Shafilea had been fighting with her parents because of their refusal to allow her to embrace Western culture and behave like a normal teenager. This came to a head when her parents announced that she was to give up her home and her education to marry a much-older cousin in Pakistan. In her parents’ eyes, Shafilea’s refusal to marry the cousin brought shame on the family. They believed her friendships with other boys meant she was effectively "damaged goods" and therefore lucky to secure a match at all.

As a cry for help, Shafilea drank a toxic substance whilst on a family visit to Pakistan. This was the first of many times Shafilea approached the authorities in the months before her murder on 11 September 2003. Her cries for help fell on deaf ears.

In February 2004, Shafilea’s body was found in a river 70 miles from her home. Due to the horrifying condition of the corpse, the cause of death could not be determined, and the body was only identified weeks later. Shafilea’s parents put on a convincing show of bewilderment and grief throughout, and the post-mortem’s verdict of ‘vile murder’ was left unprosecuted.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Shafilea’s younger sister told police the truth. She told how her parents feared Shafilea’s refusal to marry would bring shame upon the family, and how they had taken a plastic bag, held Shafilea down, and suffocated her to death. Meanwhile, Shafilea’s siblings were forced to watch ‘as a warning’ to them.

Despite the Ahmed’s vehement denials, the jury at Chester Crown Court returned guilty verdicts and sentenced them both to twenty five years, concluding: “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child.”

Sadly, Shafilea’s case is all too typical example of an ‘honour’ killing. Since Shafilea, Karma Nirvana estimates approximately over 141 other girls have been murdered right here in the UK, all because their behaviour was deemed to ‘bring shame’ on their families.  Indeed, this figure is likely to be woefully underestimated: Karma Nirvana believe many murders have not been identified as ‘honour’ crimes due to a lack of awareness around these issues. Furthermore many women are taken abroad to ‘deal with their dishonour’ and not returned back to the UK, so there may be countless more at risk or in unmarked graves beyond our borders.

The intent of Shafilea’s parents, and of all ‘honour’ killers, is erase the ‘stain’ on their family honour by erasing the victim from history. To remove all memory of them as though they never existed. Please help us ensure they can never succeed by tweeting #RememberShafilea and help us build a memorial sculpture to ensure she, and all the victims of ‘honour’ killings, are never forgotten.

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