Settling ‘Honour’ Issues in Italy, Good Old Pakistan Style
Europe should stop turning a blind eye to Pakistani immigrants settling their “honour” issues.
Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,
The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?
All, all are sleeping on the hill.
(Edgar Lee Masters)
Her name is, or most probably was, Saman Abbas. An 18 years old girl of Pakistani origin living in Novellara, an Italian town since 2016. She had asked for help from police and social services to escape a marriage arranged by her family in Pakistan. She was living in a safe house since then. Recently, she had returned home—trusting her parents saying nothing would happen—to retrieve some documents.
Since then, she has been missing.
Brutal Fate of Italian Girls of Pakistani Origin
Saman’s parents suddenly returned to Pakistan due to an alleged bereavement and the rest of her family disappeared. There's a video showing her father, uncles, and a cousin dragging a big plastic bag and a couple of shovels. Her brother, found living with relatives in a nearby village, says she has been killed by the family.
Hina had the same destiny years ago: she wanted to be Italian, like Saman. Wanted to study, to be free to choose her life and her life-partner. She was killed by her parents near Brescia.
Like Sana who, from Brescia, was taken back to Pakistan by her parents under the pretext of a family wedding and slaughtered by her father and brother.
Farah was luckier. She was an Italian citizen and could be rescued in Karachi by the Italian Consulate. But only after the family had already killed the baby she was expecting by her Italian boyfriend. They were trying to force her into a marriage.
Memoona was lucky, too, because she was rescued by her teachers and brought back to Italy after being beaten black and blue.
Nosheen too, in Modena, is still alive. But she was almost beaten to death by her brother, while her father was killing the mother with a rock.
This list, unfortunately, might be much longer because these are only the cases that end up on national media.
Pakistan’s War Against Women
The script is, more or less, the same: the girl wants to study, she wants to work, hang out with friends, marry a boy of her choice. The family invents a wedding or a funeral in Pakistan, and then leave the girl there to be given in marriage against her will or, more often, to be killed with impunity.
In Pakistan, the war against women is a real war and is fought with the lethal weapon of honour killings. About three women are killed every day for reasons related to family honour, and more than a thousand women a year die from crimes disguised as 'domestic accidents'.
Every two hours a woman is kidnapped, tortured or raped. Every eight hours, someone is victim of gang rape. More than ninety percent of the female population is victim of some form of family violence.
Female behavior regarded as dishonourable includes presumed or actual extramarital affairs, choosing a husband against the wishes of the parents, filing for divorce. Or, also, having been the victim of rape.
Does Imran Khan Endorse Rape & Honour Killings?
Honour killing in Pakistan seems to be one of the pillars of society. In 2016, the case of the influencer Qandeel Baloch, killed by her brother for dishonouring her family, caused a stir. The family pleaded with the judges to forgive the killer under the law, amended after Qandeel's death, which allows the killer not to serve any sentence by paying the victim's family the so-called ‘blood price’.
Rape was finally considered in 2007 by the Parliament a crime under the penal code after which it ceased to be an offence against morality punishable according to the infamous Hudood. According to the Hodood, the proof of rape is borne by the woman who suffers it. The lady must be able to produce—to prove she was raped—four Muslim male witnesses. Otherwise, she is officially tried for adultery: a crime for which the same law prescribes stoning.
According to Hudood, in general, a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man, and adultery, or premarital sex, is considered a crime against the state and punished accordingly.
How much is a woman's life worth in Pakistan? A few pennies, payable by anyone. And these are not isolated cases or limited to backward sectors of society. Imran Khan recently went on TV to say that the exponential increase in rape cases (unpunished) in the country is due to the 'obscene values' touted by India, the West and Hollywood films.
He added that if women strictly observed Islamic rules in terms of dress and conduct, that is, total segregation, there would be no rape. The brave Imran also refused to refute the theory of a local mullah considering COVID-19 pandemic a divine punishment for the 'misdeeds' committed by women.
Settling Honour Issues in Europe, Pakistan Style
Those few courageous ones marching in Pakistan every 8 March saying “There is no honour in crimes” and “Mera Jism, Meri Marzi” are regularly abused, threatened, and insulted.
It should, therefore, not be surprising if people like the parents of Hina or Saman or Sana think they can settle their ‘honour issues’ Pakistani style even in Italy. And the whole family conspires to cover up the crime and shield the guilty.
All that is left of Saman is her Instagram page, itali_angirl05, where she wears black nailpolish, ripped jeans, and listens to rap music. An average teenager. An Italian girl, the daughter of all of us, a daughter of the world.
Beside applying the law, Europe should re-think the notion of “respecting their culture” and stop turning a blind eye to this. There’s no honour in killings, there’s no culture in abuses.
Unless we act now, we'll have on a hill Pakistani girls’ Spoon River.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets at @francescam63. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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