A NEW law making forced marriage a criminal offence could have saved Shafilea Ahmed’s life, according to a key witness who helped convict her parents for murder.
Shahin Munir, aged 24, was formerly the best friend of Mevish Ahmed, Shafilea’s younger sister, who confided in her about the honour killing.
She said the law would have allowed police to act, and save Shafilea, slain after refusing an arranged marriage.
“It means victims that come forward will be taken seriously, and action will be taken, and they will be protected under law.
“Shafilea did voice her concerns about an arranged marriage but it wasn’t a criminal offence so it was hard for any action to be taken.
“Now police will be able to, when a victim comes forward.
“I think (the law) could have saved Shafilea’s life. With the right support and help, it could have made that difference.”
Shahin’s friendship with Mevish ended in 2012 when she decided to give evidence to help secure life sentences for Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed.
Letters were handed over, given to Shahin by Mevish, in which she described the night Shafilea was murdered on September 11, 2003.
Her parents suffocated the 17-year-old Great Sankey High School pupil in the lounge of the family home on Liverpool Road. Both are serving life sentences.
“I was shocked to the point where I just didn’t want to believe it, it was so horrible, “ said Shahin, of the day in 2008 when Mevish gave her the letters in Warrington town centre.
“Before she told me what happened, she was going through a lot of abuse at home.
“She wasn’t allowed out of the house but there was this thing that she wanted to tell me.
“I said to her ‘you’re going to have to go to the police’, but she was under the same fear, the same thing would happen to her “She was told it would on numerous occasions.”
After promising to keep the terrible secret to protect her friend, Shahin visited the family home.
“The only way (Mevish) was allowed to see me was if I went to their house.
“Going there, I didn’t know what to expect - they knew that I knew (about the murder).
“The shocking thing was how normal they were, but we weren’t aloud to speak Shafilea’s name, or mention her at all.”
Mevish gave evidence in support of her parents during the trial at Chester Crown Court in 2012, despite Shahin’s pleas.
“Before the trial started I told Mevish ‘you have got to tell the truth’.
“I said it’s not about your mum and dad, it’s about your sister.
“She said to me that putting her mum and dad in jail wouldn’t bring her sister back.
“She wanted to put that to the side and save what was left of her broken family.”
In the end, it was ‘relief’ for Shahin when she finally told police during the trial.
“Deciding to give evidence was a massive mixture of emotions. I’d made a promise to someone and broken that promise.
“I was putting my best friend’s parents in prison, but then a 17-year-old girl had been killed, and getting justice for her was the most important thing.”