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Fresh fear of ‘honour’ violence stalks victim
March 06, 2017
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GUJRANWALA: Nearly three years after Saba Qaiser’s father and uncle shot her in the face, rolled her in a rug and threw her in a river for marrying without their consent, the 21-year-old from Pakistan’s Punjab province is again afraid for her life.

After surviving the attack in the city of Gujranwala, 225 kilometres from Islamabad, Qaiser was determined to ensure the men were brought to justice. Even though Qaiser’s father and uncle were arrested and jailed, Qaiser was pressured by relatives to forgive them under a law that until last October allowed killers who had been pardoned by family members to walk free. Since the case did not go to trial, the men were released after two months in jail. “Although I had to tell the court that I had forgiven them, I never did from my heart,” said Qaiser, whose story was told in the 2016 Oscar-winning documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness by filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Her uncle never forgot the “dishonour” she had brought on the family, and when he came across a trailer for Obaid-Chinoy’s film last year, he was furious, Qaiser said.

“He came to my house at night and asked for me and started shooting from his pistol.

I was lucky to survive his attack,” said Qaiser, whose left cheek bears a scar running from mouth to temple from the previous attack. Qaiser’s father and uncle were once again taken into custody, in April 2016, and are expected to be freed later this month after Qaiser decided not to press charges against them. After the attack, Qaiser’s mother was forbidden by her husband from seeing Qaiser and forced to move to the northwestern city of Sargodha in Punjab province, 175 kms away from her daughter. She visits her husband in prison every week. But as soon as the visit is over, she secretly sees her daughter.

“My husband is not angry at her. It’s his brother who provokes him and after they are out of the jail, we will break ties with him,” she said. But Qaiser fears the matter will not end there.

“He’ll be madder at me and will want to harm me for sending him to jail for the second time,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the dimly-lit room where she lives with her husband and two children.

Holding her two-year-old son, whose plastic tricycle is parked on the concrete floor, Qaiser said she remembers everything from the night she was attacked, including her father and uncle swearing on the Koran that they would not hurt her.


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