Tag: afrah qassim

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.

Cheshire PCC Partnership

Savera UK extends service with funding from Cheshire PCC

Savera UK has been awarded funding from Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, to extend its service into the region and to help end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices in Cheshire.

More than £321,000 has been awarded to Savera UK by the PCC through a successful application for the Government’s Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Interventions Fund. The funds will allow for training of professionals when spotting the signs of HBA and harmful practices and will equip them with the right tools when working with those at risk.

Through the funding Savera UK’s Direct Intervention Team will grow and the charity will work to build new partnerships with organisations in Cheshire in order to raise awareness among professionals and communities.

John Dwyer, PCC for Cheshire, said: “I am delighted to secure this funding and that the partnership with Savera UK is growing. Educating and empowering practitioners to spot the signs of HBA and respond appropriately and confidently to those at risk is extremely important.

“By raising awareness of HBA and harmful practices, we can help to break the taboo around the subject, providing support for people who feel there may be no other way out.

“In my Police and Crime Plan, I make clear my commitment to helping those who have a greater risk of becoming a victim of crime. I believe this enhancement of the project being delivered by Savera UK will help safeguard and support survivors and help them to continue with their lives.”

Afrah Qassim, Founder and CEO of Savera UK, said: “I would like to thank the Police and Crime Commissioner for this opportunity to grow our relationship, supporting the development and delivery of Savera UK’s specialist services within in Cheshire. Since 2016 the charity has delivered one-to-one safeguarding and advocacy to those at risk and survivors of HBA and harmful practices, while campaigning to end these violations of human rights for good.

“Misconceptions about HBA and harmful practices can put those experiencing these types of abuse at further risk, both directly and indirectly. We have seen first-hand how professionals working closely with those at risk can be unaware of the level of danger.

“Our specialist team works tirelessly to challenge decisions which risk putting survivors in further danger.

“It’s through these experiences we know how vital education is in ending HBA and harmful practices for good. Through delivering education and training sessions in Cheshire thanks to this funding, we will raise awareness among professionals, young people and the general public to help safeguard those at risk.

“Focusing our work in Cheshire, knowing we will be able to reach more people at risk and raise further awareness is an exciting prospect and helps us continue to work towards our vision of a world without HBA and harmful practices.”

To learn about ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices, visit the Savera UK Learning Hub. 

If you are at risk, or if you are a professional in need of advice, you can call Savera UK’s specialist helpline on 0800 107 0726 (operates 10am – 4pm). Always call 999 if you are in immediate danger.

Referral forms for individuals and professionals are available here.

Students at Surrey school raise more than £2,000 for Savera UK

Students at Charterhouse School in Surrey have fundraised more than £2,000 for Savera UK to help end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices.

Boarding house pupils Sasha Schukken, 16, Phoebe Hornett, 16, Alessandra Barroso Kosanovic, 17, Tatiana Barroso Kosanovic, 17, Isabella Duc, 16, Alexandra Oerlemans, 17 and Bea Harrall, 17, hosted a cheese and wine event for parents and fellow pupils where they educated them on Savera UK’s mission.

Savera UK is a national charity working to end ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, virginity testing and breast ironing. The charity safeguards and advocates on behalf of those at risk while tackling the root-cause of the issues through campaigning and awareness-raising.

The students explained they heard about Savera UK from their House Master and other pupils in their house. Speaking to Savera UK the students said: “We thought it aligned with our views and that it was an important message to speak about and fundraise for.”

The team, who raised a total of £2,114.45 for the charity, took entrance fees for the event in their school hall. They also made a poster and explained Savera UK’s mission to attendees. They said: “It was a great experience to organise an event and have it go smoothly. Raising the money for a good cause also made the experience more gratifying.”

Speaking about their favourite part of the event, the team said: “Setting up the event for the parents was a great experience.” The team “had fun setting up the cheese boards” and organising the fundraising event.

Asked if they would encourage others to take part in fundraising, the team said: “I would encourage it as it creates leadership opportunities while raising money for a good cause that you believe in.

“Having a fundraising activity going very smoothly is also very satisfying because it’s a very good visual representation of our hard work. Raising a good sum of money also makes it worthwhile because we do make an impact with our donations and makes the whole experience fulfilling.”

Afrah Qassim, Founder and CEO of Savera UK, said: “I am overwhelmed by this generous donation from the pupils at Charterhouse School. As a charity we are dependent on the generosity of others in order to continue our work to end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices. This money will not only help us in safeguarding and advocating on behalf of those at risk, but in our mission to campaign for a brighter future where these practices are no longer carried out.

