In the northern city of Brescia, a Pakistani father allegedly tries to kidnap his daughter to stop her from marrying her Indian boyfriend.
Tourists flock to the Verona balcony where Juliet was said to have called out to Romeo (Flickr)
By Beatrice Raspa
Mairano - Shakespeare's telling of the ancient tribal tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Italy. Now, after the 2006 murder of a young immigrant woman by relatives enraged that she had an Italian boyfriend, northern Italy is again confronted by the very real risks of cross-cultural romance.
A 20-year old woman of Pakistani descent and her Indian boyfriend have fled their hometown of Brescia in an attempt to elope in the nearby town of Mairano. The two escaped lovers are now under protective custody after authorities suspected that the girl's father had hatched a kidnapping plot, having orchestrated a pre-arranged marriage for his daughter in his native Pakistan.
The father, a 54-year old laborer who has 5 children, had rejected overtures by the Indian boyfriend and had allegedly planned a trip back to Pakistan with his family to introduce his daughter to her husband-to-be whom she had never met. It was at that point that the daughter and her boyfriend escaped to Mairano in hopes of having a snap civic marriage.
Police say that following the couple's flight, the father came to them with a bizarre story that involved another one of his daughters. The father told authorities that his 11-year old daughter had received death threats at school from two unknown individuals. The father then returned again to the police station, which set off their suspicion that he might be planning to kidnap his older daughter.
The drama arrived at the doorstep of Piervincenzo Lanzoni, the mayor of Mairano, a small rural town with a growing immigrant community. "All of a sudden I found this desperate couple in my office, after they'd been turned away by the registry for an immediate marriage," said Lanzoni.
The couple did not have all of the requisite paperwork for a legal marriage to move forward, but Lanzoni says he sympathized with the couple who were clearly scared that they were being hunted. "They were very agitated, scared that they might recognized," he said. "They wouldn't even accept lunch in a local restaurant that wanted to give them a free meal."
Italy has been gripped by similar stories in recent years, most notably in 2006 when another 20-year Pakistani woman, Hina Saleem, was stabbed to death by her father and brother-in-law, and then buried in their backyard after her family learned of her relationship with an older Italian man and their plans to move in together.
The father is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence, and the brother-in law 18 years. Saleem's murder sparked national outrage in Italy, which has yet to reconcile the cultural differences that exist among its burgeoning immigrant population. Many of Italy's immigrants arrive from Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East, which further amplifies perceived differences in what is still a predominantly Catholic country.