[I should put a trigger warning for domestic violence on this right up front, as the title to this story might suggest.] Two years ago, Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan invited his estranged wife, Aasiya, to meet him at the television station they founded together. She had recently filed for divorce, had an order of protection against him, and reportedly informed her children she was nervous about meeting him there because of prior incidents of domestic abuse. When Aasiya arrived, Hassan killed her in particularly brutal fashion, by stabbing her dozens of times before beheading her. For about three seconds, the mainstream media had a platform for an interesting and important discussion about escalating domestic violence before the story faded from the news ticker.
After nearly two years of administrative legal shenanigans and several changes of lawyers, Hassan eventually went to trial this January. He served as his own lawyer and was allowed to question his own daughter, who had grown up in his abusive environment, when she took the witness stand. Despite significant documented evidence to the contrary, he was permitted to mount a “battered spouse” defense defaming Aasiya as an abuser and painting himself as the victim.
All in all, a pretty horrific tale. It’s a relief to know that Hassan was swiftly convicted of second degree murder last month. And earlier this week, Judge Thomas Franczyk sentenced him to 25 years to life, which means he will be eligible for parole in approximately 2034. Although it’s infuriating to think about what Hassan was allowed to get away with during the trial, I’m assuming that the judge’s decision to allow him as much latitude as he did minimizes the potential for an appeal.
It is a shame that Aasiya was murdered so brutally, and it’s even more devastating to think that her case was not only preventable, but not entirely unique. What’s further depressing is that the actions of a dangerous man who is clearly not well have been used to paint a pretty terrible picture of Muslim Americans ““ the discussion turned to “honor killings” far more often than it turned to domestic violence. The irony is that in better times, Aasiya and Mo founded a television network with the express purpose of dispelling myths about Muslims living in America.
I hope that in the wake of Hassan’s sentencing, we can take a moment this Women’s History Month to return to the conversation we really need to be having about the ongoing effects of domestic violence on women and how to stop it before it escalates into another situation like Aasiya Hassan’s.
[Note: I’ve added a lot of links to this post because I noticed that the trial and the story did not get as much coverage in the national press as it did in the Western New York area. As a warning, it can all get kind of intense, so if this summary alone is upsetting, I wouldn’t stray too far into the weeds all at once. However, if you would like to learn more beyond my links, it doesn’t take too long to find a wealth of information in terms of stories, interviews, even video from those links, particularly on The Buffalo News website.]