Sania Khan’s Killing Sparks Conversations About the Stigma Around Divorce in South Asian Communities

Sania Khan

Sania Khan

Sania Khan Credit – Courtesy of Jessica Henderson-Eubanks

In the months before being fatally shot by her estranged husband on Monday, Sania Khan was open on TikTok about the painful process of divorce as a 29-year-old Pakistani American woman. She spoke about pushback from her community and family members not just about her decision to leave her marriage, but also about sharing her experience so candidly. “Going through a divorce as a South Asian woman feels like you failed at life sometimes. The way the community labels you, the lack of emotional support you receive and the pressure to stay with someone because ‘what will people say’ is isolating,” Khan wrote in a TikTok posted in June. “It makes it harder for women to leave marriages that they shouldn’t have been in to begin with.”

Chicago police reported that they discovered an unresponsive 29-year-old woman and 36-year-old man at a home in the city’s Streeterville neighborhood around 4:30 p.m on Monday. Both had gunshot wounds to the head; the woman was pronounced dead on the scene while the man was transported to Northwestern Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Law enforcement is still investigating the case, police said. The Cook County medical examiner’s office listed Khan’s death as a homicide and her estranged husband Raheel Ahmad’s death as a suicide.

Police in Alpharetta, Georgia said a relative of Ahmad contacted the agency to report him missing; the agency ended up contacting Chicago police to conduct a welfare check at the location, where he was later found.

The news of Khan’s death has prompted conversations among South Asians in the U.S. about the ways in which their communities often stigmatize leaving marriages—even dangerous ones. “In South Asian communities, there’s this concept of saving face and preserving family honor—not

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