Destiny’s child

The parents who murdered their 15-year-old daughter Anusha by dousing her with acid explain their side of the story.

In the latest twist to a saga that has created outrage across South Asia, where acid attacks are common, the parents of the 15-year-old girl gave an interview in which they justified their actions. They said their elder daughter had previously brought “dishonour” to their family and that they would not tolerate it again.

Ah well that changes everything.

Speaking from his cell to the BBC, Mr Zafar said: “There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle. She turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that – it’s wrong. People talk about us because our older daughter was the same way.”

She turned to look at a boy? She turned to look at a boy, and for that her parents threw acid on her?

The mind tries to grasp it, and fails.

Anusha’s mother said her daughter had pleaded with her and said her glance at the passing boy had been nothing more than an accident. “She said, ‘I didn’t do it on purpose, I won’t do it again’,” said the mother. “By then I had thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way.”

Oh is that right. Too bad it wasn’t her destiny to be born to parents who would actually love her and protect her like normal human beings. You horrible fucks.



  1. LuminiferousEthan says

    This story really makes me sick. Especially how the parents are somehow trying to justify it. So, it was her “destiny” to “die this way”. So it was preordained that her own mother would throw acid in her face, and then make light of it that she, “died this way” and not “how I killed her.”

  2. Scote says

    Truly disgusting. It is as if instead of fire extinguishers or first aid kits these backwaters have big bottles of industrial strength acid on the wall marked “In case of dishonor, throw on nearest female”.

  3. callistacat says

    It feels so hopeless, what can we do to end this? What turns people into monsters like this? Their own child. It sounds like something out of a horror novel.

    Are there international courts that deal with human rights abuses that can step it?

  4. 24fps says

    This hits me in the pit of my stomach. I have a 15 year old daughter. I just can’t imagine what could provoke something like this.

  5. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Rodney Nelson says:
    November 7, 2012 at 12:49 pm
    What sort of parents kill their child in such a gruesome manner?

    callistacat says:
    November 7, 2012 at 2:08 pm
    ….What turns people into monsters like this? Their own child.

    Their child, somebody elses child, it makes no difference. Hands up anybody who would kill even a sewer rat in such a gruesome manner. That would be the act of a monster; These murderers are not monsters, they’re fucking insane. Islam must be so proud that its barbaric traditions can still inspire such barbarous acts.
    And as Scote @#3 hints at, just what the fuck are people doing keeping bottles of strong acid around the house in the first place? It’s enough to make one wonder just how many scarred faces and bodies are hidden away behind the veils and swathes.

  6. Brian M says

    I cannot even imagine this kind of thinking. Simply horrible. Beyond comprehension. The degree of fear of female sexuality is stunning.

    It’s not “Islam” per se. It’s “honor culture”, which has deep roots in many parts of the world. See, for example, HINDU India, which has similar practices. See, for example, decades old mythical clan feuds in the Appalachian mountains.

    Islam is responsible for many things. Not so sure it is to blame for this…it exagerates and justifies and exacerbates things, but honor culture is deeply rooted in human prehistory (and perhaps primate behavior). Biological roots, perhaps?


  7. Scote says

    “It’s not “Islam” per se. It’s “honor culture”, which has deep roots in many parts of the world. See, for example, HINDU India, which has similar practices. See, for example, decades old mythical clan feuds in the Appalachian mountains.”

    I think that is true, though I think honor culture and Islam are somewhat integral, so it is hard to separate out the Islam from the honor culture. And the point about Hindu dowry murders and other attacks do demonstrate that these hateful crimes against women cross religious lines. And there is a common misogyny involved, though I’d also say that the honor culture/religious extremism devalues human life in general, which serves to further embolden crimes against women.

