UK arranged marriages: Kidnapping, rape and murder in the name of family honour


November 26 , 2013

Source: ABP News

“We have kidnappings, abductions, assaults, sexual offences. Anything that you can imagine could happen, does happen, in the name of honour,” says Nazir Afzal, Crown Prosecutor for the north-west of England.

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And murder – 10 to 12 cases a year. Yet as the hyper-active, smartly dressed lawyer concedes in his Manchester office, violence invoked in the name of family honour, mostly by citizens of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin, is often hidden and unreported.

Mr Afzal knows about honour, having grown up in Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim household.

Honour, he says, can be a good thing, helping bind families and communities together.

But, “at the moment in so many communities, in so many families, it is merely used to suppress women, to oppress women. So, if they misbehave in some way, or make their own choice, they have dishonoured the family. If men do the same, well it’s men – you know they do what they want. Regrettably too often it’s used to control women.”

After World War II, Britain received waves of migrants from its former colonies in India, Pakistan and later Bangladesh.

Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others came, some for higher education, but mostly to work in the factories around London and in the Midlands and north of England.

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In England, generations who self-identify as Asian now number more than 4 million, 8 per cent of the English population.

‘In the name of the father, the son, and the male members of the family’

Arranged marriages are a still a feature of migrant communities, with parents agreeing that their children will marry, particularly first cousins. But for teenagers growing up in the United Kingdom, torn between the strictures of home and the freedoms of 21st century Britain, arranged marriages too often become forced marriages.

“There are probably between 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages or threats of forced marriages in the United Kingdom every year,” Mr Afzal says.

“We prosecuted more than 200 cases last year of honour-based violence. What we have here are crimes in the name of the father, the son and the blessed male members of the family.”

Currently there is no law against forced marriage in the United Kingdom. That will change early next year, with new legislation similar to that introduced this year in Australia.

Hundreds of young girls disappear from British schools every year

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a unit devoted to trying to prevent young people, mostly girls and women but also boys and men, being compelled to travel abroad to marry someone whom in many cases they have never met.

The Forced Marriage Unit handled 1,485 cases last year, 35 per cent of them involving teenagers aged 17 or younger. One of its biggest problems is trying to track down people who travel to South Asia and never return.

Mr Afzal says a British government survey of school pupils highlighted the problem.

“They discovered hundreds and hundreds of young girls, and by that I mean 11, 12, 13-year-olds, who would just disappear off the school rolls.”

While it is illegal in the United Kingdom for anyone to marry under the age of 16, marriages involving children still happen in South Asia and the Middle East.

Sometimes girls do not return to Britain until they are pregnant, the theory being that this may assist the process by which the husband seeks residency in the United Kingdom.

Girl told to ‘put a spoon in your knickers’ at airport to avoid being sent abroad

Jasvinder Sanghera, who escaped a forced marriage by running away from her Sikh family home in Derby at the age of 15, formed Karma Nirvana 20 years ago to help people in trouble.

She says the Leeds-based charity has received more than 30,000 calls since 2008.

“To me that’s a drop in the ocean … it could be quadrupled,” she said.

 

Ms Sanghera recalls an occasion when a girl feared she was being taken abroad against her will.

“The call handler said, ‘Put a spoon in your knickers. When you go through security it will go off and at that point you’re going to be stopped by a security guard and say I’m being forced to marry’. Which is exactly what she did, and it saved her life.”

Campaigning on the issues of forced marriages has given Ms Sanghera a high profile, an MBE, a meeting with prime minister David Cameron and with countless senior police and other government officials. And yet she believes schools, police and communities are not taking forced marriages and honour-based violence seriously enough.

“If you are Asian and missing from education, the same questions are not asked as [of their] white counterparts here in Britain,” she said.

“And that has not changed because we know there are hundreds going missing off our school rolls. Maybe they’re not being forced into marriage, but the point is, ask the question and look into it. They’re not even doing that.”

