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Updated December 20th, 2023 at 14:44 IST

Life sentence for Pakistani parents who murdered their teenage daughter in Italy

According to the Italian investigators, the fatal conflict stemmed from Saman’s resistance to an arranged marriage with her cousin in Pakistan.

Digital Desk
Tributes left at the farmhouse in northern Italy where Saman Abbas’ body was dug up in November 2022
Tributes left at the farmhouse in northern Italy where Saman Abbas’ body was dug up in November 2022 | Image:AP
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In a harrowing case that laid bare the conflict between tradition and modernity, an Italian court has convicted the parents and an uncle of an 18-year-old Pakistani woman, Saman Abbas, for her murder. According to a report from The Guardian, the tragic episode unfolded in Italy's northern region of Emilia-Romagna, sparking widespread attention and igniting discussions on Pakistani women's plight in rebelling against their family's constraints.

Saman Abbas’ lifeless body was discovered in an abandoned farmhouse, eerily hidden near her father's workplace in November 2022, a stark 18 months following her last sighting on surveillance footage walking alongside her parents. Prosecutors contended that she met her tragic fate on May 1, 2021, after refusing her family’s insistence to marry a cousin back in Pakistan. According to an autopsy, her body's neck bone was broken. 

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Here is what you need to know

The courtroom drama culminated in a damning verdict, with Saman's parents, Shabbar Abbas and Nazia Shaheen, receiving life sentences, while her uncle, Danish Hasnain, was handed a 14-year term by the court in Reggio Emilia. However, two cousins were acquitted and ordered to be released from detention.

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The trial, among Italy's most high-profile in recent years, cast a spotlight on a series of criminal investigations involving the mistreatment and murder of Pakistani women who defied their families' arranged marriages. Saman Abbas’ tragic story illuminated the tensions between the conservatism of her native Pakistan and her embrace of a more liberal life in Italy.

The price of saying no to headscarf and arranged marriage?

Upon immigrating to Italy as a teenager, Saman moved to Novellara, a small agricultural town, where she diverged from the traditional expectations, choosing to discard the headscarf and date a young man of her choice. Her decision to express her affection publicly with her boyfriend in Bologna didn't sit well with her parents, leading to a fatal series of events.

According to the Italian investigators, the fatal conflict stemmed from Saman’s resistance to an arranged marriage with her cousin in Pakistan, a decision that fuelled her parents' fury. Alarmed by the consequences of her defiance, Saman confided in her boyfriend about her fears for her safety due to her refusal to comply with her family's wishes.

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The mother is still in hiding

Shabbar Abbas, extradited from Pakistan in August, maintained his innocence through an emotional courtroom plea before the judgment. Meanwhile, Nazia Shaheen, tried in absentia, remains elusive and is believed to be in Pakistan.

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The tragic demise of Saman Abbas serves as a sobering reminder of the struggle Pakistani women face when navigating the complexities between their own aspirations and the expectations imposed by their nation's customs.

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Published December 20th, 2023 at 14:44 IST

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