Young Pakistani seeking justice for ‘honour killings’ shot dead

Human Rights activist Afzal Kohistani was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Gami Ada, Abbottabad, Kohistan region in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan, last week. He had been campaigning against “honour killings”, or choar, in the Kohistan region of Pakistan. He had been the central figure seeking justice for the killing of five young women and three young men in 2012 and 2013.

The 2012 and 2013 “honour killings” were linked to a video, which went viral after it appeared online in 2012. It showed five young women singing and clapping, while two young men performed a traditional dance during a local wedding in Palas, a remote area in Kohistan.

The mixing of genders is considered a serious violation of tribal norms in Kohistan and the young people were killed as a result of the “dishonour” they had brought on their families and community.

According to him, in 2012 the village council, or jirga, ordered the killings of  the young people featured of the video. The five young women were allegedly tortured and killed on 30 May 2012. One of the young men featured in the video was killed on 3 January 2013, but the second man, Bin Yasir, fled and had been in hiding for several years and only came out following Afzal Kohistani’s killing.

Two other young men, who were not featured in the video, were killed in the same incident in January 2013 in reprisal for the human rights defender’s advocacy on the killings of the young women. All four of the men are brothers of Afzal Kohistani.

Since the killings, Afzal Kohistani had played a key role in urging authorities to investigate the crimes so as to bring the perpetrators to justice. His advocacy on the 2012 “honour killings” sparked widespread media outrage against the killings, which prompted the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhary to order a fact-finding mission into the killings.

Front Line Defenders (FLD) urged authorities to carry out an immediate, thorough, and impartial investigation into the killing of Afzal Kohistani, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards.

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