Immigrants defy forced marriage abroad

GUASTALLA, Italy (AP) — From the day of her delivery in Pakistan, Iram Aslam was betrothed to a cousin 17 days older. However to the younger girl, who emigrated as an adolescent to this Italian farm city on the Po River plain, the cousin felt like a brother. So on a go to to her homeland, she performed for time, telling her aunts she wasn’t prepared for marriage.

“They did every little thing doable to make me marry him,” mentioned Aslam, now 29. She mentioned she instructed them: “‘I don’t wish to marry him and please do not ask me anymore.'”

Her household, in each Italy and Pakistan, stored scheming to have her wed a person of their selection — and their caste. Aslam dismissed round 30 potential husbands.

“In the long run, I made everybody offended, and nobody talks to me anymore,” she mentioned of her kin in Pakistan.

In two homicide trials this month, Italian prosecutors are searching for justice for Pakistani immigrant girls allegedly killed as a result of they refused marriages imposed by their mother and father. The instances spotlight variations, usually misconstrued as religion-based, between centuries-old immigrants’ cultural traditions and Western values prizing individualism.

“I appreciated one other individual, needed one other one,” Aslam mentioned of her personal state of affairs. “However they did not need it, as a result of amongst us, love would not exist.”

Love is seen “as a sin,” she added, her thick, wavy brown hair coated by a multicolored scarf. She requested that her face not be totally proven for worry of additional antagonizing Pakistani neighbors in Guastalla, a city of 15,000 the place they’re the dominant immigrant neighborhood.

To flee marriage-obsessed kin, Aslam went for a time to stay in Germany.

However there was no escape for 18-year-old Saman Abbas.

Like Aslam, she emigrated as an adolescent from Pakistan to an Italian farm city, Novellara, 11 kilometers (seven miles) from Guastalla.

In what seems to be an id card picture taken shortly after her arrival, Abbas’ face is framed by a black hijab, or scarf. However the younger girl shortly embraced Western methods, showing in social media posts along with her hair tumbling out from below a shiny purple headband. In a single, she and her Pakistani boyfriend had been proven kissing on a avenue within the regional capital, Bologna.

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In accordance with Italian investigators, that kiss enraged Abbas’ mother and father, who needed their daughter to marry a cousin in Pakistan.

In November, her physique was dug up within the ruins of a Novellara farmhouse. She had final been seen alive a couple of hundred yards away on April 30, 2021, in surveillance digital camera video as she walked along with her mother and father on the watermelon farm the place her father labored. Just a few days later, her mother and father caught a flight from Milan to Pakistan.

Abbas had reportedly instructed her boyfriend she feared for her life, as a result of she refused to be married to an older man in her homeland.

An post-mortem revealed a damaged neck bone, presumably attributable to strangulation.

An uncle and a cousin had been extradited from France, and one other cousin from Spain. They’re now on trial in Reggio Emilia, the provincial capital with jurisdiction over Novellara, accused of Abbas’ homicide.

Additionally indicted is her father, Shabbir Abbas, arrested in his village in jap Punjab. The whereabouts of her mom, who can also be charged, are unknown.

A lawyer for her father, Akhtar Mahmood, instructed Italian state tv that the younger girl’s household is harmless. He disputed prosecutors’ allegations, contending that she had needed to return along with her household to Pakistan to flee Western methods.

Requested about Italy’s request for Shabbir Abbas’ extradition, Pakistan’s ambassador to Italy, Ali Javed, instructed The Related Press that the Pakistani authorities would “not hesitate” to take action. Nevertheless, Italy has no extradition treaty with Pakistan.

Javed blamed “particular person ignorance” for pressured marriage, which is prohibited in Pakistan.

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In 2019, Italy made coercing an Italian citizen or resident into marriage, even overseas, against the law coated below home violence legal guidelines.

Late this month, police in Spain detained the daddy of two sisters who had been allegedly murdered whereas visiting household in Pakistan. The ladies had reportedly refused to have their husbands come to Spain after being pressured to marry their cousins.

In the UK, dwelling to Europe’s largest Pakistani neighborhood, the federal government’s Compelled Marriage Unit cautioned that the issue of pressured marriage isn’t “particular to 1 nation, faith or tradition” and mentioned statistics don’t mirror “the total scale of the abuse” since pressured marriage is a “hidden crime.”

Underneath the Italian justice system, civil plaintiffs can connect lawsuits for damages to prison trials, and two organizations representing Islamic communities in Italy are amongst these suing within the Abbas trial.

Different plaintiffs embody girls’s advocacy organizations.

Tiziana Dal Pra, whose group, Trama delle Terre, promotes intercultural relations, mentioned that whereas violence surrounding pressured marriage “will get interpreted as non secular,” what’s actually at play is “patriarchal management” of ladies’s our bodies.

In December, a courtroom within the northern metropolis of Brescia convicted and gave five-year jail sentences to a few Pakistani immigrants — the mother and father and older brother of 4 ladies — for beating them and holding them out of faculty.

In accordance with courtroom paperwork, the mother and father threatened their daughters that in the event that they refused organized marriages, they’d find yourself like that “lady in Pakistan.”

The courtroom mentioned that menace referred to 25-year-old Sana Cheema, who was slain when she returned from Italy to Pakistan in 2018, allegedly at her mother and father’ insistence.

By her mates’ accounts, Cheema, who had taken Italian citizenship, liked her life in Brescia, the place she labored out at a fitness center, went out for espresso with girlfriends and danced with them at a disco. She was happy with her job instructing at a driving faculty within the northern metropolis.

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Brescia prosecutors at the moment are attempting Cheema’s father and brother in absentia on a novel cost: homicide in violation of the political proper to marry one’s personal selection.

In 2019, a courtroom in Pakistan acquitted the 2 on homicide costs, citing inadequate proof. However Italy’s justice ministry dominated the Brescia trial may go ahead since Pakistan and Italy don’t have any settlement governing instances involving so-called judicial double jeopardy.

Cheema’s household initially instructed Pakistani authorities that she died of a coronary heart assault the day earlier than she was alleged to fly again to Italy. Two mates testified in Brescia this month that Cheema instructed them her mother and father needed her to marry a cousin in Pakistan.

Additionally they quoted from Fb messages wherein Cheema mentioned her mother and father had confiscated her passport and telephone in Pakistan.

With the Italian Embassy intently following the case, Cheema’s physique was exhumed. An post-mortem indicated she was probably strangled.

Prosecuting the case in Italy sends the message that “exercising the fitting of who you wish to stay with, above all, who you wish to marry, is a political proper” to be assured “with utmost firmness,” Brescia Prosecutor Basic Guido Rispoli instructed the AP.

On the fringe of a area close to the farmhouse the place Saman Abbas’ physique was discovered, mourners have left a stuffed toy squirrel and bunches of flowers at an improvised shrine.

“It is going to proceed to occur, I inform you, that is how it’s,” Aslam mentioned of violence linked to pressured marriage.

What progress has been made with trials like those in Reggio Emilia and Brescia is not sufficient, she added: “It is like salt in flour.”


Related Press faith protection receives assist via the AP’s collaboration with The Dialog US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely liable for this content material.