FOZIA HANIF AND NAWAZ KHAN
Fozia and Nawaz are a married couple in grave danger of so-called ‘honour killing’ if returned to Pakistan. They face extreme violence from Fozia's faimly and community persecution because they have crossed the faith divide. yet UKBA is intent on deporting them.
Love across the faith divide
Fozia is a Syed Shia , Nawaz a Sunni. Well-established and successful in business, the professions, and politics across Pakistan, Syed are regarded as an elite caste. Syed girls are not allowed to marry outside the kinship
group, and certainly not to a Sunni.
In 2005 Fozia’s home town of Muzaffarabad was struck by an earthquake, in which 150,000 people, including 28 members of her extended family, were killed. Fozia was dug out of the debris. Nawaz was in one of the volunteer team rescue teams, working alongside the Red Cross and UNICEF. They fell in love across the religious divide. Their love match was furiously opposed by Fozia’s family, one of the most powerful Syed families in Muzaffarabad. If a suitable match of her own age cannot be arranged, a Syed girl is expected to remain unmarried or marry an already married or widowed man. For Fozia’s family , family honour counts for more than anything in the world. In 1992 her cousin, Rehana, was killed by her family, as was the outsider boy she eloped with, with the police watching .
Fozia is the first girl in her family to be allowed a university education. When she went to Islamabad University, she and Nawaz continued to meet. However, Fozia’s mother discovered their relationship and she was removed from the university, beaten, and locked up. Fozia was allowed to return only after promising never to see Nawaz again. A sympathetic cousin advised the couple that the only way to be together was to leave the country, and offered to help Fozia to apply for a student visa in return for money raised by selling a plot of land belonging to Nawaz.
Matters came to a head when Fozia was suddenly informed she was to be forced to marry a cousin, a widower with five children. Though desperately upset and resistant, Fozia’s pleas were ignored. When Nawaz’s family came to the house with a proposal of marriage on his behalf , they were insulted and physically driven away. When a date was announced for the marriage to the widower cousin, Fozia ,in front of her assembled family, declared her refusal to marry him, and was badly beaten. The next night , 10 March 2009, she fled, joining Nawaz in Lahore . Here she was hospitalised with the injuries inflicted by her family. Meanwhile the family informed the police that Nawaz had kidnapped her and bribed them to set off a full-scale search.
Forced to flee
The couple rented a small house in Kasoor, but became alarmed when Fozia was recognised by a driver working for her family’s nationwide coach business. Police searched neighbouring houses, and Nawaz’s younger brother and uncle were beaten up for information on where all Nawaz’s relatives lived. Their lives now in grave danger, the couple married on 8 April 2009 in Lahore, with Fozia making a public declaration that she married Nawaz of her own free will. Her cousin advanced the money for a student visa and air tickets to remove Fozia from danger , and she flew from Islamabad to Manchester, arriving on 10 April 2009. Here she began degree level studies.
Back in Pakistan, Fozia’s family, mad with rage, incited the police to issue a series of arrest warrants for Nawaz on charges of abduction. The final one meant that he could be shot on sight. At the same time Nawaz’s family, blaming him for the strife and humiliation they now faced, publicly disowned him. On 27 July 2009, in a barber’s shop, Nawaz was recognised by the husband of a cousin of Fozia’s and received head injuries in a violent attack . After hiding with a friend in Taliban country, and selling his plot of land to pay the helpful cousin, Nawaz obtained a visa as a student dependent of Fozia, and , now a wanted man, flew to Manchester on 25 February 2010. Reprisals against his family continued, including throwing acid in his sister’s face.
Fozia and Nawaz claimed asylum, on the advice of a doctor, on 17 August 2010. The following month the claim was dismissed by UKBA. The appeal process terminated in April 2012. In October 2012, Fozia and Nawaz prepared a fresh submission after Syed Imran Raza Rizvi Ex councillor of Chetamhill Manchester and advisor of Tony Blair community leader and former Manchester councillor , whom they had never met and knew nothing previously of Fozia and Nawaz, happened to visit Fozia’s home area, heard the story, and brought back a ‘wanted’ poster targeting Nawaz for the abduction of Fozia. The councillor’s evidence was backed by an up-to-date expert report on the grave risk faced by Pakistani couples defying family honour and making a ‘mixed’ i.e. interfaith, marriage. Before the new submission could be made Fozia and Nawaz were detained pending forcible deportation.
Dawn raid and detained
UKBA came to the house at 5.00 a.m., while the couple were sleeping. Fozia, who now suffers from acute anxiety and depression, was terrified to find UKBA officials round their bed. They were handcuffed and transported in a prison van to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre in Bedfordshire. Fozia suffers from a painful pelvic condition, as well as trauma-induced depression and self-harming. Detention prevented her from attending necessary medical and psychiatric appointments arranged in Manchester . In fact Fozia was denied medication for a month : her own medication was taken from her and, because her crutches were removed, she was unable to walk to the medical centre where medication is controlled and dispensed . For the same reason she was denied access to the dining room. The treatment the couple received from the SERCO staff running Yarl’s Wood was inhuman and degrading. Honest , truthful, human beings fleeing extreme danger and claiming protection under international law are treated like criminals.
Further submissions summarily rejected
While Fozia and Nawaz were in detention, UKBA received their new submission and summarily rejected it without the ‘anxious scrutiny’ required by law, dismissing the councillor’s independent evidence as ‘hearsay’. Under threat of judicial review, actioned by Bury Law Centre, UKBA agreed to reconsider the submission. The couple were released on bail and were returned to Manchester, where they await a further UKBA decision.
Over the last 12 months there have been multiple accounts of violence, acid attacks, and ‘honour killings’ in Pakistan inflicted by families on their own sons and daughters for defying family coercion and ‘disgracing’ them . There are cases of honour killings within police custody, or even in court with judges and police looking on. It is nonsense to speak of ‘sufficiency of state protection’ or ease of re-location. Wherever people go there is police registration and the police often act as instruments of family coercion against the victims. The cases reaching the newspapers are only a fraction of those taking place.
When UKBA tells Fozia and Nawaz ‘ there no reasons to believe you are going to be subjected to risk upon return to Pakistan’ it flies in the face of the reality everyone knows. They should be granted asylum on the grounds that in such cases Pakistani women are members of a persecuted social group within the meaning of the 1951 Refugee Convention, or granted humanitarian protection under the European Convention and the UK Human Rights Act on the grounds of high risk of serious or lethal harm if returned .
Drafted with Fozia and Nawaz by Wilfred Hammond, volunteer adviser at ‘Revive’ Salford.
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Theresa May, MP
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2. Write to your local MP
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Wilfred Hammond, volunteer adviser at ‘Revive’ Salford.And youth group salford
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