I have RIGHTS
Newsletter of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation January 2011
UK. We also look forward at the remaining challenges for NGOs like IWKRO and for the government. This newsletter is also an opportunity to celebrate other good news for IKWRO and our partners. In 2010 we launched two new projects - The Training You Need and our I Have Rights campaign. We also generated new funds for advice work with a grant from the EC’s Daphne programme. In addition, last year IKWRO continued to expand our services, reaching more than 1,500 women and girls with confidential advice, emotional support, referrals, translation and advocacy. 504 of our clients required extensive casework and of these, more than 100 were at high risk of forced marriage or honour killing. Our support has enabled them to understand their rights and entitlements and to take control of their lives. Of course, there remains much to do. In 2011 we will step up the long term support we offer to clients, enabling them to develop new confidence and to become activists and change-makers. Working with sister organisations, we also want to help clients to gain new skills and improve their employment prospects. We also plan to step up our Stop Honour Killings campaign and in 2011 we will be calling for a crossgovernment Honour Based Violence Coordinator, who will work to improve the national response to honour based violence across all government departments and bodies. We look forward to working with you on this and other campaigns. Finally we would like to thank you for all the support you have given to IKWRO in the last year, and especially for supporting our justice for Banaz campaign. All the very best from us all, Diana Nammi, IKWRO Director.
Dear friends, We hope that you enjoyed the holidays and had a very happy Christmas and New Year. IKWRO is delighted to ring in 2011 with the first edition of our new quarterly newsletter, I have rights. With this newsletter we aim to increase awareness of IKWRO’s work and of the needs of our clients. Content has been written by IKWRO staff Fionnuala Murphy, Joanne Payton and me. In future, we will also welcome content from clients, volunteers and partners and we hope to translate future editions into the languages of the communities we work with. Each newsletter will highlight a topic that relates to IKWRO’s mission, and this edition focuses on our Justice for Banaz campaign. The campaign launched in 2006 after the killing of Banaz Mahmod, a 20 year old Iraqi Kurdish woman living in London who was murdered by her family after she fell in love with a man they did not approve of. In November the final two suspects in the murder, Mohammed Ali and Omar Hussain, were convicted and sentenced to over 20 years in prison. 24 January is the fifth anniversary of Banaz Mahmod’s death. We look back at how her murder changed attitudes to honour killing in the
I have RIGHTS newsletter, January 2011
Banaz Mahmod: five years on
Five years ago Banaz Mahmod had her whole life ahead of her. By the age of 20 she had already had the courage to leave a violent marriage and to start over again – something that was difficult in her conservative Kurdish family. She was in love with her boyfriend Rahmat Sulemani and looked forward to beginning a new life with him. Then her father and her uncle decided that she had to die. On 24 January 2006, Banaz Mahmod was raped, tortured and strangled with a shoelace in the sitting room of her parents’ house in Mitcham, South London. Three months later police discovered a suitcase containing Banaz’s naked body buried under a patio in Birmingham. Banaz Mahmod’s story is the story of countless women and girls who have become the victims of ‘honour’ killing. As in Banaz’s case their ‘crimes’ - having a boyfriend, refusing a forced marriage, wanting to make their own choices – are deemed to have brought shame on their families. Their families sanction the murder and then carry it out in cold blood, often with the support and collusion of the wider community. The UN estimates that there are 5000 such murders each year, although the real figure may be much higher. But Banaz Mahmod’s case is different from most ‘honour’ killings, because her killers have been punished. Unfortunately, while she was alive Banaz Mahmod did not get the help she needed from the police. Before her death she had approached them six times and had told them that her father was planning to kill her. She even handed in a letter naming those she believed would murder her. Sadly this didn’t save her life, but after her death Banaz’s letter did help police to bring those responsible to justice. Three men including her father and uncle were convicted of her murder in 2007, and two others who initially fled back to Iraqi Kurdistan, Mohammed Saleh Ali and Omar Hussain, were also sentenced to life in prison at the end of last year. They were the first suspects ever extradited to Britain from Iraq after a sustained campaign by IKWRO, and their conviction sent out the important message that the UK will hunt down and prosecute those who kill in the name of ‘honour’, even if they seek a safe haven overseas. But how widely, and how loudly, can this message really resonate? In many countries the perpetrators of honour killing have widespread public support. The police may refuse to investigate or charge suspects, and even when they do the judge will have his own ideas about what constitutes justice, rarely sentencing honour killers to more than a year or two in prison. Politicians can be part of the problem too, and in some countries they have voted in laws which exempt those who kill in the name of honour from punishment. Many offenders are sheltering in these countries and if the UK government is serious about bringing them to justice, then major diplomatic pressure will sometimes be needed. Problematically, the UK does not have extradition treaties with some of the countries where honour killing is most prevalent. British Pakistani Iqbal Zafar fled from London to Pakistan in 2001 after strangling his wife because she had insisted on a divorce. He cannot be returned to the UK to face justice because there is no extradition treaty between the Pakistani and British governments. Indeed, even in the Banaz Mahmod case the Crown Prosecution Service initially did not want to attempt extradition because they were unsure whether the extradition treaty between Britain and Iraq was valid.
