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29-year-old Pakistani American Photographer Sania Khan Shot and Killed by Ex-Husband in Murder-Suicide

29-year-old Pakistani American Photographer Sania Khan Shot and Killed by Ex-Husband in Murder-Suicide

  • Raheel Ahmad, 36, who traveled to Chicago from Alpharetta, Georgia, on July 18, to salvage the marriage, shot himself and died by suicide.

Sania Khan, a 29-year-old Pakistani American photographer was shot and killed by her ex-husband at her apartment in Streeterville, Chicago last week. Raheel Ahmad, 36, then shot himself and died by suicide. Khan had filed for divorce from Ahmad following an abusive relationship, speaking out about the domestic abuse she faced and her divorce on TikTok.

Khan suffered a gunshot wound to the back of her head, while Ahmed was found in a bedroom with a head injury, news reports said, citing police. A handgun was found in Ahmad’s hand and a suicide note was discovered nearby, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report. Ahmad was transported to Northwestern Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Khan’s death was ruled a homicide, and Khan’s death was a suicide, according to news reports, citing the medical examiner’s office. 

A “depressed” Ahmad traveled to Chicago from Alpharetta, Georgia, on July 18 “to salvage the marriage,” Alpharetta cops told Chicago police, according to the Sun-Times report. The family had reported him missing.

Khan was a photographer who specialized in shots of weddings and happy couples, according to her website. “Ever since I can remember, photography has been a huge part of my identity,” she wrote on her website. “My life truly began the day I purchased my first DSLR. I wouldn’t know it at the time but it would forever change me.”

She moved to Chicago in June of last year after growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I used to love to travel so much that I was a flight attendant,” she wrote. “My favorite layover was always Chicago and who would have known 2 years later I would have moved there?”

Khan used social media to vent about her divorce and her healing, saying relatives chastised her for ending the relationship.“You think you can hurt me?” she wrote in a June 6 post. “My family members told me if I left my husband I would be letting Shaytan ‘win,’ that I dress like a prostitute and if I move back to my hometown they’ll kill themselves.”

“Going through a divorce as a South Asian woman feels like you failed at life sometimes,” she wrote in one of her TikTok videos. “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. It makes it harder for women to leave marriages that they shouldn’t have been in to begin with.”

In one TikTok post, she wrote: “It’s painful to walk away from someone you once loved. But it’s even more painful to love someone who is careless with your heart.”

Two of Khan’s friends told the Chicago Sun-Times that Khan and Ahmad divorced in May. “There was no resolution that could have possibly happened,” friend Jessica Eubanks said, according to WTVC. “That quote from an Atlanta police officer that said he was going there because he was depressed and trying to salvage the marriage! That is absolutely absurd.”

Another friend Grant, from high school in Chattanooga, who didn’t want to use his last name told the Sun-Times that Khan “could make a friend out of anyone and would always be there for them during their moments. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would say something bad about Sania because just knowing Sania added so much light to your life.”

During college, Khan double-majored in psychology and women’s studies as she launched her photography career on the side, Grant said. After working as a social worker, she became a flight attendant “to support herself becoming a traveling photographer” and eventually pursued her passion full time.” He also told the paper that Khan planned on moving back home from Chicago. 

Gabriella Bordo, who said she and Khan were going to live together, suggested that Ahmed knew of the plans from Khan’s and her social media accounts, according to The Chattanooga Free-Press. “He knew that was his last opportunity, his last time to get her alone,” Bordo said.

Several women took to Twitter to grieve Khan’s death and highlight abusive relationships.

A user on Twitter paid tribute and wrote, “Hearing about Sania Khan absolutely breaks my heart. Time and time again women in our community are subject to domestic violence and emotional abuse yet told to stick it out and stay in a miserable marriage due to the shame it would bring to the woman’s family.”

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Aisha, from Chicago, wrote that she can’t stop thinking about Khan. “She did everything right. She was moving out. She got a divorce. She was starting her life over again. She was so close to making it before her life was taken from her.”

Seher Shafiq, a childhood friend of Khan lamented the loss of her friend who had “a whole life and career ahead of her – the best was yet to come.” She added that the system and the community failed her friend. 

A Twitter user named Sakshi Venkataram wrote that Khan’s “murder is another example of how our community raises boys to believe the world owes them something, and then expects young women to be quiet and deal with them as they grow into toxic men. even if we manage to get out, we’re still in danger.”

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page was set up by Richie Rivera to help Khan’s family to bear the financial burden of her tragic loss to arrange the funeral, coordinate transportation, and provide assistance to cover the costs of burial. The remaining balance will be donated to the Peaceful Families Project and Sakhi for South Asian women. “Both of these organizations are national and focused on working against domestic violence for Muslim and South Asian people. They employ education, advocacy, and direct action to provide support,” the page said. A total of $36,835 was raised within a week. 

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