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[00:00:00]

Hi, it's Phoebe. A great way to help support our show right now is to buy some criminal merchandise, we're launching a brand new online shop and we'll be adding all kinds of new things to it in the coming months.

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This month, we're adding a brand new enamel pin and a set of 25 postcards featuring some of our favorite episode illustrations by Julian Alexander. We also have T-shirts and tote bags even. And I'm Phoebe Judge Mask to check out our store, go to this is Criminal Dotcom and click on shop. Thanks very much for your support. There's this canal that ran outside of her home, and the first time I went to her home in the village, I remember looking at that and someone told me a story about how she loved to swim in it.

[00:00:48]

And just the idea of even something like that, like a girl being allowed to swim, are being allowed to be outdoors in that way. Can they're really sort of. She stood out from the lot. She really wanted to make something of herself. Her parents told them about how even when she was a child, she said, you know, I want to be famous. I want people to know my name. I want to sing and dance.

[00:01:10]

She wanted to be financially independent. These were ideas that not a lot of the women around her had or perhaps even thought of or if they did and covid, it almost feels impossible, like how do you even begin to dream of something like that?

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Candeal Baluch was born on March 1st, 1990, in the village of Shah Sardar Dean in Pakistan. She had six brothers and two sisters.

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They weren't very well off their home, had mud walls, mud floors. Her mother didn't work, but her father did. He worked on the land around their home. Her brother sort of did odd jobs. One of her brothers had a phone shop like a shop selling phones in the village.

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We're speaking about Condyle Baluch, Wassenaar Moher, a journalist based in Karachi, Pakistan. She met with Congeals parents in 2016 and visited the village where she grew up.

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I almost felt like culture shock going there because I remember the first day when I was driving into the village. I was with someone who was a local reporter who came from that area, and he was sort of helping me meet people there. And I remember looking out of the car window and seeing that the women were dressed in a way that I hadn't really seen in other parts of the country. I was very used to seeing women in burqas sort of fully covered from head to toe.

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And then over here I was seeing these women wearing these outfits that were it was a burka. But at the top of it, there was almost like a funnel emerging from the top of the burqa, like where the woman's head is. And there was no cut out for the eyes the way that you might have seen and pictures of women in burkas. There was nothing like that. And I remember looking at them, I was really struck by it.

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And I said something to this reporter about it and he said, well, that's nothing like and the funnel, by the way, exists over there. I was told us later, because the women inside the sex sway the fabric. The funnel allows air to enter so that they don't suffocate inside it while they're out and about. It can be very hot here in southern Punjab in the summer, as I mentioned, something to him about the burqas and he just kind of scoffed and he said, you know, like in a village very near where I'm from, they don't even give the women shoes.

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I was just thinking, like, you don't give them women shoes. Like, what does that mean? I'm trying to put it together. And he looked at me and he just said, well, imagine if you step out of your house and you're not wearing shoes, like, where are your eyes going to remain? There are always going to remain on the ground. You're always going to be looking on the ground just in case you step on something.

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You're never going to look up. You're never going to look at anyone around you. And it was raining when I heard that, that it struck me just how brave you had to be to come out of a place like that to even imagine something bigger for yourself. I think the girls around Candeal, including her sisters, were getting married. The idea was that you start a family of your own, you get married, you make a home, and that's your life.

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She didn't really want any part of that. When she was 17 years old, Candeal married her mother's cousin, she later said that her parents forced her to marry him. It was an arranged marriage.

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But then there's also some dispute about that, because this man later came forward and said, no, it was a love marriage and she loved me. And there was some sort of dispute around that. But she was very unhappy in the marriage. She would go home to her parents several times and complain about how her husband used to beat her, how he wasn't kind to her. She had a son very quickly and she just wasn't happy. Everyone around her expected that once she became a mother, she would settle down.

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She'd calmed down. It never really happened. And she was unhappy in her relationship. Every time she'd go to her parents and talk about how her husband beat her, how he treated her, her mother in particular would just brush it aside and she would always take her back to her husband's home. And when I met her mother, there was something she said that, you know, in our culture and our tradition, once a girl goes into the husband's home, the only way she's leaving that home is in a casket.

