The Girl in the River

They planned to shoot 19-year-old Saba Qaiser in the head, put her body in a bag, and dump it in the river. It’s pure luck that they didn’t succeed. Saba was wounded by them but not dead. They threw her into the river and she managed to drag herself out. Her attackers were her own father and her uncle, who wanted revenge on Saba after she married without their permission. Killings like these are referred to as honor killings. Saba is in “A Girl in the River – The Price of Forgiveness,” a documentary by Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, nominated for a 2016 Academy Award. The film shines a light on the estimated 3,000 to 4,000 women and girls murdered in Pakistan each year through so-called “honor killings.” It documents a system where not only are such murders horrifyingly common, they barely ever result in punishment. Killings are often covered up by families – and sometimes by whole communities – or are legally excused under a law that permits the victim or the family to “forgive” the murderers. The film, and the Oscar nomination, have prompted Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to speak out publicly on “honor killings.” Sharif will show the film at his official residence, and has said that he will look into the issue and work on it. I think he deserves credit for speaking out; these murders are a sensitive issue in Pakistan. How would you feel living in a place where honor killings were conducted so often without punishment?

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