Despite all its rhetoric about protecting women, the government has yet to fully come to terms with the steps necessary to reduce the number of ‘honour’ killings. However, it is not just the government at fault, but the state apparatus, which cannot seem to comprehend what is needed. The following story about an Iranian asylum seeker illustrates this point:
“FARAH barely raises her voice above a whisper. She has learned to keep quiet, keep herself to herself – and, besides, she doesn’t have many people to talk to. As she awaits the outcome of an appeal against her failed claim for asylum, the 26-year-old lives alone in a small flat on the 12th floor of a tower block in the north of Glasgow. She’s pretty, smart and speaks fluent English, and as we talk, her thick mascara only just manages to stay in place despite tears that seem never more than a blink away.
“I feel as if I haven’t slept for seven years,” she says. “Every day you are just waiting for something to happen, waiting for them to take you away or detain you or arrest you or send you back. It’s like a hell. When am I going to find my life?”
As a teenager in south-western Iran, Farah’s life was fairly straightforward. She finished school, started college and met a boyfriend. Then it all began to fall apart. She was arrested for sitting on a park bench with her boyfriend in the middle of the afternoon, and then again soon afterwards, for being unaccompanied in her boyfriend’s house.
Hardly the worst crimes in the world, but under sharia law, Farah faced 20 lashes and ostracism from the community. Worse, she was afraid no one would stop her father killing her to restore the family’s honour. Seven years on, the last words her mother spoke to her are still clear in her memory. “Get as far away from your father as you can,” she said. “Even if you are starving on the streets, do not come back to Iran.”
Her mother arranged her escape and after 20 days and nights in the back of a lorry, Farah finally arrived in Britain. With no windows in the dark container, she didn’t know where she was going and, when the journey eventually came to an end, no idea which country she had arrived in. “After the journey and all that had gone on before, I just felt finished,” she says. “I didn’t think things could get any worse, but they have. It just gets more and more harsh.”
Farah has repeated her story many times to lawyers and immigration officials, who, she tells me, fail to grasp the reality of the threat of honour killings in her country. Before she secured the flat in Glasgow, she was homeless for several months. Now she gets by on Â£35 a week. Not permitted to work or study until her appeal for asylum is decided, her life has effectively stopped since the day she was arrested in Iran. “I say to the Home Office time after time, ‘I don’t want to come here and take your money. I don’t want to beg, I don’t want to cause trouble. I just want to work and be good. I just want to stay here and stay alive.’ ”
It has taken Farah some time to come to terms with the cold, damp climate and the cultural differences but, slowly, she has started to integrate into her new society. And, although she misses her family, there are glimmers of hope in her new life. She has friends now and she can share with them some things that were not allowed in Iran. Her love of clothes and make-up forms an innocent bond with friends here – but back at home it was forbidden. “Life is so different for young women in Scotland. It is so much freer than it is in Iran.”"
This is not an isolated case of state incompetence. The infamous Banaz Mahmoud case saw Banaz turned away by a police officer (who was later recommended for promotion), despite expressing her fears that she would be murdered by relatives, as she subsequently was. There has also been a reluctance to pursue murderers and their accomplices once they have fled from the UK, with suspects from the Punjab to Kurdistan staying beyond the reach of justice. If you are white and you are murdered and your killers are abroad, there will be a big effort to find them, but not if you are brown. Astonishing, authorities in Kurdistan offered one of the suspects for extradition to the Crown Prosecution Service, who declined. Presumably they were too busy investigating Channel 4.
The government needs to understand that it is not enough to lock the murderers and accomplices up for years. We could institute 100 year sentences and we would still have ‘honour’ killings in this country. Though the murderers do not want to go to jail, and often plead not guilty, they are willing to risk prison to ‘cleanse’ what is their warped minds represents a stain on their family’s ‘honour’. More money needs to be given to womenâ€™s groups who house and protect potential victims, and the police and bureaucrats should be trained in how to deal with those who fear that their lives are at risk from their family or in laws. How one affects a cultural shift in the ignorant murderers I do not know, but I do know that assisting women who may be at risk must reduce the numbers dead from this heinous crime.
This is not a partisan attack, this is an attack on a destructive mentality which sadly seemingly prevalent in the state, and which has contributed to the deaths of young women, as well as a failure to bring their killers to justice.
How can anyone murder their own children? It makes one dearly hope that there is a Hell.
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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence,British Identity