Remember Banaz

In 2006, 20-year-old Banaz Mahmod was killed in London on the orders of her father and uncle, after she left her husband. Her sister Payzee has shared this piece with us to mark Honour Based Abuse Memorial Day on Sunday 14 July.

My name is Payzee Mahmod. I am Banaz Mahmod’s younger sister. Banaz and I only have 16 months in our age difference, so it always felt like we were twins. We were always in sync. We liked the same things and just got along so well. When we were both married quite young, we decided the only way to stay very close together was to live together, even when we were both married. We took a two bedroom flat and everyday was just fun. Even though we did not enjoy being married, we had each other and that was all we needed.

Banaz was a very sweet girl, on the quiet side. She was a bit of an extrovert. She would laugh loud and find silly things funny – she was a bundle of joy. Always smiling. She was very mature; out of me and her I would be the one getting up to silly things and because she was always with me, she would usually get in trouble with me. She was always so supportive; she would always praise you for doing something good. I miss her so much. I miss swapping clothes with her and getting ready together, doing each other’s make up. She has left such a big hole in my life, and I will never forget her, her contagious smile.

Banaz told me every time she went to the police station. She would be so confident and hopeful in what she had done. I remember when she opened up to me about her husband being physically abusive to her, I went with her to our local Boots and we purchased a disposable camera and took photos of her injuries. She took those photos with her to the police station. They let her go home. She went even further and gave the police a list of names of the people she believed would take her life. I listen to my sister in that interview room and my heart breaks. How could anyone listen to someone who is so fearful and allow them to just walk out of that room?

I understand there was such a lack of knowledge on ‘honour’-based violence at the time, however Banaz made it very clear she feared for her life and went into excruciating detail about the abuse she suffered. This just makes me feel physically sick every time I think about it. I can’t move past it. I just keep thinking, ‘but how were all her cries just ignored?’

I am in no way taking any credit away from those who did fight for Banaz when she had already passed a tragic death. I will be forever grateful to those who have tried to keep Banaz’s memory alive and have fought to get her justice.

I truly hope no one else has to go through something so tragic, but I know it is happening all over the world. I would say if you find yourself in a situation like Banaz’s do not stay within it. I know that is harder said than done. Alert the police and stress the importance – I would like to say I truly hope that more police officers are trained to deal with victims of ‘honour’ better, and if they are not trained I would hope they do not allow anyone who says they are in danger to leave and go back in to the danger zone.

To domestic abuse professionals, or anyone who receives a disclosure of ‘honour’-based abuse I will say act! Act immediately. Victims of ‘honour’ do not have it easy asking for help, they are scared already and in a terrible situation. So if you come into contact with somebody asking for your help please help them, give them assistance in getting out and don’t waste any time.

And finally I would add, if you are within a community where ‘honour’-based crimes are committed, I urge you desperately to start the conversation around it and challenge this inhumane ideology. Educate the next generation, get involved in raising awareness and engage with authorities trying to put an end to this. Protect the victims, not the perpetrators.

If you’re experiencing or are at risk of forced marriage or ‘honour’-based abuse, you can call the Karma Nirvana helpline on 0800 5999 247 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri) or the Forced Marriage Unit: 0207 008 0151

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