JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

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Zarina was born in Pakistan and came to the UK 23 years ago to join her husband, who already lived here. He was also her cousin. Zarina says there is a long tradition of marrying within the family.Recently the Evening Standard spoke to a forced marriage perpetrator (Pakistani mother) who has forced her daughter from the UK to Pakistani to marry a man against her will. Her daughter was put through mental and physical abuse. We assisted and supported the victim and changed the mind sets of the mother and father. The mother reflects back on what she did and thoroughly regrets her actions. The article is below and can be read here: CLICK HERE

A mother’s tale of regret: I feel devastated that I forced my daughter to marry for ‘honour’...nobody should do it

Tomorrow London hosts the world’s first Girl Summit, aimed at ending FGM and forced marriage. Rosamund Urwin hears one mother’s tale of regret, and of how she finally put her child first.

In 2006, Zarina* and her husband took their 16-year-old daughter to Pakistan. They told her they were going to visit their extended family; their daughter, who grew up in north London, had never been to her ancestral homeland, nor met her grandparents. But in reality, she was being taken there to marry her cousin, the son of Zarina’s brother.

“We fooled her,” Zarina admits. “We thought she should settle down. In the culture in this country, people inter-marry, and it’s quite open [whom you pick as a partner] — I wanted my daughter to escape that. We were worried that she would have boyfriends. So we decided that she should marry in the family, to keep the honour within the family, and to say that she couldn’t challenge us, that she must do what the elders are telling her.”

Zarina has never spoken about this before, and has asked for her identity to be disguised, because she fears reprisals from her community for speaking up. When we meet, she’s wearing the niqab in a colourful and intricate print. She speaks to me through a translator, as her English is limited, but there’s a word I keep hearing: “izzat”, which means “honour” in Urdu.

Zarina was born in Pakistan and came to the UK 23 years ago to join her husband, who already lived here. He was also her cousin. Zarina says there is a long tradition of marrying within the family.

“It’s been going on for centuries — and we didn’t want to break that,” she says. “Because there was a young boy in the family, we wanted to get her settled [married] with him, and then bring him back here. If she had married someone outside the family, there would have been a complete commotion — it would be like breaking the whole family structure.”

When her daughter discovered what was happening, she was devastated. “My daughter was crying constantly,” Zarina recalls. “She was very obstinate that she didn’t want to marry. She said she was brought up in the west and that she can’t marry a man she hasn’t seen, and even if she had seen him, she is not interested.” Her daughter also felt that their backgrounds were too different. “She felt it was a village culture there.”

Zarina admits she assaulted her daughter in order to force her to marry this man. The future in-laws were also physically abusive. “My daughter said this wasn’t her choice, but as soon as she said that we oppressed her by really hitting her and abusing her. We used violence against her, as well as emotional abuse, pressurising her — ‘You must do it’. Our aim was to get her married, come hell or high water. With all this force, the marriage went ahead.”

Zarina’s younger daughter had also travelled to Pakistan and was very disturbed by what was happening.

After the wedding, the family returned to London to make arrangements with immigration officials for the groom to come here. “When we got back, we told [our daughter] that she couldn’t have any friends. She should be isolated so she couldn’t talk or get support from anyone.”

Instead, Zarina’s daughter contacted the JAN Trust, a charity that has worked with immigrant communities for 25 years and campaigns to end forced marriage. “When she got back, she

was very upset and unhappy. But because she was brought up here, she found out through the internet how to get support.”

After the girl approached JAN, Sajda Mughal, the charity’s project director, contacted Zarina. Initially, Zarina was very angry: “We didn’t want anyone to know that this [forced marriage] took place. We were very unhappy about what she had done.”

But Zarina, who also came to the JAN centre, near Alexandra Palace, was eventually won round. The JAN Trust also enlisted the help of an imam, who talked to Zarina and her husband; it is rare for women to get the chance to have a one-on-one discussion with an imam. He explained that forced marriage had nothing to do with Islam, that Zarina and her husband were mistaking tradition for religion.

The discussions — with Zarina and her husband — lasted for more than eight months. Zarina recalls the imam telling her that “forced marriages ruin lives and generations — all on the basis of izzat” and that Mohammed had never said that parents should force their children into marriages: “I have now learned that the children come first, that their happiness comes first, rather than our own aims.” The imam also reinforced the charity’s message that their daughter needed to get a divorce — a “hulla” — and advised them on the steps that had to be taken.

