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The One Law for All

por beatriz j a, em 17.02.14






Last week I watched a Love Story[1].  A tear-jerking, heart-wrenching love story.  This Emmy award-winner featured Banaz Mahmod, a young woman whose tragic death should have shamed us all. 


Banaz was a young Kurdish woman who was murdered by her relatives in 2006.  She was then buried in a suitcase in a garden in Birmingham.  Her offence was to walk away from her violent husband and in doing so bringing “shame” on her family.  In this, Banaz is no different from thousands of other young women who have been murdered with impunity in the name of a culture of male honour. 


It wasn’t the violence Banaz was subjected to that most affected me while I watched this film – violence can, and does, happen everywhere.  Nor was it the vicious hatred of women, which I am unfortunately rather used to given my line of work.  What broke my heart was the simplicity of Banaz’s hope, and her belief that she would be protected because she believed that the police would come to her aid. 


They didn’t. 


In an interview with police officers in 2005, Banaz explained in detail what had been happening to her at the hands of her husband.  She explained what her marriage had been like:


He was thinking like, in 50 years back, he was a strict husband


Whenever he wanted to have sex, it was just his way, always his way


Whenever I said no, he wouldn’t take no for an answer, he would just start raping me and doing what he liked to do


I tried to stop him but he slapped me or hit me on the back or just pulled me by the hair


I just started to cover my body, hold on like that, that’s it, that’s when he said to me he would kill me if I said anything to anyone


I would get out of the bedroom, go to the bathroom, I cried a lot, but when I came out, he just acted like nothing happened – I was just 17 then


Some of the times it was in the living room that he raped me or in the bedroom


I didn’t know if this was normal, in my culture or here, I was only 17


I just let him do what he liked, whenever he raped me, it was like I was his shoe and he would wear it just whenever he felt like it


Ali had told me to, if anyone had seen me, just tell them that you fell in the bathroom


He made me believe that my family had loved him more than they loved me and if I ever told anyone, that he would kill me; that I’ve got no family around me and they are far away from me, so he could do anything with me, as he liked


On one occasion, we just had guests, and in my culture, women – when they’re married to their husbands – they’re not allowed to call them by their names so in front of the guests, I had called him by his name, so after the guests left, he told me that if I called him by his name the next time, even if there was a guest, he would stick a knife in me


 I tried to explain to him that we are living in Britain, in the UK


But Banaz was not living in Britain.  She was not welcome in Britain, because our despicable multiculturalism left her at the mercy of the people who wanted to kill her.  Caroline Goode, the detective in charge of the subsequent murder investigation, described how Banaz’s husband had admitted to her family that he did in fact beat her “because she is disrespectful, and I do force her to have sex but only when she says no”.  Goode reports “this is something that the family found acceptable, and sent her back to try harder”.


Banaz told police of her attempts to leave the marriage:


“I left him several times, I went back to my parents but because, for a Muslim female like me, it’s very hard to get a divorce, so I had to go back to him several times”.


Having finally gotten out, Banaz met Rahmat….. and she fell in love.  Then she noticed that she was being followed.  She told the police, who reassured her “if ever you’re worried, or afraid for your own safety, you must contact us straight away” .


What for?  Five times in all Banaz went to the police, and five times they let her down.


At Morden tube station in 2005, Banaz was seen kissing Rahmat and her fate was sealed.  The men of the family held a death-conference and the decision was made – Banaz must be killed.


The first attempt to end her life was on New Year ’s Eve 2005 in Wimbledon.  Banaz escaped on this occasion and collapsed, bleeding, on the floor of a local café, before being taken to hospital.  Here, she made a video in which she described what had taken place: “I drank something I had never drunk before.  He [her father] brought me a drink in a black bag.  I opened it and he told me ‘drink it slowly, slowly’.  The curtains were closed, it was very dark.  He went out of the room, then he came back in wearing Reebok trainers.  He was wearing gloves.  He told me to sit down because I will feel sleepy.  I sat down until he went to another room.  I looked to the back door and there was a key in it.  I removed the key and went in to the back garden”.




Again, she went to the police.   Diana Nammi, of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation explains how the police then turned up at her home to interview her, in front of her family. 


Banaz’s body was found in 2006 buried in a suitcase in a Birmingham garden.  Goode recounts that during the course of the investigation “not a single member of the Kurdish community helped us, there must have been dozens, if not hundreds, of people that knew what had happened to Banaz, we encountered quite a wide-scale of attempts at conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, young men who made false statements….  In involving themselves in it [the murder] that’s enhancing their own image in the community.  There were over 50 people involved, to some degree or another in that murder”.


This 20 year old woman had made extremely serious allegations about extremely serious crimes, but none of it was followed up.  That failure resulted in her brutal murder. 


Banaz is not a one-off - thousands of women and girls across the UK are mutilated, raped, beaten, enslaved, and forced in to “marriage”.  The bulk of this remains unpunished because of adherence to multiculturalism and a twisted fear of “racism”. 


