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Survivors Help Break the Silence

By Shauna from Savera UK

The 14th July would have been Shafilea Ahmed’s 32nd birthday. She was murdered by her parents when she was 17 years old in front of her siblings after refusing to be forced into a marriage and becoming “too westernised”. According to her parents, Shafilea had brought shame on their family and their community and had to pay the ultimate price. The 14th July now marks a day of remembrance for those lost in the name of so called ‘honour’. On this day, we remember all the women and men, girls and boys who fell victim to honour based violence.

Honour based abuse (HBA) is a crime or incident that has been committed to protect or defend the “honour” of the family and/or community. It is a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs with the impression that the victim has “shamed” them. This may include but is not limited to, having a boyfriend, not agreeing to a marriage and not obeying family rules. It has been recorded that there are an estimated 12 honour killings in the UK every year. Women and girls are the most common victims of honour based abuse; however, it can also affect men and boys. Honour crimes are most prevalent within diaspora communities from South Asia, the Middle East, and North and East Africa. Reports come from Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Orthodox Jewish and occasionally traveller communities.

For the third year in a row, Savera UK held their National Memorial Day Conference, remembering the victims of honour killings. This year, Savera UK thought it was very important to hear the stories of survivors. Having survivor’s speak out about such taboo issues helps to break the silence and give voices to those who can’t speak out for themselves. The survivors told their journeys through dialogue, poetry and performance making it a very moving and inspirational conference for all those that attended. One attendee said:

 

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Thank you – a very informative and touching afternoon.

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One of the speakers, a survivor herself of honour based abuse, read Shafilea Ahmed’s poem Happy Families to the crowd. This emotive moment was so poignant for the event and brought home the reason as to why raising awareness about HBA is so vital. Acts at the conference included a survivor’s interpretive dance ‘Dhancha’ which showed her journey through a sound piece and movement. Savera UK also teamed up with the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival for a performance from Simona Abdallah, Danish-Palestinian musician who played the Darbuka drum for the audience. Simona also shared her personal story about becoming independent and the musician that she is today:

 

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In total, I went through four engagements and two marriages before escaping for freedom and reaching my dream goal, which none of my family accepted or wanted me to do. All they wanted was for me to be is a good Arab housewife.

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As well as the inspirational survivor’s element of the conference we also had guest speakers Merseyside Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner and Labour and Co-operative Party Councillor for Mossley Hill Emily Spurrell, Forensic Psychologist Dr Keri Nixon and Former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England & the Patron of Savera UK Nazir Afzal. Cllr Emily Spurrell discussed the work that the police are doing in regards to Harmful Practices and Dr Keri Nixon highlighted the issues of abuse in terms of mental health and trauma. Nazir Afzal OBE laid down the raw facts about honour killings and praised the fact that the conference focused on the story of the survivor, especially the voices of women whose voices are usually unheard in a patriarchal society. He also believed that it was important to educate and train every level of staff about Harmful Practices in order to prevent them and eventually eradicate them.

 

 

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If you believe it the staff will believe it.

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The conference ended with a final performance from Simona, but the theme of the conference lingered with everyone that attended.

 

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An inspirational and shocking afternoon – we all need to spread the word.

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Raising awareness about Harmful Practices is so essential that it cannot be stressed enough. In an ideal world, an organisation like Savera UK would have next to no clients or ultimately not even exist as these practices would have been completely eradicated and the individuals from these communities would be completely safe. Unfortunately, the Savera UK client base swells as we continue to fight against Harmful Practices. Please support us in raising awareness and breaking the silence.

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