My name is Iram Sayed and I am a full-time student at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I am reaching out to you in my effort to seek assistance for injuries sustained from a murder attempt, conceived by my brother, Usman Sayed and his wife, Sana Sayed, while I was traveling abroad in Pakistan in March 2014. This attempt was carried out against me for financial gains through a fraudulent insurance policy that my brother and his wife created in my name while I was traveling.
My brother insisted that I travel to Pakistan to meet one of his friends, Rizwan “Riz” Malik for a possible arranged marriage proposal. According to Usman, Riz flew in from Germany to Lahore on March 11th, 2014 and was scheduled to meet me in Islamabad, but as he was traveling, he got into a major car accident and broke his leg. I traveled to Pakistan on March 6th, 2014 during my spring break from school with intentions of returning by March 17th, 2014. On the night of March 11th, 2014 approximately around 10:30 P.M. after dinner, my two aunts, Farhat and Nighat Gilani, and I, dropped off Usman and his bodyguard to their car, which was parked in a secluded area by the Express Way, the main highway in Islamabad. Less than thirty seconds later, our car, which included my two aunts and I, was attacked by two armed men on a bike. They came from the direction where we dropped off Usman and his bodyguard and started firing at our car on the left side where I was seated. According to the police, they shot eight bullets at us. One of the bullets struck my mandible shattering my lower jaw, teeth, and gums, which you can see in an enclosed photo. The remainder of the gunfire missed the vehicle. Aside from my injuries, my aunt, Farhat, who was driving, she struck in the chest and the bullet entered from the left breast.
Both my aunt and I were later transferred to the Al-Shia International Hospital in Islamabad where we underwent emergency operations. I underwent two surgeries, the first on March 12th, 2014 and second on April 2nd, 2014, and remained under medical care at the hospital for approximately a month. During my hospital stay I discovered that Riz was admitted to the same hospital. At first, I was in shock and felt terrible. My cousin, insisted that she visit Riz, but every time her and I would bring up his name around Usman, he would abruptly change the subject. As I was still recovering from my injuries, I was not concerned about seeing him. Unfortunately, we later discovered that Riz was nothing more than a fabricated story who was used as a bait to call me to Pakistan. Riz is a young man who lives in the United Kingdom who is friends with Usman’s wife, Sana. He had no knowledge of me or any intentions of coming to Pakistan to meet me.
About four or five days after the incident while I was recovering from my first operation, Usman visited me in my hospital room and asked if I have medical insurance to cover my bills. When I told him I did not, he sighed and said it was good because he had a friend who worked for an insurance company. He told her about what happened to me and she was willing to issue me an insurance policy of one million dollars in medical coverage. As a personal courtesy, she agreed to backdate the policy for me so I wouldn’t have to pay for any of my medical bills. Initially, I felt relieved, but then I started wondering why would anyone risk their job or willingly commit insurance fraud just to save me money on my medical bills. I later discovered that the travelers’ insurance was purchased via Internet using my passport and credit card on March 3rd, 2016, three days prior to my departure. He added himself as 50%, Sana as 25%, and my mother as 25% of the beneficiaries on the insurance policy. He listed our home phone number as the contact, which is rarely used especially if an incoming call is from an unknown or an 800 number. The email address he provided belonged to his company, Smart Start Media, in Pakistan. When he first asked me to come visit him in Pakistan, he claimed that he worked for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and the embassy issued six plane tickets for our family, therefore I would not have to pay to come visit. He then said that although I didn’t have to pay for the ticket, I would need to pay for administrative fees/taxes with my own card, so he asked for a copy of my passport and credit card information, which I sent him shortly thereafter. I later discovered that my information was used to purchase the travelers’ insurance without my knowledge or consent.
In the Pakistani culture, men are valued much more than their female counterparts. From an early age, I knew that it was my place to be seen and not heard. I rarely went against this standard and always tried to fit in to our family’s predetermined structure, but that all changed when I moved to the United States in 1997. I was introduced to Western culture and saw the value of women because they were in roles I had never seen before. I saw women as firefighters, police officers, and heads of households, which was different for me. The changes I saw awoke a strong, valuable woman in me and I knew this was a place where I could embrace myself and be anything I wanted. There were no limits except for the ones that I put upon myself.