I have RIGHTS newsletter, January 2011
Even within the UK there are major challenges in protecting women and holding offenders to account. The Home Office estimates that there is one honour killing here each month, but it is unclear where this figure comes from. Certainly, a much larger number of women and girls face honour based violence. From April to October 2009 police recorded 211 honour-related incidents in London alone, 129 of them criminal offences. On 24 January it is five years since Banaz was murdered, and as our interview with Caroline Goode shows, these years have brought significant progress. Banaz’s death highlighted police failures in recognising honour based violence and in responding appropriately, and an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found that the conduct of two officers was sufficiently poor to warrant a disciplinary hearing. Unfortunately, disciplinary proceedings were called off after one of the witnesses, Banaz’s boyfriend Rahmat Suleimani, decided not to testify. IKWRO strongly believed that the IPCC could have continued with the proceedings as there were several other witnesses, and we publicly challenged the IPCC on their decision. Unfortunately the IPCC would not reconsider and we were unable to apply for a judicial review of the decision. The IPCC did make a series of recommendations aimed at improving police practice on honour based violence. As a result the Metropolitan Police now have a number of officers who are working to improve the force’s ability to identify and respond to honour based violence. The Association of Chief Police Officers has an honour based violence strategy which identifies priorities including training, setting up a resource tool for officers and making honour based violence part of the performance management and inspection regimes of all police forces. Unfortunately though, there are still examples of bad practice. In November we took a client who was facing death threats to make a report at a police station in London. The first officer we saw had no understanding of honour based violence or of the risk posed to the woman by her family and our advisor had to fight to get him to take the complaint seriously. Had the advisor not been there the client probably would have given up. During the summer we worked with a woman who had gone to the police when her husband threatened to throw acid on her. The officers she reported these threats to went directly to her husband, in breach of the guidelines. He naturally denied his wife’s claims, and before they’d even taken our client’s statement the police had already decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed. These examples – like Banaz’s murder - illustrate why it is absolutely vital that all Police Officers receive honour based violence training, especially those who have contact with the public. Police must be able to spot honour based violence, and must know what they should and shouldn’t do in order to protect victims and prevent crimes before they happen. These examples also suggest that existing laws and policies may not be adequate for dealing with cases of honour based violence. It may be necessary for parliament to enact specific legislation on honour based violence, as it has already done for other areas such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Of course the problem doesn’t end with the police or parliamentarians. Social workers, doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers, the UK Borders Agency, refuge staff and all others who come into contact with potential victims of honour based violence need to know how to identify cases of honour based violence and what they can help. IKWRO provides training to many of these bodies, but we can’t reach them all ourselves and the government needs to address the knowledge gap. IKWRO is calling for the Home Office to install a crossgovernment Honour Based Violence Coordinator who could oversee training for government agencies and could help to build awareness and activism against HBV at community level. A coordinator could also reconvene the national HBV forum, which is an important space to ensure that all government departments are playing their part and that existing mechanisms for dealing with violence against women, such as multiagency risk assessment conference, to ensure that they are appropriate for dealing with cases of honour based violence.
I have RIGHTS newsletter, January 2011
The UK’s response also shouldn’t end at the UK border. Our government is a major player in the global aid architecture and in international institutions such as the UN. It should use its influence to challenge attitudes to honour killing and to improve women’s access to justice. The UK can take the lead by allocating part of its overseas aid to projects which protect women at risk of honour killing, wherever they are in the world. Finally, what is really vital is to ensure that government spending cuts do not undermine efforts to tackle honour based violence. Progress has been made since January 2006, but there is more to do. The government must ensure that they have the resources, the staff and the will to prevent honour killing, protect all women and girls at risk and bring perpetrators to justice. Banaz Mahmod’s death was a tragedy and it should never have happened, but it taught us many lessons. Now, five years on, we must not forget them.
