Shahida Raza, a Pakistani professional hockey player, died on Sunday when the boat she was on capsized off the coast of Italy. According to her sister, she was attempting to reach Italy to seek medical treatment for her three-year-old son.
Saadia Raza reported that her older sister called her from the ship, which had departed Turkey four days earlier, and informed her that she was about to arrive in Italy. Saadia mentioned that her sister was thanking god that she had almost reached but she was also scared that something bad could have occurred while she was crossing the water. She expressed disbelief and said that she would call her son and bring him in for treatment once she arrived.
The call then disconnected and they were unable to reach her again.
Shahida died in a shipwreck off the coast of Italy at the age of 27. The passengers were from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan. They were all attempting to illegally enter Europe. The wooden boat was believed to be carrying approximately 200 people; over 60 deaths have been confirmed.
According to Shahida's family, she made the perilous trip for a very specific reason. Saadia mentioned that the only reason Shahida took the trip was for her three-year-old son as he has been very unwell. As her son suffered a stroke due to a fever when he was 40 days old, part of his brain was damaged. It caused partial brain damage and paralysis on one side of his body, from the head to the feet.
Saadia says that despite taking her son to multiple hospitals in Karachi, none of them were able to treat him. Instead, they advised Shahida to take her son abroad in the hopes that he could receive treatment there. Shahidi was becoming increasingly despondent.
Shahida had mentioned to Saadia that she could not see her only son in this pain and wanted him to be able to walk like normal children as that was her only wish. According to Saadia, Shahida was always the one to make everyone else laugh, however, whenever she would look at her son her eyes would fill with tears.
Shahida's family claims she was underpaid as a professional hockey player for Pakistan's national team and a national football player, despite traveling to Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Iran to compete.
Shahida's family says they were unaware of the planned trip or whether she attempted to obtain a visa to travel to Italy legally, but human traffickers often convince those they abduct that they can settle them abroad more quickly and easily than legal routes. Shahida was able to legally enter Turkey on a visa prior to boarding the ship.
She resided in Balochistan and was a member of the Hazara, a minority Shia community that extremist groups frequently target. Saadia states, "People leave out of desperation as they have no other option." You can see that our government is not helping its people by inflation and the cost of living. After a lengthy wait, Shahida's family discovered the accident online. They claim that they have not spoken with any government officials since the news broke.
Saadia mentioned that they only wanted the government to hand over Shahida's body as soon as possible and that they did not need anything from anyone else.