  8. Francisco Bacopa says

    There are many reasons that large quantities of acids are available. Even her in the US you can by battery acid, rust removing gel with strong phosphoric acid, and the mother of all acid suppliers is the pool chemical store. You can make a smoking acid spewing gas bomb out of what you find there. A glass bottle with a little vinegar and Drano Crystals can be turned into a caustic squirt gun. Caustics take time to react with human flesh, but if you can’t run to rinse off, they will burn just as badly as acids do. Worse actually, as human skin is pretty acidic. It takes a very strong acid to damage quickly. Glass etching compound from the art supply shop is very dangerous. HF acid doesn’t burn the skin, it leeches in and kills your blood. And there are those smoke bombs that you use to drive out armadillos from under your deck. The armadillo will die from having his lungs burned out if he can’t get away quick enough. Works on possums too, but not raccoons. They know what’s up and will sneak away and then come back to their newly fumigated home a day later.

    The point I am making here is that there are many ways to use chemical agents as a means of attack. But all of these means of chemical attack require preparation and premeditation. And knowledge too. It’s almost like everyone in the mom’s community knows how to do the things.

    Destiny, my ass. This attack was prepared fro in advance by a person who lived in a culture so sick that her means were common knowledge and that she believed she might have the support of her community for using them.

    OK, but they why do I have such an understanding of these means of attack? Lets just say that I grew up in a family where my mom was subject to some heavy emotional abuse from her mom, and this affected my life in many negative ways. Around age nine or so I gave myself an illusion of control by studying how to kill with poisons and household chemicals. It comforted me to know the horrible things I could do.

  9. Carmichael says

    Sadly, the parents are probably not “monsters”. They are most likely fairly ordinary people, much like you and me. All those people who went to watch gladiator contests, or public hanging, drawing and quartering, or auto de fe, or a hundred other hideous practices throughout history, weren’t monsters. They had just been raised in cultures in which these things were seen as normal. It seems it’s possible to create people capable of doing almost anything, if they are brought up in a particular way. It’s one of the most depressing things about humanity. We do seem to be getting better though. Let’s hope the improvement continues.

  10. Bruce Gorton says


    According to what I’ve read, she left home and hasn’t been in contact with her parents since.

  11. Amy Clare says

    I tend to agree with Carmichael. Studies have shown us that human empathy can be quite fluid and context-dependent. If your cultural rules say that there is no greater priority than ‘honour’, not even your child’s life, then this is the inevitable result. To us it’s horrifying. To them it’s normal.

    They give it away when they say ‘people talk about us’. Gossip seems to be an intrinsic part of honour culture. It seems to be about not how honourable *you* think you are, but how honourable everyone else thinks you are.

    I’ve seen it in the families of my ex-Muslim friends. The amount of weight they give to the opinion of others in the community is staggering. Others’ opinion of whether women and girls are under sufficient control seems to be the most important. More important than said women and girls’ freedom and happiness obviously.

    It is a twisted society that bases a good reputation on how ready you are to hurt your daughter, and it takes weak and self-serving individuals to maintain it. I don’t know how you change it except very gradually, with greater education and power for women.

  12. Freodin says

    There is a wonderful quote by Lois McMaster Bujold, from one of her sci-fi novels (“A civil campaign”):

    “Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.

    There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That’s soul destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating.”

    Reputation might be – in certain situations – be salvaged by acts like the one we talk about here.

    But how can these people keep on living with what they know about themselves? THEY KILLED THEIR OWN CHILD! Over a triviality! In a most horrible way!

    What kind of honor could ever be found in such an act?

  13. Scote says

    “Amy Clare says:
    November 8, 2012 at 3:36 am

    I tend to agree with Carmichael. Studies have shown us that human empathy can be quite fluid and context-dependent. If your cultural rules say that there is no greater priority than ‘honour’, not even your child’s life, then this is the inevitable result. To us it’s horrifying. To them it’s normal. “

    Indeed, human empathy is somewhat vague and plastic. It is both an advantage and disadvantage to humans, since our culture and upbringing is capable of shaping our empathy and morality. It lets us be more and less than we could be. And how do you fight this? Culture is at the root of it, and below that, core human nature.

