July 27, 2016


West Yorkshire police confirm Samia Shahid, who died in uncertain circumstances in Pakistan, was harassed during family visit in September

By Helen Pidd 
Samia Shahid returned from Dubai to try to build bridges with her family
who were unhappy with her marriage, a friend said.
Photograph: Supplied by Syed Mukhtar Kazam
A British woman who died in Pakistan in a possible “honour” killing had been harassed by a family member in Bradford, West Yorkshire police have confirmed.

Samia Shahid, 28, who died in uncertain circumstances in Pakistan last Wednesday, had returned to Bradford in September to try to patch things up with members of her family who were unhappy she had married an “outsider” from a different Islamic sect, friends said.

Shahid had been living in Dubai with her second husband, Syed Mukhtar Kazam, having divorced her first, a cousin from the family village in Pakistani Punjab.

A friend, who asked not to be named, told the Guardian that Shahid returned from Dubai in September to try to build bridges with her family. She was optimistic about the visit, posting on Facebook that she was excited about returning to her “motherland”.

She asked a female police officer to chaperone her to the family home in Manningham, Bradford, after being harassed by one of her relatives, who wanted her to return to her first marriage.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire police said on Tuesday: “Police can confirm that they attended an address in Bradford last September, where the victim was subjected to harassment. The offender received a warning and the victim was informed of the action taken.

West Yorkshire police is continuing to liaise with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to the death in Pakistan.”

Police would not confirm which family member received the harassment warning.

The MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, has demanded Shahid’s body be exhumed and an independent postmortem carried out. Shahid’s family have told the Guardian she died from either an asthma attack or a heart attack, but her second husband alleges foul play, believing she was the victim of an “honour” killing.

An initial postmortem was inconclusive, Pakistani police told the Guardian. Her internal organs have been sent to Lahore for forensic analysis, Mohammad Aqeel said. There were no visible injuries or signs of violence on her body, the officer added.

The Guardian has seen a witness statement submitted to Pakistani police by Shahid’s father, Mohammed Shahid, in which he refers to his daughter’s husband as her cousin Mohammed Shakeel, not Kazam.

Shahid’s father maintains his innocence. Reached by phone in Pakistan on Tuesday, he said: “I loved my daughter. She was my everything. I’m still in grief. I’ve no idea; maybe police have issued warning to my family members but this hasn’t come in my notice. My family members as well as she didn’t inform me. My daughter never complained to me if she had any problems within the family.”

Three of Shahid’s friends in Britain spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity about her relationship with her family in Bradford. One had already given a witness statement to West Yorkshire police and the others said they would do so imminently.

One woman, who asked to be named as Annie Shah, said she became close friends with Shahid in the run-up to her second wedding, when she was converting from being a Sunni to a Shia, a different denomination of Islam followed by Kazam.

Some of Shahid’s family were very unhappy about the conversion, which meant she attended a different mosque. Annie Shah said: “They didn’t like that he was not only not part of the family but also wasn’t a Sunni.”

Annie Shah said she had first known Shahid when she was still unhappily married to her cousin, Mohammed Shakeel, and living in Pakistan. “She asked my sister-in-law to help her get contraceptive pills because she didn’t want to get pregnant,” she said.

She said Shahid was very happy with Kazam, whom she called Ali, and was trying to get pregnant when she died. “She loved her husband so much. She was madly in love with him.”

Another friend, who said she had known Shahid for six years in Bradford, remembered the incident last September when Shahid returned home chaperoned by a police officer. “They had kicked her out of the house so she came back with a woman police officer.”

The family strongly deny Kazam’s claims that he feared she had been killed by her family. Her father said the allegations made by Kazam were “lies and allegations” against him. “An investigation is under way and if I am found guilty I am ready for every kind of punishment,” he said. “My daughter was living a very peaceful and happy life. She had come to Pakistan on her own and was not under any pressure from her family.”

“This is a terrible tragedy but she died of natural causes,” said Mohammed Ali, a cousin in Bradford. “The family did a postmortem. There’s no evidence whatsoever of murder.” He disputed Kazam’s claim of marriage, referring to him as “that boy, Samia’s so-called husband”.