The brother of Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani social media star who was strangled to death Friday in an “honor killing,” confessed to killing his sister Saturday after being apprehended by police and defended his actions while speaking to the press. “I was determined either to kill myself or kill her,” Baloch’s brother Waseem Azeem told The Associated Press.
Baloch – dubbed “Pakistani’s Kim Kardashian” for her provocative presence of social media, an online personality that stirred controversy in the conservatively Muslim nation – was strangled following an argument with Azeem about a series of selfies Baloch posted on Instagram where she stood next to a prominent Muslim cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi. The cleric was suspended by the government and removed from a Ramadan committee soon after the photos were posted.
Following his arrest, Azeem defended the murder by blaming Baloch’s social media presence and “shameful” photographs, even though Baloch’s modeling career was the family’s chief source of income. “Money matters, but family honor is more important,” Azeem said, adding that people often taunted him about his sister’s photos. On Friday night, Azeem slipped Baloch sedatives and strangled her to death while she slept.
Baloch’s death has been both condemned and celebrated in a nation where over 1,000 “honor killings” take place annually. Under Islamic law in Pakistan, those responsible for an “honor killing” can escape punishment if the victim’s family pardons the murderer. While authorities have promised to seek the maximum punishment against Azeem, it’s unclear whether his and Baloch’s family will ultimately pursue charges.
Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, whose documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness who the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject in February, condemned Baloch’s murder Saturday.
“I really feel that no woman is safe in this country, until we start making examples of people, until we start sending men who kill women to jail, unless we literally say there will be no more killing and those who dare will spend the rest of their lives behind bars,” Obaid-Chinoy told the AFP.