Culture of Silence

This domestic tragedy in Handsworth could be regarded as an extreme isolated incident. But it is also representative of the circumstances of many Bangladeshi brides living isolated lives.

When Musammat Mumtahan (22) left Bangladesh to join her new husband Shuhel Miah (26) in 2002, she had dreams of finding wealth and happiness. Instead she found a well of loneliness. Earlier this month, she killed herself and her two sons, Reheem (2) and Nahim (1). She left no suicide note.

Why did she do it? How could a woman take not only her own life but violate the maternal instinct by taking the lives of her children? It is a question begged in both Taherpur, Mumtahana’s home village in Bangladesh, and her new home of Handsworth in Birmingham. Neighbours say she rarely ventured out of doors and, barely able to speak English, may have become depressed by loneliness and isolation. Some report hearing her crying and screaming after rows with her husband, who often did not return home after work until the early hours of the morning. Members of the city’s Bangladeshi community suggest there was a rift between the couple’s respective families. There have been no arrests in the case, and West Midlands Police are not treating it as suspicious.

A young mother, forced into isolation and struggling with a cycle of acute depression and spiralling distress. In spite of the fact she spoke no English, I’m shocked that there were no avenues for Musammat to reach outside help.

This article takes a long, anthropological look at the story of Musammat and the narrative of thousands of women like her, who arrive in the UK as young brides of men from the Bangladeshi community.

46 Responses to “Culture of Silence”

  1. sonia Says:

    No doubt they kill their children because they think they are doing them a favour - otherwise they may become a ‘burden’. And isn’t that what all women are constantly made to feel afraid of - ‘becoming a burden on your family’. Otherwise they might feel they could demand enough money from their husbands to return home. But if you thought the only thing you were going to get was more hassle and ’shame’ for leaving your husband and becoming a burden - both socially and financially - that prob. makes the situation that much more hopeless.

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