Joanne Payton, IKWRO’s Information and Research Officer, recently began a PHD at Cardiff University. Joanne’s research looks at the experiences and family circumstances of HBV survivors from Soraani-Kurdish backgrounds, and examines the strengths and weakness of the policies and procedures in place in the UK from the perspective of professionals working on HBV. As part of her research, Joanne will interview IKWRO staff and service users over the coming months. In the longer term she will talk to a wider range of stakeholders including other SoraaniKurdish speaking women, policy makers, police, social workers, staff from NGOs and other professionals working in agencies which provide services to victims of honour based violence. Also, if you would like to read more about the Banaz Mahmod case and IKWRO’s work, Joanne has also written ‘Collective Crimes, Collective Victims: A Case Study into the Murder of Banaz Mahmod’. The article is published in ‘Honour, Violence, Women and Islam’ (Idriss and Abbas).
Asylum Aid report exposes UKBA failures in processing of women’s asylum applications Asylum Aid’s latest report, entitled Unsustainable, has found that women are too often refused asylum on grounds that are arbitrary, subjective and demonstrate limited awareness of the UK's legal obligations under the Refugee Convention. The research examined 45 cases and found that 50 per cent of the UKBA's decisions were overturned when subjected to independent scrutiny in the immigration tribunal. New study into honour based violence in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdish diaspora in the UK November 25 – the International Day for the elimination of violence against women and girls saw the launch of new research into ‘honour’ based violence in Iraqi Kurdistan and among the Kurdish diaspora in the UK. The study by Bristol and Roehampton Universities, calls on the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and the UK Government to urgently address HBV against women and girls in Kurdish communities.
Announcing the True Honour Awards!
Do you know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the fight against ‘honour killing? In 2011, IKWRO will grant two awards in recognition of the hard work and dedication of individuals and organisations who are working to prevent honour based violence in the UK. We will launch a call for nominations early in the New Year, and will host a gala awards ceremony to showcase the winners in June. Can you help to fund the awards? IKWRO urgently needs funds for the True Honour Awards to help ensure that they are as big a success as possible. If you can help us by making a donation please email email@example.com. More information on nominations and donating will be posted on our website www.ikwro.org.uk in late January.
I have RIGHTS newsletter, January 2011
Leading the Way
Diana Nammi and Fionnuala Murphy in an interview with DCI Caroline Goode When Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode received a phone call about a missing woman in January 2006 she had no idea that she was about to embark on a life-changing investigation that would last almost five years and would take her all the way to Iraq. Caroline Goode is the hard working, committed and decisive woman who led the Met investigation into the ‘honour’ killing of Banaz Mahmod. In November, Mohammed Saleh Ali and Omar Hussain were sentenced to life for Banaz’s murder at the Old Bailey. Three other men including Banaz’s father and uncle were convicted in 2007, all under DCI Goode’s leadership. ‘Banaz Mahmod’s murder was just about as dishonourable as anything could be’ she says when asked to describe what happened to Banaz Mahmod. ‘It was the ultimate betrayal. Banaz was a totally innocent person who was killed by the very people who should have been protecting and caring for her. I can’t think of anything less worthy of the title honour than that’. As DCI Goode admits, like many Police Officers she knew very little about ‘honour’ killing before she was put in charge of investigating Banaz’s disappearance. ‘I had to gain a massive amount of cultural knowledge incredibly quickly. As often happens in cases of honour based violence the family were saying “we’re not that kind of people, we’re very liberal”, and I had to balance not wanting to stereotype them and wanting to find out what had happened to Banaz. It was very challenging. I was trying to get my head around a completely different mindset, and nothing I’d learnt in my thirty years as a police officer was in any way useful to me.’ After Banaz Mahmod’s disappearance DCI Goode and her team found themselves up against a tightknit community which was willing to cover up for Banaz’s murderers. Determined to find a focus for their investigation they searched 47 addresses, seized thousands of exhibits and arrested 30 people. Among them was Mohammad Hama, who had been named by Banaz in a letter she gave to police before her death. When questioned, Hama persistently denied any involvement in Banaz’s disappearance but DCI Goode was not convinced. She charged him with Banaz’s murder and he was remanded in custody. In prison, while unaware that police were listening to his conversations, he boasted of raping and strangling Banaz. Her body, he revealed, was buried inside a suitcase in a back garden. A complicated operation followed. DCI Goode’s team analysed mobile phone records and learnt that Hama and his accomplices had been to Birmingham around the time that Banaz went missing. They knew certain details about the garden where she was buried, but still it was impossible to find. Then Hama threw them a lifeline – he was overheard saying that there was a freezer in the garden. This made it much easier to find and on 28 April 2006 police discovered Banaz’s body in Handsworth. ‘There was a mass of dandelions growing around where she was buried’ DCI Goode says. Her tone is one of sadness, like a caring friend. ‘Every time I see dandelions I think of her. It was a very poignant day.’ Mahmod and Ari Mahmod - Banaz’s father and uncle - were charged soon after her body was found. During a ‘massively complex’ four month trial they used every tactic they could to avoid conviction, and on top of this PC Angela Cornes, an officer who had dismissed Banaz as an attention seeker when she contacted police for help, gave evidence that she did not believe Banaz was a truthful person. Nonetheless DCI Goode’s hard work paid off and they, alongside Hama, were convicted and sentenced to life on 11 June 2007. ‘Convicting the Mahmods was an enormous relief, but it was only half the job. Mohammad Ali and Omar Hussain had fled back to Iraq soon after
I have RIGHTS newsletter, January 2011
Banaz’s murder and I worked with DCI Brent Hyatt who had worked on the Heshu Yunes case to extradite them. Ali was arrested after a road accident, and women’s rights organisations in Iraq campaigned to keep him in custody. His extradition would never have been possible without them. Those women came to meet me when I arrived in Iraq for the extradition hearing, and it was extremely humbling. They’ve shown enormous bravery. One said to me that she couldn’t believe I would go to all this effort for one Iraqi woman. I found that so shocking – I would do this for any murdered woman. When they were extradited it was a personal triumph, especially when everyone had said it wasn’t possible.’
‘Of course there’s always more to do’ she adds. ‘We don’t want to lose the momentum that’s been created. The Met has a new lead on honour based violence and we’re working with the Association of Chief Police Officers on ways forward. One of the most important things is making sure we’ve got the true intelligence picture, by way of strong recording systems. We want to see more training too, and a 24 hour information base to guide officers in dealing with cases of honour based violence.’ ‘Is there anything else you want to say?’ we ask DCI Goode at the end of the interview. She pauses a moment, then answers with the same candidness she’s shown throughout the whole interview and with a determination that belies her wholehearted commitment to reaching other women like Banaz. ‘To girls or women at risk, I want to say get in touch with the police or a women’s rights organisation because we do have the knowledge, the skills and the willingness to understand what you’re saying. We will take you seriously, we will keep you safe and we will investigate any allegation relating to honour based violence. But we can’t do that unless you trust us and tell us what’s going on’.
Mohammed Saleh Ali arrives in the UK, with DCI Goode (right)
DCI Goode believes that Banaz’s murder, and vitally the conviction of her killers, has been an enormous catalyst for change. ‘It’s ironic,’ she says. ‘Banaz’s family wanted to wipe her name off the face of the earth but instead her name has become a beacon of hope for people all over the world. Through her death Banaz has done a lot of good for a lot of people.’ Banaz’s death has certainly brought changes to how UK police respond to honour based violence. ‘There has been a huge increase in training on honour based violence in order to raise awareness’ DCI Goode explains. ‘I’m one of a core group of officers who have built up expertise and are there to help and support local teams. We’ve even been overseas - to Sweden and the US amongst others – to train Police there. And we’re doing more multiagency work, helping social services and health and education partners to improve their response.’