 Nazir Afzal of the Crown Prosecution Service gave his opinion as to why we look away and allow appalling crimes against women to carry on without hindrance: “there are plenty of people around the country who tell me that they are actually wary of stepping in to this minefield, because they see it as a minefield, the moment that they start talking about this issue, they will be branded racists”.  As we know, criticism of cultural practices which happen to be attached, rightly or wrongly, to the religion of Islam, is particularly "racist".  In such cases, race, religion, and culture become one, and criticism of any of the three is deemed "racism" and thus unacceptable - even criminal.   


We have heard this now too many times.  We heard it with grooming gangs, we hear it with female genital mutilation, forced marriages – over and over again. But I am sympathetic; I completely understand why people are too frightened to touch this.  I was going to trawl the net and find examples of why we are so frightened, but thanks to Sean Thomas and his brilliant blog, I don’t have to.  I will steal it from him.[2]


“I mean, off the top of my head, I can only think of 52-year-old Keith Hurdle, just given four months in prison for a racist rant on a Tube train, and Swansea student Liam Stacey, who got 54 days in prison for some racist tweets, and 42-year-old Jacqueline Woodhouse, given 21 weeks for a racist rant on another train, and six Charlton fans, jailed for 18 months for singing racist songs, and 62-year-old David Rowley, locked up for eight months after sending four racist texts, and Anthony Buck given four months for posting Islamophobic remarks on Facebook, and electrician Darren Tosh, who got 16 weeks inside for some more racist texts, and Grimsby man Terence Baker, who got prison time for being Islamophobic on the Internet, and Glaswegian Stephen Birrell, who got eight months for inciting hatred of Catholics on Facebook, and Gareth Hemingway, of Bognor Regis, who got 15 months for uploading racist clips to Youtube, and 34-year-old Emma West, who spent two weeks in jail for shouting at some foreign people on a tram, and Martin Smith, slammed in a cell for having a potentially racist ringtone, and fortysomething Ronnie Hutton, who spent days behind bars after revving his car in a racist manner, and 19-year-old Celtic fan Sean Smith, who got three months in prison for impersonating a monkey in the direction of a Senegalese footballer.”


Just yesterday, we were provided with another example[3].  The Guardian’s feminist-in-chief, the appalling Laurie Penny - who demonstrates her anti-racist and anti-sexist cred through her pathological hatred of white men - enlightened us all as to who can and can’t criticise brutal misogynistic acts carried out in the name of Islam, and of course the hidden racist motivations of those of whom she does not approve. 


According to people like Penny, and the mindset they perpetuate, anyone who isn’t themselves a Muslim is not allowed to criticise anything remotely related to Islam, or defended in its name, because to do so would be “Islamophobic” and that is the same as racism and so if you criticise the ill-treatment of a person of a different race to yourself, you are a racist.  Being a racist, as we’ve seen, can land you in serious strife, so it is best to stay away, to err on the side of caution, and to maintain the status quo. 


If only Banaz had had a Muslim woman police officer to handle her case.  Or would it have had to have been an Iraqi Kurdish Muslim woman?  Could they come from different parts of Iraq?  Just how many community and cultural ties must they have had in order for the Muslim police officer’s intervention not to be Islamophobic? 


Penny states that those of us who criticise Islam don’t care about women, and given the twisted nature of this entire discourse, the hypocrisy of that does not even seem out of place. Of course the truth is that it is Penny and her ilk who don’t care about women; the continuation of FGM and forced marriage and all the rest of it is preferable to the horror of having white people (especially men) step in to prevent it. 


People who think like this ultimately seek a society that is divided along racial and religious lines.  They do not see the human being, they see a label.  They don’t see Banaz Mahmod as a woman, but as a “Muslim woman”.  To them, it isn’t whether Banaz’s life is saved that matters, but by whom. 


  At the foot of all of this lies an obsession with “equality” (with the notable exception of equality for all people before the law).  “Equality” however is somewhat ill-defined.  It is not about the equal rights and protections of the human being; instead “equality” means equality of beliefs and cultural values.  The result is that cultures in which women are treated as property (as a matter of state law) are equal to those in which we are not.  Cultures in which women are routinely beaten and abused in the name of honour are equal to those in which we are not. 


 Just as dangerous is the notion that Page 3 (say) is equally evil to the rape, mutilation and murder of little girls.  All are equal.  If you dare to suggest that murder, mutilation and rape might be worse than Page 3, then you are a racist.


What a mixed up world the likes of Laurie Penny live in.  It must be very confusing to try to be a feminist while failing to properly acknowledge and oppose the brutality that millions of women have to live with, to be anti-sexist while condemning half of humanity because of their gender, and to be anti-racist while propping up racial and cultural segregation.  I’m confused just writing about it.


I do hope Penny manages to see 'Banaz – A Love Story', after all she and her comrades were instrumental in its production. 


[1] Banaz – A Love Story








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