Harry Potter Star May Have Been Targeted For Honor Killing

The father and brother of British actor, Afshan Azad, the 22-year-old who has played the part of Hogwart’s student Padma Patil in several Harry Potter films, have been charged with attempting to kill her, according to the BBC. Azad’s brother has also been charged with assault against his sister.

CNN reports  that the actress, who is of Bangladeshi descent and is Muslim, upset her family by going out with a Hindu man. She is currently hiding out in London with friends, and the case is adjourned until July 12.

When I first read this story yesterday, the headline grabbed my attention right away. I was expecting to read about one of the Caucasian lead characters of the Harry Potter films. But as soon as I saw Afshan Azad’s face and read that her parents were originally from Bangladesh, the story completely changed for me and I feared the worst.

Although nothing has been confirmed yet, Azad’s case has all the makings of an attempted honor killing–an unfortunate but very real and rising trend amongst the British-Muslim community. The United Nations  defines an honor killing as:

The murder of a (typically female) family or clan member by one or more fellow (mostly male) family members, in which the perpetrators (and potentially the wider community) believe the victim to have brought dishonor upon the family or community.

This “dishonor” can be anything from unacceptable dress codes to refusing an arranged marriage or engaging in sexual acts.

Annual worldwide statistics of victims of honor killings are as high as 5,000 women. The rates are especially alarming in the United Kingdom where every year about a dozen women become victims of honor killings. The UN reports that these murders are happening almost exclusively in Asian and Middle-Eastern families.

Maybe it is too early to make presumptions about this case. For now, Afshan’s father and brother are out on bail and have been told to stay away from London. One thing positive about this situation, whatever the outcome,  is the attention it will bring to honor killings in these specific ethnic communities of Britain. More awareness can, hopefully, eventually bring an end to this violent practice against women.

Comments

  1. Nectarine says:

    “As soon as I saw Afshan Azad’s face and read that her parents were originally from Bangladesh, the story completely changed for me and I feared the worst.”

    What a loaded statement! Would the risk or threat be lessened if she were from a different cultural background?
    We know that women from all cultures face REAL danger from (usually) men in their lives who feel entitled to control and abuse, and this includes the risk of being killed.

    I take real issue with the term “honour killing”. While it is important to include cultural factors in an analysis of femicide and woman abuse, I think applying the term “honour killing” to instances of this in the South Asian community only serves to stigmatize a portion of society and reinforce the idea of “other”.

    There has been a lot of discussion about this in Canada as well. I live in the Toronto area, where there is a large South Asian and Muslim community, and there have been several headline making femicides in recent years where this label has been applied.

    While I’m willing to concede that the debate over honour killing vs. domestic violence terminology is far from over, I’m disappointed to see this posted on Ms. without providing greater context.

    http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/285589
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/07/24/f-honour-killings.html

  2. Yeah it is a loaded statement and if someone other than myself had written it, I probably would have had quite a comment to have post in response. However, I wrote it as a Bangladeshi who has been following the rise of this kind of violence against women in the British/South Asian communities. And yes, when I read that Afshan was Bangladeshi I did fear this case to be one of a possible honor killing. To answer your question, “Would the risk or threat be lessened if she were from a different cultural background?” As a feminist writer, my answer to this would be of course not. The threat would not be lessened. The label just would have been different. Personally, I believe we should call honor killings and all of these kinds of acts of violence against women what they are: murder.

  3. Concerned says:

    Despite the above discussion I think it IS necessary to differentiate between honor killings done in the name of religion or culture, vs an alcoholic or controlling spouse committing this act for personal reasons. We are an individualist culture so we want to ignore larger trends and just place this honor killing phenomenon in that sphere but it would be ignoring the systemic and accepted practice of this behavior in many cases. In Jordan, Syria, Pakistan and many other muslim nations this behavior is excused and charges are NOT brought. An honor killing is not a personal vendetta perpetrated by someone with control issues or a personality disorder, it is an attempt at maintaining certain values on the entirety of the population. The difference is worth noting despite both being extremely pervasive and equally abhorrant.

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