As for police: “There are some police forces which are doing sterling work now and trying to get it right. On the ground it’s a different story. There are 43 police forces across the UK and I would refer to potentially four [getting it right]. You know, it’s very much dependent on the person you get on the day.”

British police have been severely criticised for their failures in a series of high-profile honour killings:

  • Banaz Mahmud, 20, strangled on the orders of her father and uncle
  • Surjit Athwal, 27, murdered on the orders of her mother-in-law and brother-in-law
  • Shafilea Ahmed, 17, suffocated by her parents.

In each case, police initially, and in some cases repeatedly, failed to comprehend the seriousness of the threat.

As Ms Sanghera tells trainee detectives in Birmingham, relating the Banaz Mahmud case: “She told police her family was planning to kill her because she’d left an abusive marriage and was seen kissing a man outside a Tube station. And she was not believed. She was dealt with as being melodramatic, fantasising.”

Just a month later she’d been raped and garrotted, her body packed in a suitcase and buried in a garden.

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Woman (24) reported rape in Dubai: Sentenced to 16 months in prison


July 18 , 2013

Source: VG

Four months after supposedly being raped, Marthe Deborah Dalelv (24) is stuck in Dubai. She is now warning other women on holiday in the Middle East.

Raped in Dubai

– Dubai is presented as a paradise, like everything is nice. But it’s not like that, says the 24 year old woman from Tønsberg, Norway to the newspaper VG.

The 6th of March this year she reported a colleague for rape.
But Tuesday this week, Dalelv was sentenced to 16 months in prison after being convicted for having extramarital sex and for drinking alcohol without permission.

The nightmare started when she attended a work trip to Dubai with her colleagues in the Qatar based interior company she worked for.

Woke up being raped

The last night in Dubai she went out on the town with female colleagues from Norway. A couple of their Qatari male colleagues also joined them.

– The morning after I woke up being raped, my clothes were taken off and I was lying on my stomach, Dalelv explains.
When she went to the police to report the assault, they didn’t believe her.

– Two hours after being raped the police asked me: “Did you come to us because you didn’t like it?”. I then realized that they did not believe me, she says.

Took her passport

For four days she was detained in a prison cell, charged for having extramarital sex.

– They took my money, my purse and my passport before locking me in the prison cell. It was freezing cold in there, without enough places to sleep for everyone.

Dalelv was lucky enough to borrow a phone to call her parents and tell them what happened.

– I told my father rapidly: “I have been raped. I am in prison. You have to call the embassy. I am at the Burj Dubai station”.

Her appeal hearing is scheduled for the 5th of September, and until then she is stuck in Dubai with the status “wanted”. This means she will be arrested if she gets in touch with the police again.

– Giving her support

Gisle Meling, the minister to seamen at the Norwegain seamen’s church in Dubai characterizes the Norwegian woman’s situation as terrible.

– The legal system here has obviously taken the information she has given them and concluded she is guilty of something else, Meling says.

– We live in a country with a legal system that has come to this conclusion through their Sharia legislation.

Last night VG was in touch with the police officer Bilal Gomaa at the police station in Dubai where the rape of Dalelv is being investigated.

– Until you have applied for access to the investigation, we cannot give you any information in this case, Gomaa said to VG.
The minister of foreign affairs in Norway, Espen Barth Eide said Thursday that the conviction of the 24 year old woman is against the Norwegian belief in justice:

– The conviction in Dubai against a Norwegian woman who reported a rape is against our belief in justice.

– We are giving her support in the process towards the appeal, he writes on his Twitter account.

The Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs does not want to comment further on the conviction, as it was appealed and therefore not yet legally binding.

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Parental Abduction: Sharjah mother: I am living a nightmare


Source: Gulfnews.com

Forcibly separated from her two sons, Sharjah mother fights back for their custody from husband

Sharjah: On August 12, Arafath will turn four. But his mother won’t be around to hug him. Instead Irum Iqbal will be kneeling down in prayer – a routine she has zealously followed every evening since January 13, the day Arafath and his younger brother, Hasanath, whom she was still breastfeeding – were snatched by her estranged husband and flown to Hyderabad, India without her knowledge.

