What do people think of Italian women

Femicides in Italy: seven days, seven feminicides

On International Women's Day 2020, the members of “Non una di meno” demonstrated in Rome Photo: Franziska Gilli

In January 2020, seven women were found murdered in Italy over seven days. Our author went on a search for clues.

Monday, January 27, 2020: The investigators are convinced that it is a violent murder when they see the body of Francesca Fantoni, who had disappeared two days earlier. The choke marks on the neck. The bruises all over my body. The autopsy later found rape. The woman who was killed in her hometown of Bedizzole, a community of around 12,000 inhabitants ten kilometers from Lake Garda, was 39 years old.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020: In the evening, police officers found traces of blood in a house in Via Calipso in Mazara del Vallo in eastern Sicily. In the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the living room. In the bedroom, Rosalia Garofalo, who would have celebrated her 54th birthday a few months later, lies motionless on the bed. “The body was a mosaic of bruises and swellings. The face is puffy and disfigured, ”the lead investigator will later say. It is the fifth woman murder that he has been called to perform in the course of his professional life. He's never seen anything like it before.

Thursday, January 30, 2020: In Vierschach, a place in South Tyrol just before the Austrian border, the investigators found the lifeless body of the 28-year-old Fatima Zeeshan in an apartment on the second floor of a house in Angerstraße in the morning. The Pakistani woman was eight months pregnant and her body had numerous bloodshot spots. In the following days, the autopsy reveals that the woman was trampled, beaten with fist blows and finally suffocated.

Thursday, January 30, 2020: Shortly before midnight, residents of Via Santa Maria Annunziata in Mussomeli, a municipality in central Sicily, heard five shots. Shortly afterwards another five. A little later a last one. It would have sounded as if shutters or doors were banging against the wall, a neighbor will say the next day. In truth, two women have just been shot: Rosalia Mifsud, 48, and her daughter Monica Diliberto, 27.

A perfectly normal couple

Friday, January 31, 2020: Between one and two in the morning, Carabinieri find a female corpse on the outskirts of the coastal city of Alghero in Sardinia, not far from a parking lot. The process of decomposition has already progressed. Speranza Ponti, born 50 years ago in the municipality of Uri on Sardinia, which has almost 3,000 inhabitants, has been missing since the beginning of December 2019.

Friday, January 31, 2020: In the morning in Via Furlani in Genoa, the capital of Liguria, a man says goodbye to his housekeeper, assuming that he will not be able to meet her on his return. When he returns around 6:30 p.m., he comes across the murdered woman on entering his apartment. Next to her lies a seriously injured man in a pool of blood. The emergency doctors can only determine the death of Laureta Zyberi, 43, who was born in Albania. But they save the seriously injured man. Not far from him is the knife with which he stabbed the woman ten times and inflicted severe stab wounds in the abdomen. Eduart Zyberi, 54, a bricklayer by profession, received emergency treatment and an operation shortly afterwards in the San Martino hospital.

While still in the hospital bed, Zyberi confesses the deed against the woman with whom he was married for 20 years. It turns out that he suspected his wife of having an affair with another man, presumably her employer. As so often on that day, Zyberis Scooter is in the street below his wife's workplace. He knows the way well, he often picked Laureta up there. The news of the bloody act comes as a shock for friends and relatives, especially for the two adult sons of the couple, who have been living in Italy since 1996. None of them have any reports of quarrels or a breakup to the police. The Zyberis, on the outside, they were a perfectly normal couple.

Raped, kicked to death and beaten. Strangled, stabbed and shot. Seven dead women in seven days, spread across the country from north to south. Statistically, the last week of January 2020 was particularly serious, with an average of one woman murdered around every three days in Italy. And violence against women is not decreasing, on the contrary.

In 2018, according to the EURES report "Femicide and Gender-Based Violence", the proportion of female victims in the total number of murders committed in Italy was higher than ever before: 40.3 percent, in numbers that is: 142 women murdered. In the same year there were also reports of abuse in the family (+ 11.7 percent), sexual violence (+ 5.4 percent) and stalking (+ 4.4 percent). The acts are barely noticed by the public.

