West Yorkshire Police Reveal an Increase in the last 5 years
An FOI from West Yorkshire Police reveals there has been around 5% increase of reported “honour” based violence, FGM and forced marriages
More than 300 cases of “honour based” crimes were recorded by the West Yorkshire Police forces from 2015 – 19, figuires obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveals.
Emily Dawson, a disclosure officer from West Yorkshire Police, said the primary aim is to prevent harm.
“Honour based” crimes are incidents which have been committed to wrongly protect the perceived honour of family and can include assaults; sexual assault; rape; forced marriage; female genital mutiliation; kidnap; false imprisonment and stalking.
“There is no honour in killing”
The FOI revealed 328 reported incidences of these crimes between 2015 and 2019, consisting of data from the West Yorkshire Police force. They included forced marriages and false imprisonment.
The highest number of recorded crimes were in 2017 with a score of 89, followed by 2018 and 2019 with a total of 82 incidents.
The year 2015 had the least reported crimes of 27 while 2016 had nearly doubled with a total of 48 incidents.
Alexandra Nejad, a business support worker from Karma Nirvana – a charity that supports victims of honour based abuse and forced marriage – said the data were not a true reflection of the crimes in the West Yorkshire district.
She said “many incidents are left unreported because the crimes are often committed by the victim’s relative’s. The number of only female genital mutilation (FGM) cases which are being reported have increased since the mandatory reporting act was introduced in 2015”.
“Education and awareness has increased and professionals are more aware of how to recognise signs which they can report”.
The increase of reported honour crimes follows the criminalisation of FGM in 2014, and forced marriages in 2015, which have lead to more awareness of honour based violence.
“Education and awareness have increased and professionals are more aware of how to recognise signs which they can report”, says Ferzana, however, the pandemic has made it challenging for victims to report or request support”.
Family honour is “an abstract concept involving perceived quality of worthiness and responsibility that affects the social standing and the self-evaluation of a group of related people”
For many immigrants, their honor was the fundamental principle they held close when migrating to a country where they knew no one. They placed each other’s needs above their own and remained committed and invested in the bestness of their families. Honour was the only way immigrant families could ensure the deep rooted values they held close were also kept within their children.However, while trying to ensure their culture and traditions were still rooted within their children, many immigrant parents did not realise the cultural clashes their children were struggling with.
“Izzat (honour) is something our parents always instilled in us. I honestly can’t remember a time where I didn’t hear the importance of our family honour. I grew up being told that family was the only thing we needed. The approval and support of our families would make us successful and take us far in life”, says Madiha Abid, from Bradford, “However, the western culture doesn’t hold the same importance to family as many other cultures do. While our parents were brought up with having very strong values for having a tight knit community, first and second generation immigrants like myself held different types of values and principles. Although, these slight differences between our parent’s and our generation were often seen as nothing for us, our parents didn’t see it that way”.
What are Honour Crimes?
“Honour” crimes are often committed within families or communities as a means to control behaviour. They are carried out to protect the cultural belief of family honour and those targeted women and girls who have been believed to have tarnished their family’s honour.
Ferzana Ahmed, a domestic abuse navigator for Halo Project charity, said, “the majority of honour killings were usually known to be committed in South Asain households, however, as the diversity of the communities is changing, it is difficult to give a clear indication whether this is still the case”.
“Honour crimes contain multiple illegal strategies to control a person’s behaviour, however, the number of Female Genital Mutilation cases which are being reported have increased since the mandatory reporting act was introduced in 2015”, continues Ahmed, “the police are now recording honour crimes, specifically and this maybe the reason that an increase is demonstrated, aslo, there is more awareness around the topic and support is accessed by victims due to which shows in the satistics”.
“Majority of the time, the honour of the family was the responsibility of the girls and women. It was like this unspoken and invisible pressure that just fell upon us as soon as we reached a certain age. ”, says Madiha Ghafoor.
The Story of Samia Shahid
On July 20, 2016, Samia Shahid, a 28 – year – old beautician originally from Bradford, was found dead in Punjab, Pakistan, six days after she arrived in the country.At first, it was reported that Samia had died from a heart attack but after a requested post-mortem examination, it was confirmed that there was foul play at hand .
Samia was described as “a jolly, bubbly person, always had a smile on her face”. She had attended Nab Wood school and worked in a variety of job roles before becoming a beautician.
In 2012, Samia married her cousin, Shakeel, in Pakistan, at the request of her family. In the documentary, “Murdered for Love?”, her friends told the BBC that Samia was unhappy with the wedding and only went along with it to please her dad as she was a “daddy’s girl”.
