Savera UK CEO and Founder Afrah Qassim, and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer
Savera UK CEO and Founder Afrah Qassim, and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer

Savera UK and Cheshire PCC conference and vigil to remember ‘honour’ killing of Shafilea Ahmed

Savera UK, a leading charity working to end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices, will join forces with Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, on Wednesday 12th July to remember Warrington teenager Shafilea Ahmed, who was murdered by her parents in an ‘honour’ killing 20 years ago.

Shafilea was murdered in the lounge of her family home in Great Sankey, Warrington, on September 11, 2003, for refusing a forced marriage and becoming ‘too westernised’, in the eyes of her family and some members within her community.

The Day of Memory is held each year on July 14th – Shafilea’s birthday – and is intended to remember those lost to ‘honour’ killings and HBA. The day also aims to continue to raise awareness of often ‘hidden’ culturally specific forms of abuse and other harmful practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM), forced/child marriage, virginity testing, breast ironing and conversion practices.

The event will be delivered with Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John

Savera UK CEO and Founder Afrah Qassim, and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer
Savera UK CEO and Founder Afrah Qassim, and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer

Dwyer, as part of its ongoing partnership. Earlier this year the Commissioner secured more than £321,000 of additional funding to help those at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) in Cheshire, enabling him to enhance his partnership with Savera UK to address and raise awareness of HBA and harmful practices.

A conference will take place at Warrington Town Hall in the morning (10am), with a panel of esteemed guests discussing the issues of HBA and harmful practices, the challenges faced by professionals working with those at risk and the work being done to end these practices.

Speakers include Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, John Dwyer, Cheshire PCC, Jaswant Narwal, CPS, Chief Crown Prosecutor, Thames & Chiltern and lead on forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA), Superintendent Jon Betts, and Saliha Rashid and Khatra Paterson, both survivor ambassadors for Savera UK. The discussion will be hosted by Aislinn O’Dwyer, Savera UK Chair and Chair of East Cheshire NHS Trust and there will be a Q&A session for attendees.

Following the discussion’s conclusion (12:45pm), a short vigil and ribbon-tying ceremony will take place at the Golden Gates, with drumming and poetry performances, before a minute’s silence will be held in memory of Shafilea and all those lost in the name of ‘honour’.

Savera UK’s team will be sharing information with the public after the vigil, alongside Cheshire PCC’s ‘Safer Streets’ team and representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Afrah Qassim said: “It is 20 years this year since Shafilea’s life was taken from her, simply for wanting to make her own choices in life. There is no ‘honour’ in this behaviour and no excuse for abuse.

“Although progress has been made over the past two decades, there are an estimated 12 – 15 ‘honour’ killings in the UK each year and tens of thousands more are harmed due to HBA and harmful practice. There is still limited public and professional awareness about HBA and harmful practices and how they can affect anyone regardless of ethnicity, background, gender identity or sexuality.

“These abuses are still happening here in the UK, and it is our collective responsibility to stop them. Our partnership with Cheshire PCC allows us to share our knowledge and skills with professionals in Cheshire and provide life-saving direct intervention services to survivors and those at risk. Together we will end these practices for good.”

John Dwyer, Police & Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “I’m really pleased to be working closely with Savera UK to find and support the hidden victims of HBA in Cheshire. There is no excuse for abuse, and nobody should be in fear for their life just because they are trying to live their full potential.

“Bringing partners together at this event is a great way to refocus our work to root out and stamp out HBA. The best way we can honour Shafilea’s memory is to redouble our efforts to prevent the kind of abuse which she suffered.”

Jaswant Narwal from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “We want to support victims of this unacceptable violence; both honour-based abuse and forced marriage are illegal, and where our legal test is met, we will not hesitate to prosecute.”

Register for this event here.