“On behalf of the whole Savera UK team we would like to say a huge thank you to Sasha, Phoebe, Alessanfra, Tatiana, Isabella, Alexandra, Bea and all those who attended the event and donated to Savera UK.”

If you are a school, or a young person who wants to get involved in Savera UK, take a look at Savera UK Youth! Our Youth programme holds creative projects and campaigns throughout the year to help develop young people’s skills and encourage you to become part of the team raising awareness of harmful practices. To support Savera UK’s work, find out how your donation can make a difference by clicking here.

A picture of Somaiya Begum

Savera UK statement as uncle jailed for murder of Somaiya Begum

Mohamed Taroos Khan has today been jailed a minimum of 25 years after he was found guilty of murdering his niece, Somaiya Begum.

The 20-year-old was found dead in Bradford 11 days after she went missing from her home on Binnie Street on June 25, 2022.

The student’s uncle, 53, denied murdering Somaiya but admitted perverting the course of justice by disposing of her body and trying to burn her mobile phone.

Somaiya, who lived with her grandmother and another of her uncles, was murdered following the activation of a Forced Marriage Protection Order, which is a legal document that can protect individuals from a forced marriage in the UK or from being taken abroad to be married. The order will also help to bring them back to the UK if they are taken out of the country.

Prosecuting, Jason Pitter KC said there were “fault lines” in the family, partly about “the way in which members of the family interpreted their cultural or religious obligations”.

A jury heard Somaiya’s father, Yaseen Khan, was “incandescent with rage” following the failed forced marriage and has left the UK. He had previously been convicted of threatening Somaiya with a knife, punching her and threatening to kill her.

In his sentencing remarks, The Honourable Justice Neil Garnham said it was not possible to identify a motive for Khan’s murder of his niece and Khan claimed he “did not share the views of [his] brother Yaseen about the role of women or obligations for her to marry her cousin in Pakistan”.

Her uncle was yesterday convicted following a trial and has today been jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 25 years at Bradford Crown Court.

Following the outcome of the trial, Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, said: “The details of Somaiya’s death are harrowing. Somaiya was a bright, brave woman who had the right to live freely without fear. Today we remember her as the smart, courageous student she was while renewing our pledge to end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices.

“Somaiya should be with us today, having enjoyed the freedom she gained after bravely standing against the wrongful beliefs imposed on her by her controlling father, who placed the concept of ‘honour’ above her worth. We must be clear that ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices are not a part of culture, or any religion, but violations of human rights. Culture is something beautiful to be celebrated, and is not an excuse for abuse. We welcome the decision by The Honourable Justice Neil Garnham to sentence Somaiya’s uncle, Khan, to life imprisonment.

“Our thoughts go out to those affected by Somaiya’s death, including her courageous family members who gave evidence during the trial. In her memory, and in the memory of everyone lost to ‘honour’-based abuse, we will continue vital work to safeguard and advocate for those at risk, and campaign to end ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices for good.”

Savera UK’s specialist team is available to provide you with advice and information. Everything you tell us is confidential, unless we believe your life is in danger or you are at imminent risk of harm. Our helpline line is 0800 107 0726 (Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm). 

Child marriage banned as legal age to wed officially increases to 18

Today the legal age of marriage has officially increased from 16 to 18. 

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, introduced to UK Parliament by MP Pauline Latham OBE, passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent (becoming law) on Thursday, April 28th, 2022. Today 16 to 17-year-olds will no longer be able to marry or enter a civil partnership under any circumstances, including with parental or judicial consent.

The Act will also expand the criminal offence of forced marriage in England and Wales to make it an offence in all circumstances to do anything intended to cause a child to marry before they turn 18. 

The implementation of the new law follows tireless campaigning from Savera UK survivor ambassador Payzee Mahmod, alongside organisations including IKWRO. Payzee’s sister, Banaz, was forced into marriage when she was aged 16. Banaz was the victim of an ‘honour’-killing after ending the violent and abusive marriage.

Payzee is also a survivor of child marriage, coerced by her parents to marry a much older man at just 16-years old. Following the murder of her sister Banaz, Payzee got divorced at 18 and planned her sister’s funeral all within one month.  

Payzee said: “I am delighted beyond words at the implementation of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill today. I have been on this journey with IKWRO and several organisations to ensure all children are protected from any form of child marriage, I have shared my personal story and my sister, Banaz’s so that people really see and understand the life long harms child marriage causes. Today we celebrate this landmark achievement and remember those who have been harmed by child marriage. 