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In 2009, Candeal ran away. She got a job as a hostess for a bus company, welcoming passengers, reciting a prayer for safe journeys and serving drinks and sandwiches. And she eventually moved to Islamabad.

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Once she moved to Islamabad, which was the capital, she met this man there who a friend introduced her and he was a manager for models. And he said, well, this is easy money and you can get into it and you have the face for it. So why don't you just start here and let's see what comes. So I think she saw that as, like, something that. OK, well, I can do this as a short term thing that really appealed to her.

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So what Candeal was doing is very small shows that are usually set up as like entertainment on the side for something bigger. But the idea is you do the more of them that you do, it's hopefully going to lead to someone in the audience noticing you, thinking that you're pretty wanting to have you in a commercial for something, wanting to have you as an extra on a TV show. They're seen as a stepping stone to something else, to a bigger opportunity, and they're very small.

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In 2013, Khandelwal auditioned to be on Pakistan Idol because he can be Maloja professional model.

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And in the audition shoes, there's a big sort of song and dance about I'm very nervous, I'm really shy, and she wants the judges to kind of coax her like, no, we really want to hear you sing. And then she starts singing and she sounds terrible. She can't hold a note the like when the show airs.

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You see that the bit with her audition. It has all these sound effects added in to make it more ridiculous. And when you look at the judges, there's all these special effects like one of them has, like smoke coming out his ears or something like that. It was basically a moment of ridiculing this woman and how she has these big ambitions. And she thinks she's going to be a big star. She thinks she's going to sing better than anyone else there.

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And she the audition ends with the judges giving her feedback. That's obviously not very good. And then she starts weeping and she's let out of the room and she whips all the way out. And the voice over, I remember in that audition and that bit was like Candeal has wept all her eye makeup off. And it was very dramatic. And people made fun of her for that audition.

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They watched it. They laughed at her. It was a joke. And then afterwards, later on in her career, she turned around and said that was entirely a set up. And I was just playing along and they told me that they wanted my audition to be one of the funny ones. And so I hammed it up for the camera and I did what I had to do to make it funny. And I think that brush with fame was going viral when she was written up in newspapers for when people are watching the clip on YouTube and sharing it with their friends or being on Facebook and sharing it, they're still saying her name.

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They remember her. And I think that was a point when she learned that in this day and age, being famous, you don't have to be famous for doing something good. You're famous as long as people are talking about you. And I think she had a taste of that and realized, as long as I can get people to keep doing this, as long as I can keep giving them something that gets them talking about me, that's exactly what I want.

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This is the way forward for me. Tell me a little bit about how her social media presence after this starts to expand. What what starts to happen, really sort of very randomly. She and her manager decided to travel up north to take a bit of a break. She wanted to travel up north and see snow. She had never seen snow before. And while they were there, she made a video while they were in a marketplace with her manager.

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And it's a really it's it's one of those things where you look at it now and you're like, what did we really see? And it is just a video of this girl who was kind of preening in front of the camera. And she asks her mind, We didn't know I was her manager. I was just a man standing by her side and she says how I'm looking. And it was the the botched English. It was the delivery. It was the way she was preening in front of the camera.

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And she repeatedly asked him, how do you think I look? And she sort of goading him on. And she says, Do you think I look sexy? Do you think I look hot?

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Now I'm looking. Tell me, look, marvelous, just marvelous, and she just shared that video on her Facebook page, along with a bunch of other photographs from the trip, somehow that video and that phrase, How I'm Looking became the catch phrase. It was the flavor of the month. People started making these videos where they'd mimic her and she became the butt of a joke and everything. That line, how I'm looking got repeated over and over.

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Celebrities got onto it and they started making videos and sharing it on their social media. But they were saying the line. No one knew who this girl was. No one remembered. Oh, yes, she is that Pakistan Idol girl. It was just a video that was doing the rounds and we wanted to make fun of it the way she spoke, the way she was blatantly asking for attention and it went viral. And from there she realized, I'm going to keep making videos and keep putting them up on my Facebook page, that even if people are laughing at me or if they don't like what I'm wearing or they think it's too controversial or it's kind of scandalous, I need to just keep them watching even if the comments are just to make fun of me.

