Suffering in silence

United Kingdom

Police fear victims of honour crime in Tayside may be suffering in silence because they can see no way of accessing help without bringing further shame on their families (writes Graham Huband).
The spotlight will be turned on the normally taboo subject of forced marriage and honour-based violence at a major conference organised by Tayside Police next month. The issue — which predominantly affects ethnic minority communities — is rarely spoken of in public, and police fear victims may never come forward because of a lack of support services that can guarantee their safety.

A number of high-profile cases of honour crime have been reported in England in recent months, but convictions in Scotland are few and far between.

However, in 2003 a Dundee case made national headlines when a respected former justice of the peace was sentenced to seven years in prison for attempting to hire a contract killer to murder the man who had secretly married his daughter.

Muslim Mohammed Arshad was devastated to discover his daughter Insha had married Abdullah Yasin, and he agreed to pay £1000 for a ‘hit’ to be carried out on his business analyst son-in-law. Fortunately, the hired gun Mr Arshad made contact with was an undercover police officer, and he was arrested before any violence occurred.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard Mr Arshad had been furious at the union because it was against Muslim custom, which preferred the eldest daughter in a family to be married first. He was convicted of incitement to murder and sentenced to seven years.

Mr Arshad later launched an unsuccessful appeal over the length of the sentence, but the strength of feeling about his conviction was laid bare when a 150-strong petition was placed before the Court of Criminal Appeal calling for a community service disposal for the former founder of Tayside Racial Equality Committee.

The petition stated Mr Arshad was a “very highly respected and honoured member of the communities.”

The Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence Conference — which will be held at Piperdam on October 23, and is supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland — aims to raise awareness of the issue in the public eye and bring together various agencies that collectively could help victims who come forward.

Detective Constable Jenny Valentine said reports to police of criminal activity leading from forced marriage and honour-based violence were rare in Tayside, but not unknown.

She said the force had been involved with three incidents recently in which women were dealing with a myriad of issues that had arisen after fleeing before or after a forced marriage. DC Valentine said honour-based violence predominantly affected women, but men could be victims, too, and the issue required to be addressed to protect the “fundamental human rights” of affected individuals.

She said much of the information relating to the subject remained anecdotal, and it was hoped the conference would help put the bigger picture together.

DC Valentine said, “Forced marriage is a form of honour-based violence in itself, and very often forced marriage is done along the lines of coercion initially, and physical threats of violence. Anecdotally, I am aware of several circumstances in the past few months within the Tayside Police area.”

She added, “We have had a number of crimes come to the attention of the police which have been related to the threat of honour-based violence or forced marriage.”

A total of 80 delegates representing the police, social work, education and heath sectors, victim support and ethnic minority groups are expected to attend the conference. Keynote speakers include Jasvinder Sanghera, of Karma Nirvana, who will give the victims perspective of honour abuse, Lynne Townley, of the Crown Prosecution Service, and a representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit.

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