“I want to highlight the wonderful support form so many, especially organisations like Savera UK who have backed our campaign from the beginning. Thank you, we did it!”

Afrah Qassim, Savera UK Founder and CEO, said: “Today marks a huge milestone in the fight to end all harmful practices, including child/forced marriage and ‘honour’-based abuse. Because of the incredible efforts of Payzee and the organisations she has worked with, lives have been saved and thousands have been safeguarded from child marriage. It is a historical moment and we are incredibly proud to celebrate the achievement. 

“We recognise that the journey to end harmful practices for good is far from over. We will continue to safeguard and advocate for those at risk while campaigning for change and spreading awareness among communities.”

If you are affected by forced marriage, ‘honour’-based abuse or other harmful practices, you can call the Savera UK helpline on 0800 107 0726 (weekdays 10am – 4pm).

Image credit: Lush

Savera UK Supports Call for Ban on LGBT+ Conversion ‘Therapy’

Image credit: Lush
Window of Lush in Liverpool highlighting the ‘Have a Heart’ campaign (Image credit: Lush)

LGBT+ anti-abuse charity Galop and cosmetics company Lush recently teamed up to share the stories of survivors of conversion ‘therapy’ and urge people to write to their MP to call for an immediate and inclusive ban on all of these practices.

Savera UK believes in the majority of cases conversion ‘therapy’ or practices are forms of ‘honour’-based abuse – ‘punishments’ or ‘cures’ inflicted on an individual whose sexuality or gender identity is against the cultural, social or religious ‘norms’ of a family or community. ALL of these practices, without exclusion, are abuse and a violation of human rights.

The powerful animation for the ‘Have a Heart’ campaign launched ahead of Valentine’s Day and told the stories of survivors Joe, Alex and Grace. The video highlights many elements of conversion practices that correlate to characteristics of ‘honour’-based abuse, for example how they are often committed by family behind closed doors. 

In Alex’s story, their father said they would be ‘better dead than non-binary’, misgendered them and destroyed clothes that he thought were too masculine. Grace, who is lesbian, was threatened with being kicked out of her home if she didn’t go on dates with men much older than her. Joe’s family monitored his finances, clothing, communications and everyday movements. All of these actions are abuse.

Image credit: Lush

Within Joe’s story we also learn that despite asking police for help he was returned to his family home time and again and the abuse continued. This is often seen in cases of ‘honour’-based abuse, where there is a lack of awareness or understanding about abuse of this nature, or where cultural sensitivity causes a fear of challenging abuse.

Galop’s recent research with YouGov shows that nearly 1 in 5 (18%) of LGBT+ people in the UK have been subjected to someone trying to change, ‘cure’ or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity, highlighting the scale of the issue in the UK.


Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, said: “This campaign is an incredibly powerful illustration of the threat of conversion ‘therapy’ to LGBTQ+ people in the UK and why action needs to be taken to ban it completely now. 

“It also clearly highlights how ‘honour’-based abuse can happen anywhere and to anyone – not just in certain communities. Greater understanding around the many ways in which ‘honour’-based abuse presents is needed both among professionals and the general public. 

“As with all forms of ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices, when a person makes a disclosure about being subjected to or at risk of conversion ‘therapy’ or practices, the One Chance Rule should be followed, as that may be the only chase we have to help that person.

“Savera UK supports all people at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices, including conversion ‘therapy’, regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, disability, age, gender or sexuality. We join with Lush, Galop and all those calling for an immediate and fully inclusive ban of conversion ‘therapy’ and practices, which protects all LGBTQ+ people from harm.”

To watch the video and write to your MP and join the call for the ban, visit: weare.lush.com/have-a-heart-campaign/

Savera UK statement following violence in Knowsley

Savera UK’s CEO and Founder has released a statement following violence which began on Friday, 10th February in Knowsley, Merseyside. You can read the statement in full below.

Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, said: “Savera UK is horrified by the violence and hatred that unfolded towards those seeking asylum in Knowsley last week, and we do not believe that it represents the people of Knowsley or the wider Liverpool city region.

“We are standing with Together for Refugees and other signatories of their open letter to call for a clear stand from political leaders after this attack and action to prevent similar incidents in future.

“As an organisation that supports refugees and asylum seekers to find a new beginning free from abuse, violence and unsafe environments, we know that they have already suffered. They have been forced to make dangerous journeys and terrible choices. They deserve to be welcomed into a place of safety and live without fear. 

“However, our broken system and the delays that make it necessary for them to be placed in temporary accommodation, combined with the inflammatory rhetoric of an “invasion” that has been used by our Home Secretary, other ministers and the media, are removing that human right and causing reactions like those we saw last week.