[00:11:10]

In 2015, she was reported to be one of the 10 most Googled people in Pakistan and was appearing on talk shows and even the news papers called her the country's first social media star and Pakistan's Kim Kardashian. By this time, she was living in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, and sending money home to help her family. As she became more famous, her videos became more controversial. In February 2016. The president urged people not to celebrate Valentine's Day, saying Valentine's Day has no connection with our culture and it should be avoided.

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In response, Condyle posted a video calling politicians idiots and wishing her followers a happy Valentine's Day. And then in March, she made a video in advance of a big cricket match, India versus Pakistan, that shocked a lot of people right before the match.

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She posted this video, which was for the Pakistani cricket team's captain, and she's laying on her bed. And you can kind of see her cleavage. And she makes this video where she says, if you win, I'll do a striptease for you, like live on my Facebook page to celebrate your win. And I really want you to win. And as I strip, I'm going to say your name and I'm going to dance for you. A lot of people just haven't seen something like it.

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I remember meeting this one young reporter and I asked him, like, why? Why were the men in his newsroom so fascinated by her? And he said, it's when we saw that video for the cricket captain. And we looked at this woman and we just never seen a woman even speaking like that, like where would we have encountered that? And they were just fascinated that this woman did it and she wasn't afraid of the reaction that she got, even if people called her shameless or called her names and she didn't seem to care and they didn't understand what kind of woman wouldn't back down or be afraid to sort of take it a step further.

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And Candeal was always doing that. She was always trying to give us the newest thing, something that would really shock us, really surprise us. Beneath the video, one user commented, please shoot her wherever you find her. Four months later, she was dead. I'm Phoebe Judge. This is criminal. It didn't matter what she posted, the immediate knee jerk reaction was, you're such a slut, you're disgusting. If I had a body like that, I would hide that body.

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I wouldn't show it off. There were a lot of rape threats. I mean, sometimes men would even just do something like post a picture of a gun and say, I'm going to find out exactly where you live and I'm going to come find you. And why are you doing this online? Why can't you just shut up? Why can't you just go away? I want to make you disappear. Things like that, like endless comments, endless messages about how disgusting she was, how she deserved to die.

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And those are the things that were being said publicly. So I can't even imagine what it was like and how private messages.

[00:14:48]

Why were they so mad? I think she really confused them. I think she enraged them because no matter what they said, it didn't seem to affect her. When I talk to her friends, they do talk about how hurt she was by some of the messages, how she couldn't understand them. And there are moments where she would do like Facebook, live streams or chats, and she would say, you know, if she would hit back at some of these people.

[00:15:17]

And she said, if you really don't like what I'm doing or you find it so disgusting, why do you even come to my Facebook page? Why do you even want to watch me? Why can't you just leave me alone? Like, what am I doing to you? How am I offending you? Just don't look at me. And it was men and women, by the way, that would leave these messages. I'm focusing on the men, but it was a lot of women as well who said you're so disgusting or we think, like, you should just die or things like that.

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Or they'd say what they wish would happen to her. Or aren't you ashamed of yourself? Like, how does your father or your brother or your husband allow you to do this? And she almost dug her heels in and said, the more you say this to me, the more you threaten me, the more I'm going to make you angry by what I'm doing. And I'm just going to keep upping the ante. And that confuse them. Like, what kind of woman doesn't back down?

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What kind of woman really believes it's her right to put her body out there and whatever way she wishes to? What kind of woman asks for attention or wants you to tell her that you think she's sexy or attractive or beautiful? Like what kind of woman does that?

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And it's so blatant about wanting your attention when the clerics start condemning her. Don't tell me about the outrage from the culturally conservative community about what she's doing, not just men posting and saying terrible things, but but these figures of power. I think that she really came on their radar when she met a cleric. It was actually here in Karachi. And there was a cleric who's quite at that point, he was someone who was invited onto a lot of talk shows.