What does it mean to be a woman in Italy? To this end, the author of this text and the photographer Franziska Gilli - both grew up in the country in a German community - researched for several years. In their book “Whore or Saint - Being Woman in Italy”, from which this text is also partly taken, they accompany feminist activists and nuns of the immaculate conception. You will meet TV show girls and young women who emulate them. And they report on violence that kills women.

Alghero, Sardinia: Days before Speranza Ponti's half-decayed body was found, her partner Massimiliano Farci, 53, with whom she ran a pizzeria, posted several messages on Facebook. He addresses them all to his girlfriend, whose name translates as “hope”: “Everything will be settled in life, no one will judge you, many love you, many hope in you, many believe in you, especially me, whatever that Problem is. We'll talk about it, even if we've talked a lot, we'll never stop talking about it. But please, let's talk about it. I've always believed in hope. "

The Carabinieri found the dead woman through tips from Farci after hours of interrogation. The man, who was born near Cagliari, testifies that he found his partner dead on December 6th in the shared apartment on Vittorio-Emanuele-Strasse in Alghero. She suffered from depression and committed suicide. For fear of being suspected, he had taken her to one of her favorite places on the outskirts of the city, from where one could see the sea.

Farci has been semi-free since 2017. In 1999 he confessed to the murder of a man. The investigators do not believe his contradicting statements this time either and arrest him on suspicion of murder and embezzlement of a corpse as well as robbery. Shortly before, Farci withdrew several thousand euros with his dead partner's debit card. According to local media, after the sale of an apartment and a redeemed insurance, Ponti had an amount of money that Farci was interested in.

This text comes from the taz on the weekend. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or with a weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter.

Sicily: Rosalia Mifsud and Michele Noto from Mussomeli are an unequal couple that few know about. She is more than 20 years older than Michele, older than his mother. Noto has a gun license, from time to time he works in a funeral home, he keeps a Corso Italiano dog, trains in the gym. Neighbors describe him as a "quiet young man". When Rosalia ends the relationship with which her daughter Monica does not agree, Michele Noto refuses to accept it.

Before the fatal shots, a local resident will later tell the journalists in a video, Rosalia is doing housework with a neighbor in her apartment. She returns home around 11 p.m. Her ex-boyfriend Michele Noto, who lives on the same street, enters her house shortly afterwards through the white front door that shows no signs of violence. First he shoots Rosalia in the mouth, then he executes her daughter. With one last shot, he kills himself.

Mother and daughter have curly hair, in pictures they look like sisters. The last message that reaches the outside world is sent via Whatsapp. When Monica no longer replies to a message from her boyfriend, he drives to her apartment with her brother and Rosalia’s son. There they find three bodies. The mother in her bedroom, the daughter not far from her. And Noto.

Even if it is often assumed that a more conservative role model is more widespread in the south of Italy than in the north, the figures show that gender-based violence is a national problem. The number of feminicides is highest in the north, which is because more people live there. Statistically, there was one murdered woman for every 500,000 inhabitants in Lombardy as in Sicily in 2018. Whether Milan or Palermo, the image of women in Italian society can be described as extremely contradicting:

Scantily clad showgirls have danced lasciviously through the main evening program for 65 years. Wearing revealing costumes, heavy make-up, those who have not had cosmetic surgery interventions are an exception. Instead of speaking, they just smile. The image of the silent beauties is played up and down in private media such as that of the Berlusconi family, but also on public television.

“Non una di meno” - Not one less Photo: Franziska Gilli

Sexist stereotypes are more entrenched in Italy than anywhere else in Europe, while the figure of the mother is revered as an icon and some dogmas from the time of fascism are still in place. "In our state women are not allowed to play a role," said Benito Mussolini once. Almost a hundred years later, women in Italy are educated above average, but often employed below average. The social pressure on them is enormous in many areas.

