Sold by her family as a bride to a Chinese man, Samiya David spent only two months in China. When she returned to Pakistan, the once robust woman was nearly unrecognizable: malnourished, too weak to walk, her speech confused and disjointed.
"Don't ask me about what happened to me there" was her only reply to her family's questions, her cousin Pervaiz Masih said.
Within just a few weeks, she was dead.
David's mysterious death adds to a growing body of evidence of mistreatment and abuses against Pakistani women and girls, mainly Christians, who have been trafficked to China as brides.
AP investigations have found that traffickers have increasingly targeted Pakistan's impoverished Christian population over the past two years, paying desperate families to give their daughters and sisters, some of them teenagers, into marriage with Chinese men. Once in China, the women are often isolated, neglected, abused and sold into prostitution, frequently contacting home to plead to be brought back. Some women have told The Associated Press and activists that their husbands at times refused to feed them.
A list attained by the AP documented 629 Pakistani girls and women sold to China as brides in 2018 and up to early 2019. The list was compiled by Pakistani investigators working to break up the trafficking networks. But officials close to the investigation and activists working to rescue the women say that government officials, fearful of hurting Pakistan's lucrative ties to Beijing, have stifled the investigations.
"These poor people have given their daughters for money, and (in China) they do whatever they want to do with them. No one is there to see what happens to the girls," said Samiya's cousin, Masih. "This is the height of cruelty. We are poor people."
David's death, at the age of 37, shows the extremes of the cruelties trafficked women face. Other women have described being cut off without support, abused physically and mentally. Previously, the AP spoke to seven girls who were raped repeatedly when forced into prostitution. Activists say they have received reports of at least one trafficked bride killed in China but have been unable to confirm.
David now lies buried in an unmarked grave in a small Christian graveyard overgrown with weeds near her ancestral village of Mazaikewale in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province.
Before her marriage, she lived in a cramped two-room house with her brother Saber and her widowed mother in Francisabad Colony, a congested Christian neighborhood of small cement and brick houses in a warren of narrow streets in the Punjab city of Gujranwala. Christians are among the poorest in Pakistan, a mostly Muslim nation of 220 million people.
At the urging of a local pastor, her brother took money from brokers to force her into marriage with a Chinese man. The pastor has since been arrested on suspicion of working with traffickers. A few months after their marriage in late 2018, David and her husband left to China. "When she left for China she was healthy. She looked good and strong," said Masih.
Her husband was from a relatively poor, rural part of eastern Shandong province that has long struggled with lawlessness. The conservative culture in such areas strongly favors male offspring, which under China's strict population control policies meant that a great deal of little girls were never born, hence the demand for trafficked foreign wives. Overall, China has about 34 million more men than women.
After two months, her brother got a phone call telling him to pick his sister up at the airport in Lahore. He found David in a wheelchair, too weak to walk.
The AP met David in late April. Living again in the house in Francisabad Colony, she showed her wedding photos, taken six months earlier. In one, she was dressed in a white gown, smiling, looking robust, with long, flowing black hair.
David barely resembled the woman in the picture. Her cheeks were sunken, complexion sallow, her tiny frame emaciated and frail. She seemed confused, her speech incoherent. When asked about her wedding or time in China, she lost focus — her words wandering — and at one point suddenly stood to make tea, mumbling about the sugar. She paced, repeating, "I am ok. I am ok." When asked why she looked so different in the wedding photos, she stared vacantly into space, finally saying, "There is nothing wrong with me."
"She has the evil eye," said her brother, who was present at the interview.
She died a few days later, on May 1.
Dr. Meet Khan Tareen treated Samiya on her one visit to his clinic in Lahore.
"She was very malnourished and very weak," with anemia and jaundice, he said in an interview. Preliminary tests suggested several possible ailments, including organ failure, and he said he told her brother she needed to be hospitalized. "She was so malnourished . . . a very, very, very low weight," he said.
Her death certificate listed cause of death as "natural." Her brother has refused to talk to the police about his sister. When contacted by the AP in November, he said there was no autopsy and that he had lost her marriage documents, copies of her husband's passport and the pictures David had showed the AP.
David's cousin said the family is hiding the truth because they sold her as a bride. "They have taken money. That is why they are hiding everything," said Masih, who is a member of the town's Union Council, which registers marriages and deaths.
Breaking a family's silence is difficult, said a senior government official familiar with the investigations into the sale of brides.
"They might sell their daughters, and even if they discover that the marriage was bad or she is suffering, they would rather ignore it than lose face in front of friends and family," he said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The trafficking networks are operated by Pakistani and Chinese brokers who cruise Christian areas willing to sell daughters and sisters. They are known to pay off pastors, particularly at small, evangelical churches, to encourage their flock to do so.
Christian activist Salim Iqbal, who was among the first to sound the alarm last November about bride trafficking, is in touch with a number of Pakistani women in China via groups on the messaging app We Chat. He said one girl recently told him her husband doesn't give her food or medicine.
Another woman, Samia Yousaf, who was 24 when she was forced into marriage, told the AP of the abuses she suffered in China.
She and her husband went there after she became pregnant. When she arrived, nothing was as her husband had promised. He wasn't well off. They lived in one room on the edge of a field, infested with spiders.
She gave birth by cesarean section. Her husband's sister refused to let her hold her son after the birth and controlled when and for how long she could see the child during her six days in the hospital. "I started screaming at her one time when she took my baby," Yousaf recalled.
