Sania Khan’s Murder Spotlights Domestic Violence in South Asian Homes

The death of the Pakistani American at the hands of her abusive ex-husband has sparked dialogue about the stigmas of divorce and domestic violence in the community.

Sania Khan - feature crop
Sania Khan

Three months after getting married, London-based teacher Roma Patel said that her new husband became verbally abusive. He called her names and convinced her that no one else would love or support her if she were to leave. Eventually, the abuse grew physical. It was the day her 2-year-old daughter witnessed the abuse and began to cry that Patel decided to seek help from a women’s aid group and left soon after. Today, she said, “it’s the best decision I could have made for my daughter.”

“Every time I hear these stories about these women, it breaks my heart,” Patel said. “I know that I am one of the fortunate ones.”

One of those women in abusive relationships was Sania Khan, a 29-year-old Pakistani American photographer who was shot and killed by her ex-husband on July 18 in her Chicago home. Her ex, Raheel Ahmad, 36, then shot himself and died by suicide.

But the stories of both Patel and Khan are not uncommon in South Asian communities, where domestic abuse and divorce can still be stigmatized. With domestic violence cases on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the news of Khan’s murder, the issue has become a renewed topic of discussion, with many wondering why domestic violence continues to be so pervasive and how things might finally change.

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