    When I see horrible acts like this one called “inhuman” I think that they are the opposite, and that only humans can be this horrible. Sure, other animals can hurt one another, even murder, but I think only humans have such a range of awfulness at their disposal, and only humans have the ability to really know the extent of what they have done.

  14. says


    I think the default state is empathy. There’s research that supports this.

    But there are more or less common brain abnormalities that do away with empathy.

    Note that this case has “created outrage across South Asia” according to the article. It’s clearly not normal.

    But how it could happen at all is still baffling.

  15. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Amy Clare says:
    November 8, 2012 at 3:36 am
    “…..If your cultural rules say that there is no greater priority than ‘honour’, not even your child’s life, then this is the inevitable result. To us it’s horrifying. To them it’s normal.”

    I would suggest that thousands of girls supposedly bound by the terribly mis-named ‘honour’ system cast surreptitious glances at boys every day across South Asia, indeed many of them will even utter a word or two in passing. The fact that the vast majority of these girls don’t have acid thrown into their faces shows that this case is far from normal.

  16. Amy Clare says

    Apologies, I didn’t mean to suggest that *everyone* thinks throwing acid is normal. But the cultural rules surrounding the honour of women and girls clearly are normal to many people – whether that manifests as family disapproval, control, violence, or worse. (This isn’t the only honour killing in the world.) There might be outrage, but do the outraged people agree with the basic principle that girls ought not to look at boys?

    Clearly the people who committed this awful crime see nothing wrong with what they did. They are showing no remorse. They see what they did as a logical conclusion of the beliefs they hold about honour. That’s what I meant. The belief that honour is more important than anything else is normalised in certain cultures, and may not directly lead to violence in all cases, but definitely allows it to happen.

    I’m not sure whether empathy is the default position, but either way, it can very easily disappear. Stanley Millgram’s experiment, Zimbardo’s prison study… classic psychological studies (which can’t be repeated now because of ethical reasons) which show how people’s empathy can switch off in certain contexts. These contexts enable people to behave horribly – not all people, but more than you might think.

    A deeply religious culture where honour and reputation are held in the highest regard might be one such context.

  17. callistacat says

    In Stanley Millgram’s experiment, people were highly influenced by the presence of an authority figure (scientist in a lab coat) telling them it was necessary to continue the experiment. When it was changed to a non-authority figure, the percent of people who continued administering the shocks decreased significantly. And most people weren’t gleefully shocking people, they would argue with the authority figure and tell them they didn’t want to continue. So the belief that someone knows better, i.e. an authority figure seems to play a big part in what people are willing to do, even against their own common sense or conscience.

    I don’t know if this is related to early childhood and the fact that you have to rely on your parent’s experience and not question why it’s dangerous to do certian things (for instance, you trust when you’re told that it’s dangerous not to look both ways when you cross street and not by your own trial and error experiments).

  18. Stacy says

    I don’t know if this is related to early childhood and the fact that you have to rely on your parent’s experience

    That’s part of it. Millgram also emphasized the aspect of agency. People who questioned the experimenter were firmly told “this is the protocol.” Those who then continued to shock the “learners” rationalized their actions by seeing themselves as agents doing what the authorities told them to do: they were not the ones responsible. It was the “just following orders” justification.

    Re: empathy–Frans de Waal points out that you can’t have an in-group without an out-group. Empathy, sadly, has limits: chimpanzees are often caring toward troupe members and hostile toward outsiders. Even within the troupe, when status or other limited resources are at stake, troupe members can be vicious with one another.

    These particular parents may well be sociopaths, but I suspect they were motivated by status concerns (“our older daughter dishonored us, this one was turning out the same!”)

  19. JoeBuddha says

    Pro tip: If you have to kill to restore your honor, you’ve already lost it. Don’t keep digging.

  20. callistacat says

    There is one thing that you can do to make nonsociopathic people act like sociopaths…convince them that their target is so evil and subhuman that their punishment is completely righteous and for the greater good, especially in the eyes of God. They aren’t evil, their target is/was.

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