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He was invited on to give his opinion. He really knew how to give good TV like he was very different from a lot of clerics where he's not that sort of stern faced very dollars, sort of like trespassing, religious judgment on people. He made jokes. He would like to just be funny. He would give good TV, but also was religiously quite knowledgeable. And so he was a fixture on TV and she was invited to be on a talk show with him.

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And they got along quite well and they were cracking jokes. And at the end of it, he said, you know, if I'm ever in Karachi, like I'd like to meet you. And she says, yes, of course. And it turns out that he traveled here and asked to meet her and she went and met him at his hotel. And on the way there, she tweets that she's on her way to meet this man. And while she's in the hotel in his room, she shares a number of pictures in the pictures.

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She's like he's sitting on a sofa, I think, and she's perched on the arm. In another one, she's wearing his cap. The buttons on his collar are undone. His hair looks a little disheveled. And she tweets those images and she says she's having such a fun time with him. And then she left and she tweeted about how he had behaved inappropriately with her inside that room, behind closed doors. And that sort of really struck a nerve with people.

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He obviously denied it. And people turned around and said, what were you even doing in this man's room? Why were you even there? But that man also, for many people, became a laughing stock. And it was the conversation was, well, of course, these clerics are all hypocrites. Of course, behind closed doors, they do exactly what they want, whereas they preach to us about how we should live our lives. And I think that's when it became a problem for a lot of conservative people and especially with the clergy, that how is it that this woman, whoever she is, however scandalous she is, she is attacking one of our own and she's managed to make a joke out of him.

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That was very. For a lot of people to stomach what happens next. So after the run in with the cleric and the way that she was sort of making fun of the whole situation on Twitter and she said a lot of things on Twitter about how hypocritical these religious leaders, how many of them are just so hypocritical. And they behaved a certain way in private. And she she hinted at how she was going to expose all of them. And she was saying things like that, which was it was getting a lot of attention.

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I think at that point there was hardly a day when Candeal wasn't in the news in some way. Her name was also mentioned in parliament as the butt of a joke. But it was like she had reached that level of notoriety where she was so well known. And there was a newspaper that ran a story one day with pictures of her passport that had a name on there that wasn't Candeal. And they had this entire story about how the stuff that she was saying about herself was all a lie.

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Like her real name wasn't even Candeal. They shared details about her marriage, the fact that she'd been married. They knew about her stint at the transport company, working as a bus hostess. And it was an attempt to take this woman down and to discredit her or to sort of change the story from the things that she was saying about the cleric. And it worked with just that story became huge. And when people suddenly found out that this persona that she'd created that we just completely bought into wasn't real.

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There were a lot of questions about that. And it's sort of it dogged a string at this image that she'd built up and things slowly started to unravel for her.

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By the summer of 2016, Condyle Baluch felt unsafe in her home in Karachi. She appealed to Pakistan's interior minister for police protection. There was no response. So now, Maher says, Condyle decided to go home to be with her mother and father, this was around the time of Eid, which is at the end of the month of fasting. And we saw Muslims celebrate either at that time. That's a time when you get together with your family. And she decided she wanted to be back with her parents.

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She's avoiding any media calls, anything like that. She's spending time with her parents. She liked to play music for her father. She said that I'm happiest when I'm, like, pressing my mother's feet or giving her massages and things. She like to do those things. And then one night her brother comes over and he makes all of them before they go to sleep. He makes them a drink with milk, with warm milk, and they all have it.

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And what they don't know is that he's added a sedative to that. So it knocks them all out. What happened? This is what the parents remember happening is they were sleeping separately and congeals. Mother woke up in the morning and felt very groggy, like she couldn't understand why her head felt so heavy. She couldn't walk straight. She's trying to get some breakfast together. She's calling for Candeal. There's no answer from the room. And then she goes and she opens the door to the room and she sees her daughter on the bed and her daughter is dead.

