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.
“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.”
Ahead of the march there were speeches from Savera UK CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim, Dianne Jeans from Zonta Club London and Merseyside PCC, Emily Spurrell, as well as the reading of Melika’s* story – a survivor supported by Savera UK.
After a moment of reflection, when the names of those lost to gender-based violence and ‘honour’-based abuse were read out, the march began, led by Movema’s stunning Sankofa Bird, performed by Angelina Able.
The Sankofa Bird is one of four birds from Movema’s ‘Taking Flight’ production, which have been inspired by their artists’ experiences of migration and informed by the refugee and asylum seeker communities with who they work.
‘Taking Flight’ explores birds’ and humans’ desire for freedom and flight, and the role of modern aeronautics to enable this, with the four symbolic birds to represent futuristic cyborgs, whose bodies are part aircraft, part bird, part human.
The concept of “Sankofa” is derived from King Adinkera of the Akan people of Ghana, West Africa. Visually and symbolically, “Sankofa” is expressed as a mythic bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolising the future) in its mouth.
It teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone, or been stripped of, can be reclaimed, revived, preserved, and perpetuated.
Movema’s Sankofa Bird combines the symbolism of “Sankofa” and the design of passenger aircraft and was selected to support the message of the march – one of belonging, overcoming struggles and adversity and freedom.
Hundreds of people were engaged by the march and performance, before the group joined the vigil for Liverpool’s Lost Women, led by Liverpool Domestic Abuse Service, Amadudu and RASA Merseyside, in a show of solidarity and commitment to tackling gender-based violence in the city and around the world.
The march marked the start of the annual global Orange the World campaign and start of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, which takes place between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls on 25th November and Human Rights Day on 10th December.
Several civic buildings and landmarks also illuminated orange in solidarity with the campaign, including the Liverpool Town Hall, the Cunard Building, St George’s Hall, World Museum in Liverpool, Greystone Footbridge in Knowsley, the Mersey Gateway Bridge in Halton, Merseyside Police Headquarters and Wallasey Town Hall in Wirral.
Savera UK’s campaign will continue throughout November and December, with the charity inviting people to do a #5KForThe5000 and help raise awareness and funds to help it continue its work campaigning, educating, and advocating for and supporting survivors: https://register.enthuse.com/ps/event/5KtoEndHBAFundraisingEvent
Today (Friday 25th November), Savera UK and Zonta Club London (part of Zonta International) will march through Liverpool city centre to raise awareness of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and other forms of gender-based violence.
The march marks the start of the annual global Orange the World campaign and start of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, which takes place between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls on 25th November and Human Rights Day on 10th December.
There will be speeches from Savera UK CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim, Dianne Jeans from Zonta Club London, Merseyside PCC, Emily Spurrell and survivor stories from 4pm, after which the group will march through Liverpool city centre.
The march will be accompanied by Movema’s Sankofa Bird, representing belonging and freedom, and will end in Derby Square to join the “Liverpool’s Lost Women” vigil, led by Liverpool Domestic Abuse Service, RASA Merseyside and Amadudu.
Several civic buildings and landmarks will also illuminate orange in solidarity with the campaign, including Liverpool Town Hall, the Cunard Building, St George’s Hall, World Museum in Liverpool, Greystone Footbridge in Knowsley, the Mersey Gateway Bridge in Halton, Merseyside Police Headquarters and Wallasey Town Hall in Wirral.
The annual awareness day is even more poignant for the city region this year, as it is also the first anniversary of the deaths of two victims of male violence – Ava White and Malak ‘Katy’ Adabzadeh.
Savera UK CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “Gender-based violence and abuse, including the specific issue of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices that we as an organisation tackle, must be stopped.
“We will march through Liverpool in memory of the 5,000 people who die globally each year due to HBA and in protest against these practices, which amount to nothing more than abuse of human rights. We hope people will join us and support our mission to eradicate HBA and harmful practices for good.”
Speaking of the illumination of Greystone Footbridge in Knowsley, Cllr Shelley Powell, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods, said: “Sadly, domestic abuse is an issue that affects people across the UK, and Knowsley is no exception. Not only does it have a major impact upon those directly affected, it also negatively affects families and the wider community.
“Earlier this year we launched our Domestic Abuse strategy which outlines how we support victims and children if they experience domestic abuse and sets out how partners will work together to stop the cycle of abuse.
“Supporting International Day of the Prevention of Violence Against Women is a key date in our calendar and illuminating the Greystone Footbridge is a sign of our support. We will continue to ensure our residents know that help really is just a phone call away – please seek help and don’t suffer in silence.”
Savera UK’s campaign will continue throughout November and December, with the charity inviting people to do a #5KForTheFiveThousand and help raise awareness and funds to help it continue its work campaigning, educating, and advocating for and supporting survivors. You can register to join the fundraising campaign here.
Savera UK and Zonta Club London’s “Orange the World” toolkit, which contains information, resources and ideas for speaking out against gender-based violence and abuse, can also be found here.
If you are at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse or other harmful practices, call Savera UK’s national helpline on 0800 107 0726 (operates Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm).