The story of Samaira Nazir won’t leave me alone. She lived with her parents and her brother in Southall, a district to the west of London, where many from the Indian subcontinent have settled, both Hindu and Muslim. 25 years old, she had been educated in England — and that settled her fate.
Samaira’s parents had chosen a husband for her in Pakistan, but she had fallen in love with an Afghan. According to her parents, this man was from a lower caste, and anyhow what did love have to do with it? The family honor was at stake. “Strong-willed” was the adjective they chose for this young woman who thought to fulfil herself in her own way. So they took her back to Pakistan, and there her father, her brother, and a cousin used four knives to stab her and cut her throat. When she fought for her life, her father told anxious neighbors that she was having a fit. Her mother watched and it seems that Samaira’s nieces, aged four and two, were also obliged to witness this murder, to warn them what they could expect one day. As she was dying, Samaira was heard to shout to her mother, “You aren’t my mother any more.”
The pity of it. Such waste of life, such insult to humanity. To believe that barbarity like that has anything to do with honor, you would have to be not just uneducated but unable to comprehend the greater world where other human beings exist and think and feel.
It so happens that a proposal to criminalize forced marriages was in the air in Britain at this very moment. To pass this into law might have done some real honor to Samaira. With consummate cowardice — dishonoring in its own way — a government consultation paper has instead backed down on the grounds that the measure might be misinterpreted as an attack on ethnic minorities.
Those who tortured and killed Kristian Menchera and Thomas Tucker also were unable to distinguish between barbarity and honor, equally unable to comprehend the greater world with others in it. Their terrible fate has an echo of Samaira’s. A great deal of law and of force will have to settle what we’re up against. It’s a question of resolve, and that’s a question of civilization.