TW: death, domestic violence, and suicide
If you’re experiencing domestic abuse of any kind, call the national hotline at 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.
After opening up on social media about her divorce, a Pakistani-American woman was fatally shot in her Chicago apartment on Monday, July 18. Identified as photographer Sania Khan, the 29-year-old was shot by her ex-husband Raheel Ahmad in a murder-suicide, the Chicago Tribune reported. The incident has brought national needed attention to the issues of domestic violence and how the South Asian community often victim-shames those who speak up against it. To help the family bear the financial burden of this tragic loss, a GoFundMe page was organized, which you can donate to here. The remaining amount will be disbursed between Peaceful Families Project and Sakhi for South Asian women both focused on working against domestic violence for Muslim and South Asian people. They employ education, advocacy, and direct action to provide support.
Brown Girl Magazine stands by survivors of violence and hopes to be a platform safe for survivors and advocates to share their stories. If you have a story to tell, email us with a short pitch at email@example.com.
Below is a piece written by Maesha Eva on her Instagram page, a first-generation Bangladeshi-American blogger and founder of The Eve Collective, who uses her platform to share anecdotes of being the eldest daughter of immigrants and secrets on helping BIPOC-founded brands elevate their socials.
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Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. I feel numb, distraught and broken. Today, we tragically lost a creator and beautiful soul in our community, a beloved human being as a result of domestic violence and murder. Her life was snatched from her by her ex-husband, ruthlessly, on July 18th.
Domestic violence is real, it takes many ugly forms in our households every day and is displayed in the ugliest ways in our everyday life. We know people who are pleading for help in our lives today yet we shun away from helping because ‘what will people say’ if they divorce. Growing up, I’ve seen first-hand accounts of this sentiment overpowering someone’s safety and future.
I’ve seen how our community protects the aggressor and tells women to have ‘shame’ and ‘sabr,’ and continue living in abuse ‘for your kids.’ The guilt in this language is penetrating; when our mothers, aunts, and sisters have tried to escape when they have shown clear signs of distress, people place unjustifiable guilt on them delaying them from seeking a better life for themselves.
The last message Sania sent to me was that I “killed it” to a dance video I posted after we exchanged conversations about growing as creators on this platform. I’ve never met Sania in real life but that’s who Sania was: a supportive and incredibly empathetic, empowering, resilient force in our community, and she made sure to show up for everyone she knew IRL and online, and for all her impressionable followers looking up to her bravery. We lost a strong, independent role model.
Our future daughters lost the change we all wished to see…Sania leveraged her platform to vocalize the necessary change we need in our community, she challenged aunties and generations before hers to look inwardly and have a dialogue about divorce, abuse, selfhood, mental health and agency for women. Her own community traumatized her into feeling guilty about choices to move on from the abuse. We should have all protected her. We shouldn’t have waited until it was too late.
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I feel immeasurable grief knowing what an incredible loss this is to every single person that has known her, and what a tragic loss her passing is for our entire community. Earlier today, I cried when I read the headline about a domestic abuse murder in Chicago and then sobbed harder realizing it’s someone I recognized in our community…this hit too close to home.
As a South Asian daughter of divorced parents myself, my entire childhood and adulthood have been apparent with being ostracized by my own community. My distinct memories of my 20s are now filled with raging uncles pointing a finger at my mother and me because my mother chose to finally leave. My memories were taunted by seeing her helpless behind her tears and fear. Sania’s passing hits close to home because I too fear for my loved ones who were in, and still are in, domestic partnerships that they feel too isolated to get out of.
This post is not about me, though, so I will save my story for another day. Today, this is about Sania, her grieving mother, and her loved ones. Sania lives within many of us, she lives in our hearts. Sania tried to escape her circumstances, only it came back to haunt her. This should never ever happen again. We all need to protect our loved ones, neighbors, and friends.
We are complicit for every single “Sanias” there are in our orbital circle. Because we, as a collective need to do better. Raise our voices, and say ‘who cares what people say.’ We need to check in on our friends, mothers, and loved ones. We need to take domestic violence as a serious matter. We need to put our uncles and aunties in their place when they point their fingers at a victim. And we need to stop waiting until it’s too late.
There are a million things we can say to a woman instead of badgering them with ol’ ‘log kya kahenge.’ For starters let’s say, ‘I believe you and can recognize your pain.’
May Allah grant you the highest level of Jannah, Sania. May Allah bring peace to your family’s grieving hearts. I am so deeply sorry we failed you.</3