The death of Pakistani social media sensation Qandeel Baloch has rekindled the debate over honor killings — the practice of murdering someone, usually a female family member, for violating social norms. Baloch was found strangled to death on Saturday morning, and NPR reports that her brother later confessed to the killing at a press conference organized by police, during which he allegedly accused his sister of bringing dishonor to her family. Baloch's father has reportedly filed a case against the son who confessed, and testified against another who may have encouraged his brother to go through with the killing.
Baloch was a highly controversial figure in her native Pakistan. Although she identified as a singer, model, and actress, she was largely known for her image on social media, where she frequently appeared in revealing clothing or made provocative statements, like an offer to "strip dance" if Pakistan's cricket team won against India. In a Facebook post posted not long before her death, she called herself a "modern day feminist," adding that she was "just a woman with free thoughts."
Before her death, the BBC said of Baloch, "While her approach to fame is not original, the woman herself is an interesting example of how a typically conservative society like Pakistan both vilifies sex and is obsessed with it." Baloch herself reposted the BBC's report to her Facebook page. "It's time to bring a change because the world is changing. [L]et's open our minds and live in [the] present," she wrote in the accompanying caption.
According to Reuters, more than 500 people, virtually all of whom are women, are killed each year in Pakistan as the result of honor killings despite widespread condemnation from the community. Baloch may be the most recent figure to be murdered in such a way, but she was hardly the first. Here are five other stories of honor killings that show how disturbingly common the practice remains around the world.
1. Farzana Parveen
In late 2014, pregnant Farzana Parveen was reportedly bludgeoned to death by her father, brother, cousin, and former fiance after she married a man against her family's will. Her death allegedly took place in front of a group of around 20 people. All four men were found guilty of her murder, and one of her other brothers was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
2. Noor Almaleki
In 2009, Faleh Hassan Almaleki allegedly ran over his daughter with his car in an Arizona parking lot, claiming she had become "too Westernized." Two weeks later, 20-year-old Noor Almaleki died in the hospital.
3. Nidhi And Dharmender Barak
In 2013, a young couple who planned to marry were reportedly murdered in an "honor crime" in the north Indian state of Haryana. According to NDTV, their parents would not consent to the marriage because Nidhi and Dharmender Barak were from the same village; according to local tradition, this meant they were considered brother and sister.
4. Zeenat Bibi
Last month, a Pakistani mother was arrested on suspicion of dousing her daughter, Zeenat Bibi, in gasoline and allegedly setting her on fire for marrying a man against her family's wishes. According to the Telegraph, family members allegedly prevented neighbors from entering the house to help Bibi.
5. Saba Maqsood
Not all honor killings are successful: 18-year-old Saba Maqsood rose to international fame after surviving an attempted honor killing, allegedly carried out by her father and brother after she married a neighbor of whom they didn't approve. Despite allegedly being shot twice and dumped into a canal to die, she managed to find help and is still alive today.