Her husband refused to let her breastfeed her son until doctors implored him to allow her to, she said. Unable to walk without assistance, the doctors asked her husband to take her for a walk and he repeatedly let her fall, refusing to help her back up.
After she left the hospital, abuses continued. Her husband denied her food. "He was cruel. I thought he wanted to kill me," she said.
Three weeks later, authorities threatened her with jail because her visa had expired. Her husband had kept her passport. Frightened and unwell, she pleaded with him to let her and her son go home to Pakistan.
But he refused to let her take the baby. She discovered her name was not on her son's registration, only her husband's.
The last time she saw her son was in September 2017, just before her return.
"Every day I think of my baby," said Yousaf, who works as a nanny in Lahore. "I wonder what he looks like. My heart is always sad."
An exhibition featuring more than 300 valuable historical documents about previous World Expos opened in Shanghai on Wednesday.
The exhibition, held at the World Expo Museum, showcases documents of various descriptions, including official reports, pavilion designs, media clippings and books, offering visitors a chance to learn about the development of World Expos over more than a century.
"It allows visitors to view expos from a new angle by offering minute details as well as grand schemes, initial plans as well as post-event summaries," said Vicente G. Loscertales, secretary-general of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).
A highlight of the exhibition is the first Chinese monograph detailing a World Expo. The book was written by Chinese official Li Gui after he visited the expo held in Philadelphia in 1876 as a member of the Chinese delegation.
Located at the former site of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the World Expo Museum is the only official museum and documentation center in the world entirely dedicated to expos and authorized by the BIE.
A weeklong book fair titled ‘Dhaka University Book Fair’ kicked off at Hakim Chattar on the DU campus on Tuesday.
Director General of the Press Institute of Bangladesh (PIB) Zafar Wazed inaugurated the book fair organised by Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (Ducsu) while State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam was present at the opening ceremony as the chief guest.
Appreciating the Ducsu initiative, Shahriar said Dhaka University has got elected student representatives after a long time.
He said military rulers destroyed all the democratic systems and institutions of the country.
"After winning the 2008 general election under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina leadership, Bangladesh is doing excellent in all the sectors, including economy and education, and it has now become a role model of development across the world," the state minister added.
Presided over by DU Vice-chancellor and Ducsu President Prof Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman, Ducsu Treasurer Prof Shibli Rubayat Ul Islam and Assistant General Secretary Saddam Hussein, among others, addressed the function.
A total of 80 publications are participating in the book fair which will remain open from 11am to 8:30pm every day till December 16.
An ancient stone tablet dating back 265 years ago was found in north China's Hebei Province, local authorities said.
Archaeologists believe the stone tablet was erected in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, according to the cultural relics protection department of Nanhe County.
The tablet, which is 245 cm tall, 92 cm wide and 26 cm thick, was found in Dongguan Village of the county. With a 416-character inscription, the tablet recorded the scale and renovation of the "Kuixing" building, which provided a place for ancient intellectuals to pray for blessings.
"The Kuixing building is no longer in existence," said Xiao Lina with the department.
Xiao also noted that the discovery of the stone tablet will provide valuable materials for the study of the culture, architectural style and folk customs of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties.
Nobel Literature Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk says she thinks a new sort of fiction may be needed to counteract the modern era's tendency to isolate and divide people.
In her Saturday lecture in Stockholm ahead of receiving the prize next week, the Polish author complained of the "exhausting white noise of oceans of information" in the internet era.
'"It has turned out that we are not capable of bearing this enormity of information, which instead of uniting, generalizing and freeing, has differentiated, divided and enclosed us in individual little bubbles," she said.
Tokarczuk suggested this discourages people from understanding how actions are interconnected, thus contributing to climate crisis and political tensions.
She said she dreams of a new kind of "fourth-person" narrator in fiction who could encompass the views of each character in a novel.
"We can regard this figure of a mysterious, tender narrator as miraculous and significant. This is a point of view, a perspective, from which everything can be seen. Seeing everything means recognizing the ultimate fact that all things that exist are mutually connected into a single whole, even if the connections between them are not yet known to us," she said.
Tokarczuk is the 2018 literature laureate. Her prize was announced only two months ago because the Swedish Academy postponed naming a winner last year due to internal turmoil connected with a sex abuse scandal.
The 2019 Nobel Literature winner, Peter Handke, has also brought controversy to the body because of widespread criticism of him as an apologist for Serbian war crimes during the 1990s. One Swedish Academy member said he is boycotting Nobel ceremonies this year in protest of Handke's selection and a member of the literature nominating committee has announced his resignation.
Handke jousted with journalists who were questioning his views at a Friday news conference, saying he preferred receiving soiled toilet paper to answering their questions. But his lecture on Saturday was contemplative, telling how his writing was first inspired by religious litanies he heard from a village church. He concluded by reciting a poem by the late Swedish Nobel laureate Tomas Transtomer in which an angel whispers "do not be afraid of being human."
The Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, economic and literature are being presented Tuesday in the Swedish capital.
Earlier Saturday, several Nobel laureates in science spoke about climate change at their news conferences in Stockholm.
Didier Queloz, an astronomer who shares this year's Nobel physics prize for discovering a planet outside the Earth's solar system, said people who shrug off climate change on the grounds that humans will eventually leave for distant planets are wrong.
"The stars are so far away I think we should not have any serious hope to escape the Earth," Queloz said. "We're not built to survive on any other planet than this one ... we'd better spend our time and energy trying to fix it."