My younger brother, Usman, and I started middle school, but as we grew individually, our perspective of life changed. I wanted to explore the world, learn about different cultures, and make friends of other races, which my parents did not agree to or like; whereas, Usman started adapting the common Pakistani men’s mentality and started to become more aggressive and controlling. Within a few years, he began physically and mentally abusing me. The older he became, the more violent he became, but my parents saw him as a boy becoming a man and the differences in our treatment became apparent. My oldest brother, Ali, was born in 1976 with mental disabilities, so our family members particularly valued Usman as the first “normal boy” since the birth of my father in 1942. While they loved Ali, their favoritism was with Usman, which empowered him to get away with whatever he wanted. When we were in middle school, his abuse began with pushing and shoving, but then evolved into hitting and kicking. I would become angry with my brother and plead with my parents to make him stop, but they would guilt me for thinking that way. They would tell me to think about the family name and I would let things go for the sake of keeping the peace.
I believe that Usman and his wife were behind the attack against me in Islamabad because they would have gained from it financially by receiving the payout from my travelers’ insurance. While Usman and I do have two other siblings, I have always been the greatest threat to him because I am unafraid to question his authority. Our oldest brother is often disregarded because of his disabilities and our older sister has four children and tends not to challenge Usman. However, I am not that way. This happened several times as Usman would lie to convince others in the family to give him money and I have been able to prove it. In a final attempt to profit from my injuries, Usman tried to persuade me to go to the clinic he built in Pakistan called Medica for treatments, but I refused which visibly irritated him.
Even after the incident in 2014, I forgave Usman and only asked that he would never betray me in that way again. My parents promised that he would never lay hands on me, so for the sake of the family name, once again, I complied. I did not speak to him for a year after the incident because I was focused on recovering, but life became tense when he, his wife, and daughter returned back to the United States from Pakistan, where they had lived since 2013. Living in the same home wasn’t easy, but for the sake of my family, I sacrificed. For a short amount of time, everything felt calm because Usman and I were getting along, but he began experiencing outbursts of anger again. Tensions grew and my parents and I began arguing because I did not feel safe living in the same home with him. I was still recovering, so I couldn’t move out and get my own place, but Usman and Sana could and decided not to. In June 2016, he attempted to attack me with a knife and if it were not for Ali and my father, Usman would have killed me. My parents told me to go into my room until he calmed down, so I did. That night, I realized that my safety was truly at risk and would continue to be unless I did something about it. After contemplating that night, the next day, Ali, and I went to see the magistrate judge in the Prince William County (PWC) to obtain a temporary restraining order against Usman and Sana. After listening to what my brother, Ali, and I had to say, the magistrate immediately issued one. I returned home and told my parents what I had done in hopes that they would understand my fears and show support, but the exact opposite happened. They became extremely upset with me and demanded that I leave the house. When my brother, Usman, returned home, my father took him to the PWC Police Station to overturn the restraining order and issue one for me instead, but Usman was served and my father was told that once the order was issued, it could not be canceled. For the entirety of the three days that Usman and Sana couldn’t come to the house, my parents remained upset with me. When it came time for Usman, Sana, and I to appear in court so I could request an extension or permanent restraining order, my parents accompanied us and claimed to the judge that I was lying and that Ali was not mentally competent enough to provide a truthful statement. When Usman and Sana returned home, they began taunting me and I did not feel comfortable in my own home anymore, again.
I decided to visit the PWC office of Gerald Connolly, United States House of Representatives for Virginia, to investigate the case. His staff was considerate and gave me ample time to discuss my case. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Mr. Connolly’s office informing me that he had notified the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct a full investigation. The case is currently pending investigation. Luckily, I was accepted to the George Washington University and moved to Washington, D.C. to start over. However, once my parents discovered that the DOJ was investigating my case, they revoked all support.
Perhaps if I were a young woman living in Pakistan, my story would have ended with my death and my brother becoming wealthy from my insurance policy, but I am alive, living in the United States, and my voice is valuable. I believe it is personally important that I am able to speak up about my experience to prevent the normalization of domestic abuse of women. If any woman ever hears of my story and it empowers her to fight against the abuse of men in her life, then my actions will not have been in vain.
As you are reading this, I have already completed nine surgeries, six of them being reconstruction of my face and jaw and three of them being on my hips. However, I still need at least two or more operations and laser treatments to finish the reconstruction of my face, jaw, and teeth, which I cannot afford. I am also in severe debt from other unpaid medical bills.
I am not sharing my story to profit financially. The only thing I personally need is support in acquiring the remaining operations to prevent me from becoming permanently physically disfigured. My wish from this horrific situation is to use it for good by serving as an advocate for change. I would love to eventually write a memoir about my experience.
Thank you for taking you time to read my story. If there is anything you can do to help me, I would be incredibly grateful.