After returning to Bradford, in 2013, Samia had met and fallen in love with Syed Muktar Kazim, a Shiite Muslim from Dubai, and in 2014, obtained a divorce from Shakeel and married Kazim and moved to Dubai.
Her family did not approve of her second marriage and often said it was a “sham”, claiming she was still married to her cousin as a Shia cleric could not absolve a Sunni marriage. Her husband claimed that Sania was often threatened and harassed by her family over their relationship which was confirmed by the West Yorkshire Police force.
In July 2016, Samia had received the news that her father was critically ill in Pakistan, and against the advice of her husband, flew to visit her father.
Samia was found dead in her cousin’s, Shakeel, home on 20th July 2016, a day before she was due to return home to Dubai. Her family had claimed she had died from a heart attack and refused the news of Samia commiting suicide due to the stress and the resukt of depression over not having children.
Her husband, Sed Mukhtar Karim, believed that she was killed because they rejected her second marriage. His insistence resulted in an autopsy and forensic examination which revealed that she’d been raped and strangled.
Her former husband, Shakeel, was arrested for her murder, who then allegedly confessed to stranguling Samia. Her father, Mohammed Shahid, was also arrested on the suspicion of being an accessory to her murder. He was released on bail and had died in 2018.
As of 2020, the case against Shakeel is untried.
The Story of Shafilea Ahmed
On September 11, 2003, Shafilea Ahmed went missing and a week later was reported missing to the police by her teachers. However, in February 2004, her remains were found in the River Kent near Sedgewick, Cumbria. Due to the suspicion surrounding her disappearance, the police suspected her death was a result of “honour” killing.
Shafilea iftikar Ahmed was a 17 – year – old girl, born in Bradford and attended Great Sankey High School. Shafilea was the eldest daughter of Iftikar and Farzana Ahmed. She was described as being “bright and full of life” and had the desire to wear western clothes like her friends, and chose boyfriends, which her parents severely disapproved of.
Leading to her death, Shafilea was subjected to extreme violence for not obeying her parents. The violence escalated in the months before her death.
In early 2003, during a trip to Pakistan, Shafilea repeatedly refused a forced marriage to her cousin who was a decade her senior. The pressure of agreeing to the prospective marriage, resulted in an attempted suicide where Shafilea swallowed a bottle of bleach. Her parents, however, claimed that she had mistakenly drank the bleach during a power cut, thinking it was mouthwash. She had suffered extreme damage to her throat which she was having regular ongoing care during the time of her disappearance.
Returning from their trip, the violence heightened and she was often held down and beaten by both her parents. The months leading to her death were punctuated by household chores late at night before being allowed to do her schoolwork.
A week after her disappearance in September 2003, her teachers reported her missing to the police and a nationwide hunt was launched. However, detectives were convinced that Shafilea was murdered as she did not try to recieve treatment for her throat.
In Febraury 2004, Shafilea’s remains were found in the River Kent near Sedgewick. Police reported that the body was “deliberately hidden”. She was identified by a “gold zig zag bracelet and blue topaz ring found with the body”. Due to the decomposition of the body, the cause of death could not be determined. A requested second post mortem failed to determine anything as well.
Despite an intense investigation and multiple arrests, no lead were established towards her murder,
On 25th August 2010, Shafilea’s younger sister, Alesha, was arrested for arranged robbery and while in custody had told the police that her parents had killed Shafilea after Shafilea had refused to accept an arranged marriage.
On 7th September 2011, Shafilea’s parents, Iftikar and Farzana Ahmed were charged with her murder. They were both found guilty of murder and convicted to life imprisonment.
Support for Honour Crimes
The Halo Project charity provides support to victims of illegal cultural harms, these can be identified as;
- Forced marriages
- Honour-based abuse
- Female Genitial Mutilation
- Modern day slavery
- Human Trafficking
- Sexual exploitation
The free and confidential service is tailored to suit the needs of the individual and consists of;
- Culturally appropriated emotional support
- Practical support
- Advocacy services which include support to access legal service
- Referrals to emergency refuge
- Support to access DWP benefits counselling services, immigration advice and education and training providers
The specialist service is culturally appropriated to ensure the service needs are recognised when carrying out a risk assessment and putting a plan in place.
Call: 01642 683 045
Head office address: PO Box 4546
Middlesbrough, TS1 7HU
Charity number: 1159143