Do you want to strengthen your approach to honour based violence? IKWRO has been working with women and girls affected by honour based violence since 2002 and our staff members have strong expertise in this area. We regularly advise police, social workers, teachers and voluntary sector providers on how to deal with cases of honour based violence. We can provide tailored training sessions to all frontline professionals who may come into contact with victims of honour based violence, forced marriage, FGM and other issues. We also offer training sessions to groups of women and to women’s organisations. If you would like to find out more about what’s on offer, please email our Training Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have RIGHTS newsletter, January 2011
In the second half of 2010 IKWRO obtained funding for two new projects, each with a full time staff member. The first, The Training You Need, is funded by Comic Relief and will deliver training to agencies working with minority ethnic and refugee women. Service providers will gain a better understanding of the needs of women who have faced domestic violence, “honour” based violence, forced marriage or FGM. The project also includes a training and development programme for minority ethnic and refugee women, particularly those who have experienced violence, to build their awareness of their rights in the UK. In the long term this programme aims to increase women’s access to services, to strengthen their voice in speaking out against violence and to help them learn new skills. We have already led training sessions for professionals in many London boroughs and training at our office for Farsi speaking women, and soon hope to expand the service to reach Kurdish speakers. Our second project, I Have Rights, is a campaign aimed at improving the national response to ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage, FGM and domestic violence. The campaign will focus on improving government policy, law and practice in these areas, by targeting government stakeholders and mobilising the public. The campaign links closely with our advice, outreach and training programmes and is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn foundation. Our main focus for 2011 is to push for a cross government Honour Based Violence Coordinator to lead UK government efforts in this field. In November, the EC’s Daphne Programme announced plans to fund an international project between IKWRO, the Refugee Women’s Association and the German-Turkish Women’s Organisation, offering advice and counselling to Middle Eastern women living in the UK and Germany. We hope to recruit new staff and launch the project in early 2011. In addition, almost £30,000 of funding which goes towards our advice team through the Women Together Against Abuse project was saved after campaigning by IKWRO and other organisations persuaded London Councils not to cut funds to violence against women services. London Councils had initially threatened to cut our grant as part of their ongoing review, with changes effective from March. Funding will run until the end of 2012, as planned. While IKWRO’s funding has so far been protected from the cuts, we are aware that many of our partner organisations are suffering, as will our clients as successive cuts to benefits and other state support are introduced. We are continuing to engage with dialogue and campaigning around the impact of the cuts on women, and are currently preparing a submission into the government’s consultation on cuts to of legal aid. Upcoming events in 2011 IKWRO AGM: January 26, 6-8pm IKWRO’s AGM is open to service users, supporters, colleagues in other organisations and all other stakeholders. It’s an opportunity to look back at progress made in 2010, to shape our strategy for future activities and to learn more about our work and how you can become more involved in it. Location: IKWRO offices, London RSVP: email@example.com International Women’s Day: March 8 Keep an eye out for upcoming training events in Kurdish and Farsi as well as other activities.
I have RIGHTS newsletter, January 2011
International news - Sakineh’s ‘confession’ only implicates Iran
Women’s rights activists across the world were bitterly disappointed last month when Sakineh Ashtiani Mohammedi, the woman until recently facing stoning to death in the Islamic Republic of Iran, was taken back to her home in order to film a ‘confession’. The filming took place during a judicial review of her case, showing the complete contempt for due process of law that is characteristic of Iran’s attitude to justice for women. Sakineh, her son, and her lawyer have been imprisoned in Evin, an institution renowned for torture and abuse of prisoners. Sakineh has been imprisoned for abetting the murder of her husband, and her son and her lawyer for their attempts to save her from stoning and for showing Iran’s shame to the world. Her son, who prior to his imprisonment campaigned tirelessly and courageously for her release, was previously forced to witness Iranian ‘justice’ at just 17 when he was made to watch her receiving 99 lashes for adultery. An adultery conviction requires no proof in Iranian law - under Article 105, judges are permitted to base their decision on ‘intuition.’ Iran’s charges against Sakineh are confused. Having already been punished for adultery in 2006, this year her case was reopened and she faced stoning for the very same offence. International outcry led to the sentence being abandoned, but Iran then stated that her crime was murder - despite having already convicted a man for the murder. Interestingly, if Iran’s claims that Sakineh had a relationship with this man and conspired with him to murder her husband, then logically he would be equally guilty of adultery. Yet ironically he is now free. Iran has no policy or resources for women suffering domestic violence, despite 60% of Iranian women reporting marital abuse. The Iranian government refuses to provide assistance to abused women on the grounds that it is against Islam for women to leave the home without their husband’s permission. In fact a woman cannot even seek medical attention for her injuries without her husband’s permission, which is unlikely if he has caused them himself. Rape in marriage is not illegal, few women can obtain divorces financially, and those who do lose custody of their children and are normally unable to support themselves. Meanwhile, men kill their wives, daughters and sisters with impunity. Iran may be able to torture ‘confessions’ out of vulnerable women like Sakineh, to use the threat of torturing their children against them, to imprison and execute political prisoners, and to lock up and torture lawyers who care about human rights. But despite all of this, it can never hide its own guilt, corruption and misogyny.
Can you help with our newsletter? We are looking for volunteers to help translate our quarterly newsletter into Farsi, Dari, Kurdish and Arabic. If you can help us please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also interested to hear from you if you have comments or suggestions about this newsletter or would like to write an article for future editions. Contacting IKWRO: You can contact IKWRO by telephone from 9.30 to 5.30 Monday to Friday on 0207 020 6460. If you want to contact us out of hours please call the following numbers: 07846 310157 (for assistance in Farsi or Dari) 07846 275246 (for assistance in Kurdish or Arabic) Find out more on www.ikwro.org.uk or www.stophonourkillings.com, and follow us on facebook and twitter.
I have RIGHTS newsletter, January 2011