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Pakistan: Women Seek Refuge from "Honor Killings"

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This woman has lived for over five years at a shelter in Lahore, Pakistan. Every time she has to leave the shelter, she has to cover her face. She is afraid her family is still trying to hunt her down. She says they have already killed her husband and have threatened to kill her because the couple married against her family’s will. Image by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, Pakistan. 2011.

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The staff and the women taking refuge at Dastak women’s shelter in Lahore have received many death threats. Three armed men guard the shelter at all times. Image by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, Pakistan. 2011.

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Lunch at the shelter in Lahore. Sitting in the middle on the left side of the table is Victoria Bhajan, the long-time director. Image by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, Pakistan. 2011.

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Habiba Nosheen recently traveled to Pakistan for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. She interviewed women in shelters who told her why they are afraid of their own families. Some faced death threats because they had chosen their own husbands, a violation of the family's honor. Image by Shahbaz Khan, Pakistan. 2011.

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The most recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that in 2009 about 46 percent of all female murders in Pakistan were in the name of “honor.” The report also noted that 647 incidences of “honor killings” were reported by the Pakistani press that year. Image by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, Pakistan. 2011.

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Experts like Abdul Hai, a field officer for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, say that actual incidences of “honor killings” are much higher and never get reported to the police because they are passed off by the families as suicides. Image by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, Pakistan. 2011.

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A woman leaving the Dastak shelter to go to work. Every woman who is leaving the shelter - even for a short time - has to sign out and leave her fingerprint. Image by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, Pakistan. 2011.

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The woman arrives at Asma Jahangir’s and Hina Jilani’s legal aid office. The two sisters are prominent human rights lawyers in Pakistan and also helped set up Dastak. Image by Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, Pakistan. 2011.

This slideshow was also published in The Atlantic.

In parts of Pakistan today, women are viewed as property and are believed to personify the honor of their families. If a woman goes against the will of her family, for example, by choosing her own husband, family members may feel that in order to restore their honor, they have to kill the woman--a so-called "honor killing." A few women are able to escape this fate and find refuge at shelters.