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The brother is nowhere to be found, their son is nowhere to be found, and the room things have been taken from the room, from around the house, some valuables, money, some jewelry, and they put two and two together. And apparently during the night, the brother wants he drugged them. Once they were all asleep, he brings someone else over. He brings one of his cousins over and they're going to congeals room. And the brother sort of first he said that he was the one who strangled her, but then he sort of changed his story afterwards.

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And he said, well, my cousin actually did it and I just held her down. Her brother went back to the village and in the morning, people saw him in the village marketplace on his motorbike, just like driving around the marketplace, very proud of what he'd done, being very vocal about what he'd done. And his idea was you guys taunted me for not taking care of this problem. And now look at what I've gone and done and I've taken care of it.

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And she can no longer disrespect me or my family. How tell me a little bit about honor killings in Pakistan, how frequent are honor killings in Pakistan? And we've described what I'm even what I'm what I'm saying this what am I even saying?

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An honor killing takes place. I mean, an honor killing is essentially it's a murder or murder by another name, but it takes place within a very specific context when a man or woman is believed to have broken the rules in some way, that could be the rules of the society, the rules of your family, the rules of your clan. You have broken the rules and step out of line in some way and you need to be punished because that punishment then is a message to everybody else in that society or family that if you step out of line, if you challenge authority or you try to change things or change tradition or rules or behave differently, this is what could happen to you.

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It's a way of retaining a status quo that exists and that can be in many different situations. So, for instance, something that's very honor killings. You asked me how how common they are here in Pakistan. They're extremely common. And the conviction rate for them is very low. I believe back in like a year or two ago, it was as low as two percent. And sometimes it can be for something like someone, a man or woman decides to marry someone of their own choice.

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They meet someone, they fall in love. They don't ask their parents to get married to that person. That can be seen as disrespecting her family. In some instances, it is something like a brother. And these are all real cases. A brother sees his sister talking to someone on a mobile phone and he demands to know who it is. And the sister refuses to tell him he's convinced. You're talking to a boy, you have a boyfriend.

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You haven't said anything about that to us. He kills her. It can be parents doing it to their children. It can be siblings. It can be husbands with wives. It's men and women. But of course, it is definitely more women than men that are affected by honor crimes every year.

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According to the most recent human rights report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan published in 2020, quote, Women continue to bear the brunt of society's fixation with honor.

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Sanat Maher says that after congeals murder, some people in Pakistan celebrated. Someone on Twitter wrote her brother did well. Some speculated that the cleric that she'd posed with in the hotel room, Mufti Abdul Kavi, was connected to her murder. When he was approached by a television reporter, he said, in the future, before you humiliate the clergy, you should remind yourself of this woman's fate. There were also protests and vigils, some held signs that said no country for old women.

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One activist told reporters that it appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country.

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Congeals murder was reported around the world. So after Candeal was killed because the case also became so huge and got such massive attention, media attention, even internationally, suddenly the government looked really bad. It looked like we didn't care that more than a thousand people were being killed in a year in these kinds of crimes. And what actually existed at the time was there was a loophole in the laws which allowed for the person who has been killed, their family members can forgive the person who has killed them.

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So you're allowed to forgive the killer or accept financial compensation for the murder. And the murderer walks scot free, doesn't have to spend a single day in jail. Even now, the problem with this loophole is honor crimes take place within families and they take place within communities that are very tightly knit. So let's say a husband kills a wife on the pretext of honor. He suspects her of doing something. He's and a lot of times it's literally it's just suspicion of bad behavior or having an affair.

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It's not even concrete proof. Suspicion is enough. So this man kills this woman. According to the loophole that existed, the woman's family could forgive the man. The man could pay them a certain amount of money or they could just forgive him for committing the crime. A lot of times when you're living in the same community or you are all part of the same family or there's intermarriage or things like that, if a brother kills his sister and the aggrieved party or the parents of both those people, they can forgive the son.

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And that's it. Nothing happens when Congeals Brother killed her. He knew that this is what happens with a lot of instances of honor crimes. He thought he would walk completely free. So when the police find him and they present him before this press conference with all these journalists, he very proudly admits to all of them that he has killed his sister. But because Condyle Baluch was so well known in Pakistan, her murder was not handled quietly. There was immense pressure on the government to do something.