Although one of the loudest feminist movements in Europe formed in Italy with “Non una di meno” in 2016, the #MeToo debate was fruitless and the land of gentlemen and charmers seemed not to be ready for this dispute. On the contrary, it hardened patriarchal structures.

Asia Argento, the actress who received solidarity for sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein abroad, received abuse and threats of violence at home in Italy. More and more openly, politicians of the new right like the former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini stir up their hatred of women, for example when he tweets: “By the way, I am ashamed of this singer who compares women with whores who are raped, kidnapped and treated like objects. You do that at home, not in public law and also in the name of Italian music. "

The image of women in Italy experienced one of the most massive influences from the religious side: through the Catholic Church and the Vatican, which has always been heavily involved in social and political issues. Two central women's roles in the Catholic faith have influenced Italy for two millennia. They couldn't be more different and yet they are mutually dependent: the whore and the saint, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. It seems that women can choose between one and the other. The criticism of this is not new - feminists have long resisted it - but it is still relevant.

In the Lombardy Bedizzole, Francesca Fantoni with her short dark hair is known to most by her nickname "Kekka". Since she suffers from a mild mental disorder, her parents are concerned when she does not come home that Saturday evening. You inform the police and start a search on social media. She was shown by a surveillance camera in a bar. Around 8:30 pm, Andrea Pavarini, 32 years old, from Bedizzole, approaches her like her, a gardener and farmer by profession. She doesn't seem to be happy about it, but leaves the bar with him shortly afterwards. That same evening, Andrea Pavarini shows up at another Bedizzole bar late at night - without Francesca Fantoni. His sweater is stained with blood and mud.

Problematic and intrusive

On Sunday, Francesca's broken mobile phone was discovered in the town square. On Monday morning, two Carabinieri found their half-naked corpse in the city park of Bedizzole between trees and bushes. Days later, Pavarini confesses to the murder. Villagers describe him as problematic, intrusive, and unable to control his urges. He has been accused of sexual harassment in the past. He is being investigated for manslaughter. There is a risk of flight and repetition of the crime.

Vierschach, South Tyrol: Neighbors say they barely noticed the young woman who had lived in the apartment with her 38-year-old husband Mustafa Zeeshan for almost a year and only saw them sitting on the balcony at most once. Fatima Zeeshan never left the house. Private wedding pictures show a delicate young woman with red painted lips and large earrings under her bridal veil. The village belonging to Innichen has less than 500 inhabitants. There is a church, ski lifts and a restaurant and pizzeria on the main street, where Mustafa has been working for four years. First as a dishwasher, then as a pizza maker.

It is Mustafa Zeeshan himself who informs the police about the death of his heavily pregnant wife. Who also hectically calls work colleagues and neighbors beforehand and does not show up for work that morning. On the same day, the investigators interrogate him and his neighbors and work colleagues with the help of interpreters until late in the evening. Their statements and his silence weigh heavily on Zeeshan, he is considered an urgent suspect.

Hours later, he is transferred to prison. His public defender says her client is shocked to be unable to speak or walk. Mustafa Zeeshan is accused of multiple homicides - three weeks later, Fatima would have given birth to her first child. She is said to have told her sister before she died that her husband sometimes beats her and that there are problems with his family in Pakistan because he has only been able to send her half as much money since he got married. Former work colleagues say Mustafa was really looking forward to the baby.

An activist from Bologna: “The scream is a metaphor for our anger.” Photo: Franziska Gilli

According to the EURES report, most of the perpetrators used stabbing weapons such as knives, followed by firearms and their own hands, with which they strangled or beat the women to death. Around a fifth of the men confessed, and a quarter committed suicide or tried to do so after the murder. In 28 percent of cases, femicide was preceded by many violent years.

