Saman Abbas: Italian Court Sentences Pakistani Couples for Honor Killing

An Italian court has handed down life sentences to a Pakistani couple for the murder of their 18-year-old daughter, Saman Abbas. The crime, commonly referred to as honour killing, happened when Saman refused an arranged marriage, opting to follow her own choices in life. The trial, which took place in the northern city of Reggio Emilia.

Saman Abbas: Italian Court Sentences Pakistani Couples for Honor Killing

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Saman Abbas, who had emigrated with her family from Pakistan, resided in Novellara, Italy. Her parents, disapproving of her relationship with a man of her choice, sought to force her into an arranged marriage in Pakistan in 2020 an attempt she resisted.

The situation escalated when a social media post depicting Saman kissing her boyfriend enraged her parents, leading to increased familial pressure for her to conform to their wishes.

The trial, which happened in the court in Reggio Emilia, saw Saman’s father, Shabbar Abbas, and mother, Nazia Shaheen, sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the murder.

Shabbar Abbas, who was from Pakistan in August to face trial, maintained his innocence in a statement to the court.

Meanwhile, Nazia Shaheen, who was tried in absentia and is believed to be in hiding in Pakistan, was also convicted.

Saman’s uncle, Danish Hasnain, in the murder, received a 14-year prison term. Two cousins were acquitted and released from custody.

The verdict, delivered on December 19, a milestone in the pursuit of justice for Saman Abbas and the consequences for those perpetrating honour killings.

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Saman Abbas went missing in April 2021, and her parents left Italy for Pakistan shortly after her disappearance.

It wasn’t until November 2022 that her body was discovered beneath an abandoned farmhouse near her father’s workplace. Autopsy results revealed a broken neck bone, suggesting she had been strangled.

Italian investigators revealed that Saman had lived under the protection of social services for several months, following her refusal to enter into an arranged marriage in Pakistan in 2020.

However, she returned to her family home in Novellara in April 2021, under the guise of familial reconciliation, only to go missing shortly afterward.

Prosecutors argued that Saman Abbas’s parents orchestrated her murder on May 1, 2021, following her return home.

CCTV footage released by the police showed three family members, including Saman’s parents and uncle, walking with spades, a crowbar, and a blue bag on April 29, 2021.

The following day, separate footage showed Saman leaving the house with her parents. These visual records were crucial in establishing a timeline of events surrounding her disappearance and murder.

The motive for Saman’s murder stemmed from her defiance against an arranged marriage and her embrace of a Western lifestyle.

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The photo of her kissing her boyfriend, posted on social media, reportedly angered her parents, who insisted she marry a cousin in Pakistan.

Saman had confided in her boyfriend about fearing for her life due to her refusal to marry an older man in her homeland.

The term honour killing is rooted in certain cultural and tribal customs where allegations against a woman are perceived to bring dishonour to her family.

In such cases, male family members may resort to violence to restore the family’s perceived honour. Human rights groups said that honour killings are often triggered by a woman’s refusal to enter into an arranged marriage or alleged adultery or illicit sexual behavior.

Saman Abbas’s case has become a symbol of public concern in Italy over violence against women by family members or partners.

The union of Islamic communities in Italy issued a fatwa, a religious ruling, rejecting forced marriages in response to Saman’s disappearance.

In the case of Saman Abbas, her refusal to comply with an arranged marriage and her embrace of Western values clashed with the expectations of her family.

The struggle against honour killings, which persist in several parts of the world, including Pakistan, where hundreds of women are killed each year in the name of family honour.

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