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In October 2016, the Pakistani parliament approved an honor killing and anti rape legislation.

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The legislation was changed. It was fast tracked and changed. Families can no longer forgive the killers. The only thing that they can do is save the killer or pardon him from the death penalty. The killer will, regardless if found guilty, serve life in prison. So the legislation changes and suddenly Camille's brother realizes he's in a very sticky situation. He changes a story. He says, no, I actually I lost my nerve at the last minute. I couldn't do it.

[00:29:37]

It was my cousin that did it. I didn't actually kill her. I just said that because everyone was saying that I needed to deal with my sister and that she was so shameless and I had to do something about it.

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Did her parents forgive their son enough so that he wasn't up for the death penalty? So this was something very unusual and congeals case where the parents were outraged by what had happened. There was this there were all these interviews with this with this man and this woman who turned around and said our son should be hanged for what he's done. We think it is completely we don't want to pardon him. He's taken our child away from us. We want him to get the most severe punishment possible.

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And a lot of people were really taken aback because to see these two people stand up for their daughter and their daughter, who had been very publicly flouting the rules and behaving, quote unquote, badly to see them stand up for her and to say, no, she was better than any of our sons and she provided for us. She took care of us and he's killed her. We want him to be punished. That was very unusual. That's also, I think, why the case got a lot of attention, because it was such an anomaly from the cases that usually take place here where families cover for one another.

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The trial lasted for three years. The primary defendant was congeals, brother, but there were many others accused of being involved. Her cousin, her other brother's a neighbor, a driver, and also the cleric, Mufti Abdul Kavi. There were rumors that he had transferred money into Congeals Brother's bank account. But in the end, everyone was acquitted except for Congeals brother. Critics speculated that the cleric had paid off investigators. His supporters showered him with rose petals as he left the court building.

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Years into the trial, congeals, parents changed their mind about wanting their son punished. They submitted a written statement saying that they had forgiven him and asking the court to forgive him as well. The judge denied the request and Congeals Brother was sentenced to life in prison on September 27th, 2019. There's so many honor crimes every year in Pakistan, but if you ask the average Pakistani to even name one of those people or tell you what they look like, it would be so difficult to do that we forget them.

[00:32:17]

By the time the next day's news comes around, their stories are buried inside the newspaper. Just a small item about it. Nothing is ever sort of investigated further. Candeal was different because she was someone who every day when you'd wake up, when you go to your Facebook page and you're scrolling through it, she's there amongst your friends and family and colleagues. You're seeing her updates every day. You're sharing her videos with friends, you're imitating her. You're making fun of her.

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And to see this woman behave the way that she did and to suddenly have her be punished for it, it really affected a lot of young men and women where they turned around and said, what kind of place are we living in where something like this is possible?

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I think it really brought home the severity of these crimes and the ways in which you can be punished for stepping out of line. I think this is this is the thing that she really brought home to us. Like, what kind of lives do we want to have for ourselves as young Pakistanis? What do we dream for ourselves? What are the things that we're willing to fight for, knowing how things can turn out, knowing how we can all just unravel in a minute.

[00:33:25]

So Nonnemaker wrote a book about Condyle Baluch. It's called A Woman Like Her The Story behind the Honor Killing of a Social Media Star. She writes. Condyle was buried, her mother covered her hands and feet in henna and kiss them before covering her in a white shroud, a local tradition that shows everyone that the woman being buried was a martyr. She died for some cause and died with honor. Criminalist created by Lauren Spor and me, Lydia Wilson is our senior producer, Susanna Roberson is our producer, audio mix by Michael Rafeal.

[00:34:19]

Julian Alexander makes original illustrations for each episode of Criminal. You can see them at this is criminal dotcom. We're on Facebook and Twitter at criminal show. Criminal is recorded in the studios of North Carolina Public Radio WNYC, where a proud member of Radio Topia from PUREX, a collection of the best podcasts around. I'm Phoebe Judge, this is criminal. Radio to me from your ex.