“We at Savera UK stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone coming to our country to flee war, violence, abuse and persecution. It is a human right to seek asylum and we will defend that right and condemn further violence. The minority we saw in Knowsley last week do not speak for us. Refugees and asylum seekers are – and will always be – welcome here.”


Savera UK statement following ‘honour’ killing of Tiba al-Ali

Tiba al-Ali was killed by her father (Image credit: Twitter)

Tiba al-Ali was killed by her father on January 31st, 2023, in a reported ‘honour’ killing.

The 22-year-old was in the southern province of Diwaniya when she was killed, reportedly because her father had been ‘unhappy’ about her decision to live alone in Turkey. Her death has sparked protests in Iraq, with dozens gathering on February 5th to condemn the killing. Savera UK stands with those protesting against her murder.

Afrah Qassim, Savera UK CEO and Founder, said: “Savera UK is appalled and heartbroken by the ‘honour’ killing of Tiba al-Ali at the hands of her father in Iraq. Yet we are not shocked. Each year around 5,000 people die as a result of ‘honour’-based abuse and violence. There has been a cry for justice raised worldwide for Tiba only because she was widely known as YouTube star and media personality. But we should reminded ourselves that many others lose their lives in ‘honour’ killings, and who calls for justice for them? Iraq’s penal code stipulates that killings with an ‘honourable motive’ are a mitigating circumstance for punishment. It also states that punishment for a man who kills or beats his wife, female relative or her partner (in the case of adultery) to death or causes them permanent impairment, is up to three years in prison, with the judge afforded discretionary power to reduce this punishment.

“If ‘honour’ continues to be a mitigating factor – and excuse for murder – thousands more like Tiba will die. We stand with all those calling for justice for Tiba around the world. She was a bright, 22-year-old woman with the whole of her life ahead of her. She had the right to chose to leave her family home in Iraq to live in Turkey. She had a right to live freely, happily and peacefully. But that right was taken away from her.

“There is no ‘honour’ in abuse and there is no ‘honour’ in murder.

“Justice for Tiba al-Ali. Justice for all those lost in the name of ‘honour’.”

If you are at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse or harmful practices in the UK, contact the Savera UK helpline on 0800 107 0726 (operates weekdays 10am – 4pm). 

Savera UK celebrates partnership with Pilotlight

Savera UK celebrates partnership with Pilotlight

Savera UK, a charity working to end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, is celebrating its recent partnership with business strategy programme Pilotlight.

Pilotlight is a charity pairing teams of business advisors, referred to as ‘Pilotlighters’ with charities for coaching and mentoring during strategic opportunities and challenges.

Over 10 months, Savera UK’s CEO and Chair met with its own dedicated team of three Pilotlighters and its project lead to develop the charity’s business strategy, vision and mission. Through the sessions each specialist Pilotlighter helped Savera UK consider ways to improve organisational aspects of the charity through open and honest discussions on strengths, weaknesses and past performance.

Savera UK’s CEO, Afrah Qassim, and Chair, Aislinn O’Dwyer, discussed with their team of Pilotlighters what makes Savera UK unique in its operations and delivery, and set strategic goals to clarify the next steps for the organisation.

Following the sessions, Savera UK is now looking ahead to its next period of growth as we continue providing vital direct intervention services for those at risk of HBA and harmful practices while protesting these human rights violations through campaigns and awareness-raising.

Fiona Wilson, a senior leader in the private sector and one of the Pilotlighters, said: “I believe I speak for the Pilotlighters if I say that Savera UK is on a big journey, but it is very capable, resourceful, and has great potential. To have been invited into its world and the work that it does, and to have seen its progress and the impact it has – it has been a privilege!”

Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, said: “This was an opportunity that came at the right time as we looked to develop the next stage of Savera UK. Each Pilotlighter provided us with a different perspective from their own area of expertise, helping us pre-empt potential challenges and gain clarity on the charity’s goals. There was total commitment from both sides, which ensured we achieved our goals set at the beginning of the programme of setting the organisation’s vision, mission, values and planning our three-year strategy.

“Personally, I have found this experience invaluable as it has allowed me to explore and evaluate my own perception of the organisation as the CEO and given me important advice on leading a team at time of change and development. By being challenged on Savera UK’s strategy, development and operations we came out of the programme with a level of insight that has prepared us for our next steps as we work to end ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices.

“Thank you to all the Pilotlighters who have supported Savera UK as we embark on this next chapter.”