In the wake of a Danish woman's honour killing in Pakistan, crisis centres and the Foreign Ministry both say they are aware of many instances of women with Danish citizenship being held against their will in foreign countries
Following the killing a 31-year-old Danish woman in Pakistan allegedly over disgracing her family's 'honour' just over a week ago, both cultural experts and the Foreign Ministry are warning that the case was not an isolated one.
Uffe Wolffhechel, head of citizens' services for the Foreign Ministry, said his office is routinely brought into cases where Danish women of immigrant background are forced to travel back to their families' countries of origin - most often Muslim countries - and are never heard from again.
'These kinds of situations are extremely difficult for us to prevent,' Wolffhechel told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. 'We naturally want to help Danish citizens in trouble, but the practical possibilities are very limited.'
The murder of Tahira Tabassum 13 days ago in Pakistan is believed to have been an 'honour killing'. Tabassum was killed by her brother-in-law for what friends and family in Denmark claim was her inability to have more children and her refusal to obey her Pakistani family members who told her not to leave the house.
The woman's Pakistani husband had lived in Denmark with her until three years ago, when she returned – possibly unwillingly – to Pakistan with her two young daughters. Danish police have arrested the husband for complicity in the killing.
But Farwha Nielsen, who works as a consultant to the National Organisation of Shelters for Battered Women and their Children, said Tabassum's case is only 'the tip of the iceberg'.
'I have no doubt that there are many Danish women being held captive in other countries and who are being systematically raped and beaten,' she said. 'And although I have no specific figures for it, I also believe many of them have been victims of honour killings.'
Mohammed Rafiq, a Danish-Pakistani counsellor and author, agreed with Nielsen's assessment.
'It's absolutely certain that there have been many such cases,' said Rafiq. 'I think if you were to look back through all the missing person files over the years there would be a lot where Danish women have disappeared abroad and not turned up again.'
Politicians and moderate Muslim groups are now urgíng the Justice Ministry to get more involved in stopping spouse kidnappings and honour killings of Danes abroad.
According to the news service of the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, IRIN, around 1900 women in Pakistan are killed each year by their husbands, brothers or fathers.
Source: Copenhagen Post (English)
See also: Pakistan: Danish-Pakistani woman killed in honor murder