Most of the city’s Pakistani population is concentrated in the Raval district of Barcelona, most from Gurjat, the same city where Aruj and Anisa, the young women who were killed last Friday for opposing their marriage, were born and died. , forced. The faces of these two young women are almost ubiquitous on the premises of ACESOP, the cultural association of Pakistani women in Barcelona, based in this area of Barcelona.
Photos of the sisters are interspersed with colorful posters that read slogans like “love over violence” or “your family shouldn’t choose your partner.” They were made by Pakistani women affiliated with the association, which today held its first public protest condemning the killing of young women. “The women of my country are very frightened, why do you think that the acts have not yet been committed? Because we are not allowed to raise our voice,” complains Huma Janshed, founder of the association.
ACESOP is made up of fifteen volunteers, “brave women who dare to break the chains,” Jansched says. And the point is, as he points out, Pakistani women do not usually integrate into the societies they migrate to and do not learn the language. It’s not out of anything but fear. “They are afraid of Westernization and the loss of their cultural values. But this fear is not theirs, but imposed on them by their husbands, who know that if they leave their homes, they will be harder to control.
It is because of this fear of losing power over their wives that Pakistani families continue to promote forced marriages, primarily, according to ACESOP, to keep close to young women who were already born in Europe, those who have become “more powerful”. .”. It is they, who understand that these forced unions go against their rights, who are protesting. But the protest can end in murder, as in the case of Aruj and Anisa.
“We’re going to raise our voices to the point where we won’t let them kill anymore. Who is my cousin to decide who I sleep with?” asks Janshed, urging his compatriots to defiance. “If God has made us free, why should we endure kicks and pushes?” she asks excitedly and in a broken voice in front of dozens of women who participated in the act.
isolated from violence
The protest was led by women of various nationalities, including a group of American students from the University of Washington who are in Barcelona on scholarships. “We came from the Faculty of International Studies and wanted to contact women’s rights associations. When we heard about Aruja and Anise, we came to ACESOP,” says Kate. “We have rights that everyone should have. We want to help all the women of the world become free,” adds Marta, her colleague, holding one of the posters.
And the fact is that forced marriages are typical not only in the Pakistani community, but also occur in different places, such as China, Turkey, Gambia or Afghanistan. From this country comes Adiba, who assures that the murder of young sisters “is news because they lived in Terrassa. But it happens every day. In many places, killing a woman is like killing an ant.”
Adiba experienced this misogyny in her own flesh for 20 years when she was married to a husband who beat her. But the last straw was that her daughter wanted to go to Pakistan to visit a friend from her class. “My husband called his brother and asked him to book a plane ticket so that instead of going with a friend, he would fly to Afghanistan. Once there, she begged him to rape and kill her because she didn’t want a daughter who had been touched by a non-Afghan,” she recalls.
This woman was able to leave her husband and run away. Something that not all women can always do. In fact, several women who have been victims of sexist violence or forced marriages arrive at ACESOP every week. “We accompany them to file a complaint with the Mossos d’Esquadra, but they immediately withdraw the complaint and never come back to us,” lamented Saher, a cultural mediator and association volunteer. And the fact is that, according to her, many women receive threats not only to their lives, but also the lives of their mothers and sisters, if they do not withdraw the complaints.
Aware of this degree of violence, ACESOP even has beds where women can stay in case they have to “disappear” from the sight of their husbands and relatives. “They are in a very vulnerable position because they are denied the opportunity to make friends outside the home. They are very lonely,” says Saher. For this reason, she regrets that many women would like to apply to the association but cannot. “Husbands do not see well that they are coming, many do it secretly,” she explains. In fact, the association is mixed, but there are almost no men. “They don’t want to come,” says a volunteer who also teaches free English classes.
Asked if she thinks killing sisters could further stigmatize Pakistani society, Saher was blunt. “No. This is not stigmatization, if it is true that we have an extremely sexist society that does not allow us to be free,” she laments, clutching in her hand a bouquet brought to her by the inhabitants of Raval, who came to honor the memory of young Aruj and Anissa.
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