“I cannot handle it anymore. This city is not mine. I grew up in Rome, I speak Roman, and my heart is for the “Rome” football team. I do not want to marry one of my cousins chosen by my family. To become ugly and undesirable, I have gained 70 kilograms: the only freedom I have now.”
This voice comes from Dhaka and belongs to J.K., born in Bangladesh 23 years ago and arrived in Italy when she was a little child. In Italy, she attended the kindergarten, the primary and the high schools. Unexpectedly, in the summer of 2014, her father, employed in a hotel in Rome, decided to take her back home.
When J.K. traveled to Dhaka with the excuse of a wedding party, her father snatched her passport, residence permit, and her future.
This is the new strategy of the fathers-owners: to move their daughters away from temptations but, above all, to move themselves away from a justice that would punish them without discounts if they kill in the name of honor or sharia.
Now J.K. is there, disoriented, prisoner of uncles that do not stop following her around. If she does not fear the same fate as Sanaa Chema, she is afraid that she will no longer be able to go back to Italy and meet their Italian friends. Because she is aware of the determination of her father to move forward with his plans. She could see it when she asked for the help of the “Bright Blue Phone”, the Italian organization supporting mistreated children and youths. In front of representatives of the “Bright Blue Phone” who came to meet him, J.K.’s father humbly apologized, wearing a mask of affability and tolerance. In doing so, he succeeded in convincing his daughter to make her last trip without return.
Fortunately, J.K. is not yet become a symbol to cry crocodile tears at, such as Sanaa, Hina Saleem, and many others. However, her case reveals a serious change of pace in the resilient patriarchal despotism that is condemning too many Muslim girls in Italy to remain silent.
Souad Sbai, who returned to head as President the organization ACMID-Donna after a long political experience, tells us how it works: “They bring them back to their native countries by deception, in order to move them away from a Western kind of life, or to settle the score once they get there.”
“We notice their absence in class only when it becomes impossible to ignore. It mostly happens before summer, when the aid requests increase dramatically.
The data collected by ACMID’s green number (800975174), thanks to the work of 5 volunteers available to respond calls day and night, indicate that over the last year and a half, 60% of Muslim student girls, enrolled in compulsory schools, have disappeared from the radars.”
Therefore, Souad Sbai has filed a complaint to the Italian Ministry of the Interior: “Everything started in early 2017, when many girls from Maghreb began to rebel on social networks. In conjunction with that, the school dropout of girls skyrocketed.”
According to the lawyer Loredana Gemelli, in the event of an honor crime (that in Italy was abolished in 1981), the return to the countries of origin make possible to resort to the “cultural extenuating circumstance,” which was denied by the Italian courts to the murderer parents of Hina Saleem, Sanaa Dafani and Nosheen Khan Butt. Indeed, they were all sentenced to at least 30 years of prison.
Amal, a 19-year-old girl tells her story in a chat: “I ran away with my Italian boyfriend, but my father discovered us through a friend of his. Facing my immovable will, he promised me that I could have married him if I had made the marriage according to the tradition, travelling to Morocco to organize the ceremony. But Amal never came back from Béni Mellal, where she thought to spend just the time that would have been necessary to prepare her wedding. Instead, once back to Morocco, she found herself at the mercy of her uncles. Sana’s boyfriend was threatened and thus stepped back, the same way as the Italian friends of these daughters of a lesser God, the same way as the teachers who suggest them to call the “Bright Blue Telephone”, but do not want to get involved.
History repeats itself. Religion – in this case Islam –, patriarchal traditions, the clanic self-ghettoization of migrants being less globalized and more insecure.
According to the 31-year-old Sabika Shah Po, an Italian-Pakistani journalist, “it is difficult to walk in between two worlds if you are a girl, your country of origin is Pakistan, and the culture you belong to is different. Your parents teach you some things, but while growing up you realize that everything is different outside.” And it is even more difficult if the family comes from rural areas, such as the family of her countrywoman Sanaa Chema.
“But I have been lucky. My parents arrived in Rome 45 years ago, and since there still were few Pakistanis we could avoid the cultural ghetto. When at school I used to go out with my male friends, my mother always recommended me not to go to where there could be Pakistanis because they would have judged me. I attended an international high school, and I have never identified with my compatriots living in the suburbs, who fixed up their daughters with close relatives when they were just two years old, marrying them off at twenty.
I had to mediate with my parents as well, I understand their background although I do not agree on that. Integration, especially for women, proceeds with small steps, and my children will be ahead of me”.
History asks for time. However, from Dhaka, J.K. reminds us that little stories have little time, and hers does not have it.
(*) La Stampa