Irum, 27, is a Pakistani citizen, while her husband, Mir Zarafath Ali, is Indian.

Given the thorny relations between the two countries, the likelihood of Irum going to India and wresting custody of her children, both Indian passport holders, is as minuscule as the eye of a needle.

Yet Irum is hopeful of being reunited with them. “I have faith in Allah. I am sure my prayers won’t go unanswered in this holy month,” she said wiping away her tears.

Irum has also moved the Sharjah Sharia Court seeking a divorce and custody of her children. On August 8, the court summoned Ali. He didn’t show up. Instead, he sent Irum a Letter of Reconciliation laying down some bizarre terms and conditions for his return. Among them: Irum will give him whatever she has earned since he has been away; provide a break-up of her expenditure all this while; agree to hand him whatever she earns in future; not maintain any social networking account; visit her family only once a week and not leave home without her husband’s permission.

Irum will forego the right to take legal action against Ali if she signs the draft, says a clause in the Letter of Reconciliation, a copy of which is with XPRESS. Ali has drafted a similar letter for himself.

Irum and Ali got married in the UAE in November 2006, but their bliss didn’t last long. They had regular fights. Irum claims the fights became more frequent and intense when Ali lost his job and his family business in Sharjah suffered losses. “He started to live off my salary. When that wasn’t enough, he started selling my jewellery. One by one he sold off all the pieces. I didn’t mind that as I wanted to salvage our relationship. But when he sold the last piece, he threw me out of the house. Two days later, he flew away with my kids to India. I am living a nightmare. In the seven months that have rolled by since then, there has not been a single day when I have not wept thinking about Arafath and Hasanath. They are so small. I don’t know how they are managing without me. Hasanath is not even two years old. I was breastfeeding him when he was taken away,” said Irum who works with a telecom service provider and currently lives with her parents in Sharjah.

Irum said she was emboldened to talk about her plight after coming across an earlier XPRESS cover story (June 16, 2011) on Dubai-based Maimouna Liskauskaite whose children were snatched by her husband under similar circumstances.

“I can relate to Maimouna as I am going through the same hell. When I read about her, I rang her up. We talked about our kids and tried to console each other. It was a futile attempt because towards the end both of us were crying.”

Desperate to have her kids back Irum has now urged Indian authorities and NGOs to intervene. “This is not about India and Pakistan, this is about a mother and her children,” she said.

P.K. Askok Babu, Consul (media) at the Consulate General of India admitted the case is “complicated”.

“It was brought to our notice after Ali had left for India. Ali had approached the Consulate… he has been advised to take the legal route to resolve the dispute with his wife,” Babu said in an e-mail statement to XPRESS.

On his part, Ali denies any wrongdoing. He said he was ready to accept Irum provided she signs the Letter of Reconciliation and mends her ways. “I have seen her smoking and drinking and have photographs to prove that,” he said over the phone from India. He said he has mailed the offending pictures to the judge, but refused to send them to XPRESS. “I respect the privacy of my wife and do not want to malign her.”

Irum ridicules the queer reasoning. “If he can talk about my supposed smoking and drinking habits, why can’t he send the pictures as well?”

Parental child abduction on the rise

Parental child abduction is proving to be a growing concern in the UAE. Experts reckon this is largely because of the country’s large expat community. A parent or grandparent could face legal action if he/she abducts his/her own child or grandchild from the person who has legal guardianship or custody as established by a UAE judicial decision. But since the UAE is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, foreign governments cannot enforce their own laws here. Statistics on parental child abduction in the UAE are hard to come by, but information released by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), gives an indication of the magnitude of the problem.

According to FCO, the UAE is one of the top locations for abductions of British children by one of their estranged parents.

The US State Department also reported seven cases of child abduction (under US law) in 2009 in the UAE involving nine children, up from six cases in 2008 and four cases in 2007.

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