Story of Heena Shahnawaz


Patriarchal Pakhtun society has some of the gory and inhuman cultural practices that is used against women to control their behaviour, attitudes, choices and movement. One of such practice is killing of woman if she defies or challenge the man’s so called honour. Although, the practice of killing woman for defending honour is also practiced in another parts of Pakistan too but in Pakhtun belt it’s rampant. 

Recently, in one of the district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Heena Shahnawaz was killed by her family members for working in non-governmental organisation and refusing to marry her illiterate and jobless cousin. Heena was an extra-ordinary and daring lady; after her father and brother’s death, she took over the family responsibilities like a man (head of the family). However, Heena’s conservative uncles and cousins were against her working outside home and making decisions independently. She was asked and warned by them several times to quit job and marry one of her cousin. On refusing, she was brutally shot dead on 6th February 2017 by her uncles and cousins at her home. Her murder was reported by one of her friend on social media that led to flagging her issue at national press and TV. 

She was killed for being independent and capable of taking care of her family members such as sister, widowed sister-in-law, orphan nieces and nephews. In Patriarchal Pakhtun culture, women  like her are considered threat to their honour and egos. This story is a tribute to millions of Pakhtun women, killed in the name of so called honour and buried in the unmarked graves.