What we know of the Pakistani sisters murdered in ‘honor’ killing
Terrassa residents were assassinated after marrying their cousins and intended to divorce
Two Pakistani national sisters have been allegedly tortured and murdered by their husbands and other family members in so-called 'honor' killings in their home country. They married their cousins last year in Pakistan. Yet, in Catalonia, they had new partners and intended to divorce to pursue new lives in their new relationships. Last week, both sisters traveled to Pakistan after being allegedly misled and ended up tortured and assassinated.
The case has sounded all the alarms and generated controversy after the news broke out. On Tuesday morning a minute’s silence was held outside the Terrassa city hall in memory of the two city residents.
Who were they?
The two victims were sisters Anisa and Arooj Abbas, both in their early 20s.
Last year they married their cousins and applied for a spouse visa so that their husbands could travel to Europe. The Pakistani consul in Barcelona, Mirza Salman, said during an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that the girls had consented to the weddings.
Although not Spanish nationals, they had a residence permit in the Catalan city of Terrassa, around 30km northwest of Barcelona, for years.
Anisa and Arooj traveled to Pakistan on May 19. Their family had demanded they take their husbands back to Catalonia. The sisters had refused. Instead, they wanted to ask for a divorce once they were back in Catalonia, so that they could remarry in Spain. They were strangled and fatally shot in their sleep on May 20.
Police in the Pakistani city of Gujrat, in the Punjab region, have arrested six suspects in connection with the killings.
Among the detainees, there are two brothers of the killed sisters. "Pieces of evidence clearly show that those detainees took part in the events," said Salman.
The trip to Pakistan, a trap
One of the most important aspects to the case is the reasoning behind the sisters' trip to their home country, considering their difficult family circumstances.
The two sisters willingly got married years earlier in their home country with their two cousins. Once the sisters traveled to Catalonia they started dating two other Pakistanis resident in Barcelona.
One of their brothers, Shehryah, and their close contacts did not agree with the situation as the women were giving up on their traditions and their husbands. The situation pushed the brother to stab one of the new boyfriends and forced the sisters to move to Valencia, Catalonia’s neighboring region to the south.
The trip was scheduled as the two sisters believed "their brother would get married there, which was false, and the uncle, who was the father-in-law, also mentioned their mother felt sick, which turned out to also be false," the consul explained to ACN.
"The mother was fine, and was even surprised to see both of them there," he added.
The plane landed on May 19, and the two girls were assassinated on May 20.
Mother out of danger
The mother was another one of the worries for the family in Terrassa.
Yet, she and her 12-year-old son, who were also in Pakistan at the time, and whose lives were saved by the police, are now safe. Authorities in the Asian country protected them for some days until they flew back to Barcelona on Sunday, after spending some months in their home nation.
The Catalan government offered them social housing upon arrival, but their plans had not been revealed as of May 29, 2022.
What happens now?
The Catalan Mossos d’Esquadra police have since summoned the relatives who also live in Catalonia to try to find out if this part of the family knew about the plan of the relatives in Pakistan to kill them.
Both the consul of Pakistan in Barcelona and the father of the girls have been questioned by the police. Sources confirm to ACN that the father has been reticent when speaking with the Mossos police.
Two of his sisters have been murdered and two of his sons are currently in prison as authors of the crime.
"I have spoken with the father, he seems heartbroken as he did not know this would happen, not even that the girls would fly to Pakistan," Mirza Salman said to ACN. "If the investigation revealed he was involved, he would face justice," the consul added.
The Mossos are working in collaboration with the Public Prosecutor's Office to determine possible criminal evidence.
The crimes could bring the perpetrators to face the maximum punishment in Pakistani prisons.
"In 2016, the Pakistani government passed a law forbidding family members to allow these kinds of crimes," the consul explained to ACN. Now, those who act under this new legislation face up to 25 years in prison or a death sentence.
A judicial process will now open and Salman believes the judicial verdict will be announced soon and they will receive "the maximum punishment."
Could this happen again?
These such 'honor' killings are unfortunately not uncommon in Pakistan, usually committed by male family members on females for violating conservative norms governing women’s relationships.
In the Punjab province, there are 110 million people. This is where most Pakistanis who live in Catalonia come from, and there are almost 20,000 Punjabis living in Barcelona alone.
The Mossos d'Esquadra are currently investigating an alleged forced marriage case of a minor abroad, as reported by El Periódico newspaper and confirmed to the Catalan News Agency (ACN) by the Mossos on Thursday evening.
According to the Barcelona-based publication, the girl reported the incident, which had been agreed upon by her parents, at a police station in the territory, with an investigation since being opened in order to clarify the facts.