Aneesa and Arooj Abbas, two sisters living in the Spanish city of Terrassa in Barcelona province, traveled last week to their home country of Pakistan, where they were allegedly murdered in a so-called “honor killing.” The women, aged 20 and 24, respectively, had been married to two distant cousins in Pakistan, reportedly against their wills. When the sisters returned to the country, their family demanded that they take their husbands back with them to Barcelona. The women refused and asked for a divorce to the outrage of their relatives, who reportedly tortured and killed them last Friday night.
“They were strangled and fatally shot while they slept,” Nauman Hassan, a spokesman for the local police in Gujrat, Punjab province – where most Pakistanis residing in Catalonia come from – told Spanish news agency Efe. Police arrested six suspects for the alleged honor killing, including the two women’s husbands. The mother of Aneesa and Arooj had traveled with them to Pakistan. But while she reportedly tried to stop the murder, she did not report the crime after they were killed.
The sisters did not have Spanish nationality, but they had been living in Catalonia for years, as confirmed by police sources and the Spanish embassy in Pakistan. Terrassa City Council is now trying to verify that both women were listed on the padrón, as the local municipal registry is known, and is seeking to obtain official information about what happened. “If this is the case [that the women were murdered], we will activate the mourning protocol for femicide in the city,” explained a spokeswoman for the city council.
According to Hassan, the police spokesman, the young women fell into a “trap.” He explained that Aneesa and Arooj had been married to their two cousins “more than a year ago” as part of a family agreement. The goal of the trip to Pakistan was to make the women appear before Spanish authorities in the country and request spouse visas so their husbands could travel to Europe. But according to Hassan, the women wanted the exact opposite: they wanted a divorce so they could remarry.
Honor killings are common in South Asia and are usually committed by male members of a family in response to a perceived offense against the family name or community. According to data from the NGO Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 478 honor crimes were recorded in Pakistan in 2021 alone. In 2016, the Pakistani government approved a law that bans relatives from pardoning the perpetrators of honor killings. Until the law was passed, this legal loophole allowed murderers to avoid punishment if they were forgiven by the victim’s family.