Rosalia Garofalo reported twice in 2017 to her husband, with whom she has been married for 30 years and has a 27-year-old son, for abuse. For a while she lives in a women's refuge. In October 2019, she filed a third complaint, but withdrew soon afterwards and promised never to return to Vincenzo Frasillo. When the 53-year-old Sicilian, unemployed and convicted, dialed the emergency number 118 that evening, he said his wife was sick and now dead. The paramedics alerted the police.

According to local media, when questioned, he should have repeated: “My wife cheated on me. But I didn't kill her, I only hit her on Monday. ”Vincenzo Frasillo is said to have offered his wife to take her to the hospital or to see a doctor, which she denied. The coroner's examinations reveal that Rosalia Garofalo was beaten to death for three days. An arrest warrant is issued for Frasillo.

The seven women were killed in different ways, different backgrounds are hidden behind their stories. Two of them share the first name Rosalia, and they all have one thing in common, which applies to the majority of feminicides: the women knew their murderers. In the vast majority of cases, they had the same apartment key. As in the last week of January 2020, most of the crimes in Italy in previous years took place at home, behind closed doors. In 2018, 78 women in Italy, out of a total of 60.5 million inhabitants, were killed by their husbands, partners, ex-partners.

In Germany in the same year there were 122 women who were killed by their partners. In relation to the population, the rate in Germany is higher than in Italy. (1: 775,641 inhabitants in Italy; 1: 680,327 inhabitants in Germany). If you compare the femicide rate with the female proportion of the population, Italy's figures are below the European mean.

Giuseppe Conte, Italy's Prime Minister, who announced his resignation this week

"Violence against women is also a cultural problem, and that is why we will start in schools"

At the end of that week at the end of January 2020, Giovanni Salvi, Attorney General of the Italian Court of Cassation, described the feminicide as a “national emergency”.Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who resigned this week, promised to make the “Codice Rosso”, which came into force in August 2019 and regulates the reporting and investigations of crimes related to domestic or gender-based violence, more effective. He wrote on Facebook: "Violence against women is also a cultural problem, and that's why we will start in schools, between boys and girls, because that's where change must begin."

A year ago, the murdered women were gradually adopted. At the funeral of Francesca Fantoni, who was raped, suffocated and dumped in her hometown park, the priest asks the mourners: “Why is violence getting out of hand? Why is it so easy to kill? It cannot be said that those who commit such acts are all mentally disturbed. ”The mayor decreed a day of city mourning.

Countless people are present when the two murder victims Rosalia Mifsud and their daughter Monica Diliberto are buried. The church of San Giovanni in Mussomeli is full when the priest says: “In these moments of powerlessness only faith can give answers and consolation.” He entrusts the two to the patron saint of the city, the Madonna dei Miracoli, Our Lady of Miracles. The next day the perpetrator is buried in the same church.

Women's tears symbol

Rosalia Garofalo, who was beaten to death for days, is buried in Mazara del Vallo Cathedral, two and a half hours away. Your son will be looked after by paramedics from the emergency medicine department during the funeral service.

Laureta Zyberi is bid farewell in Genoa.

The Pakistani community in South Tyrol wants to bring the body of Fatima Zeeshan home, but it will not be released for the time being. The Catholic women's movement of San Candido remembers Fatimas and her unborn child with a minute's silence. For the service on International Women's Day, the women put a bowl with glass beads on the altar, symbolizing the tears of women who are victims of domestic violence. In May the body is finally transferred from Milan to Pakistan. The Pakistani community in South Tyrol is paying for almost 4,000 euros.

According to information from local media, the family of Speranza Ponti from Sardinia read out the prayer written by the Franciscan Sisters against feminicide at the funeral. One passage reads: “You are meek, Lord, you are protection: give women the strength and courage to recognize their slavery and to escape oppression. Give us the courage to be outraged and not hide behind indifference, but always and under all circumstances to act in their defense, protection and support. "

Note: This text comes in parts from the book by Barbara Bachmann and Franziska Gilli recently published by Edition Raetia: Whore or Holy - Being woman in Italy, 224 pages, 24.90 euros.