ROME (AP) — Italy’s foreign minister proudly announced the return to Italy on Thursday of a young Pakistani woman who was taken by her family to Pakistan to have an abortion against her will after she got pregnant by her Italian boyfriend.
The case of the woman, identified as Farah, attracted a lot of interest in Italy following the recent strangulation death in Pakistan of Sana Cheema, an Italian of Pakistani origin who police suspect was killed by her family because she refused an arranged marriage.
Farah, 19, didn’t have Italian citizenship, only a residency permit. Nevertheless, the foreign ministry activated Italy’s embassy in Islamabad after Verona authorities heard from Farah’s friends that she had been tricked into going home and was forced to have an abortion.
Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano tweeted Thursday that Farah was safely back in Italy, and he thanked Pakistani authorities who had removed Farah from her family’s Lahore-area home and brought her to the Italian embassy in Islamabad.
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Alfano had previously said that Italy acted in Farah’s defense as a matter of respecting her human rights and “fundamental rights based on the equality of men and women.”
According to Italian news reports, Farah managed to sneak text and audio messages to her friends in Italy, recounting that her parents had tricked her into returning to Pakistan for her brother’s wedding and then forced her to abort her child. She wrote of being afraid for her life.
Once in the embassy, Italy arranged for Farah’s Pakistani passport to be renewed — her family had destroyed the one she traveled with — and issued her a visa to return to Italy.
Farah’s case prompted an outpouring of solidarity from Italian politicians from across the political spectrum eager to prevent a repetition of the Cheema case. Verona’s social services office, which had received complaints from Farah previously about her abusive father, guaranteed her needs will be met and safety ensured.
Left-leaning lawmaker Laura Boldrini, the former house speaker, praised Farah for raising her voice and “making us understand that when a woman rebels against those who want to oppress her, she will never be left alone.”
Right-wing leader Giorgia Meloni, who has demanded a harsher crackdown on illegal immigrants, went so far as to call for Italy to grant Farah citizenship.