Zarina says she was facing intense pressure from her family in Pakistan: “They said, ‘You have to take our son, he must go and live with you.’ It was a dishonour for them, because it’s a tight-knit community there. When you marry, everyone knows; when there’s a divorce, everyone knows. Everyone was asking them, ‘What happened? What happened?’ They thought it was a disgrace for them. It was all: honour, honour, honour.”

The marriage was eventually made void but, Zarina’s family have been cut off from the rest of their relatives: “The whole circle of the family — uncles, aunts, everybody — has discarded us. They won’t speak to us at all.”

However, their smaller family unit is content again. Zarina’s daughter is now 24 and has just finished studying law: “She’s not talking about marriage at the moment. She’s out of this world happy now.” Her younger sister is also studying, and is relieved that the same fate will not befall her.

Zarina is full of remorse for what happened. “I look back on this time, and I feel devastated that I did this for ‘honour’. I feel very guilty. Nobody should do it. The best thing we did was break  away from this forced marriage — everything else was wrong. Seeing my daughter happy is so wonderful.”

Her husband shares her feelings. “He has changed completely and he really regrets what he did too,” adds Zarina. “He feels like there is nobody above our children when he sees them happy. He says our children come first — before family and before honour.”

She admits, however, that they cannot tell people in their community what happened. “It would be very dangerous if the story got out. People would say, ‘She is divorced’. Our daughter could suffer more — perhaps our family could suffer honour-based violence from the community.”

She is full of praise for the “intense” support of the JAN Trust in combating forced marriage. “Laws have been passed but people are still doing it. We need organ-isations such as the JAN Trust to talk to younger generations and their parents to change mindsets. The way to resolve it is for parents to be educated, and for the younger generation to know their rights. JAN saved my daughter’s life.”

The charity opposed the crim-inalisation of forced marriage because its research suggested it would drive the problem further underground, with victims unwilling to see family members jailed. Does Zarina believe these women and girls would come forward, and risk seeing their parents prosecuted? “No, they would never come forward. No one will say, ‘I am going to be taken,’ because they won’t want their parents in prison.”

The JAN Trust is the only charity in the UK that works with perpetrators. Although men are also forced into marriage, the vast majority (around 90 per cent) of those who contact the JAN Trust are women.

Mughal says: “The only way of getting rid of this practice is to change those mindsets, otherwise we will be chasing our tail. We’d be supporting victims and looking after them, but continually having more victims — year on year, day by day. Why do these victims exist? Because of mindsets that need changing. It’s not going to happen overnight but it’s a drip, drip effect. Eventually we’ll get there.”

Zarina agrees: “The majority of people who carry out these practices are not educated about it. And they are very community-based — they don’t want to open the doors to anyone else. They don’t want to come out of that [way of thinking] — but we did.”

* Zarina’s name has been changed.

For more information about the JAN Trust’s work, go to jantrust.org

Why Donald Trump's Muslim Ban is Terrifying

On Friday 27th January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order which bans the citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from applying for a visa to enter the United States. The seven countries are: Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The worldwide reaction to this unprecedented policy has been shock and disbelief. Online, the hashtag #MuslimBan has been trending on Twitter, with celebrities, politicians, and citizens voicing their views.

The policy will last for 90 days only until a more permanent solution is imposed. No refugees can enter the US for 120 days and, most shockingly, Syrian refugees are blocked indefinitely from entering the US. The order also prevents those of dual nationality, whose second nationality is from one of the banned countries, from entering the United States.

Following enactment of the policy, Sally Yates, now former Deputy and Acting Attorney General, was dismissed by Trump for standing up against the immigration ban, as she highlighted the fact that the proposals were in fact illegal under international law which states “Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law.”

As a result, in airports across the US are in chaos with people who have landed and arrived from one of the affected countries detained for hours and airport staff unclear as to what they should actually do. On Saturday, 109 people across America were detained as they arrived in the US. This included a five-year old child arriving from Iran, and a woman from Iraq who had been granted a green card. Although the policy has been partly blocked by law, it will still go ahead. This will cause undue stress to families who are separated and to those hoping for refuge in the US. Due to mixed communication from the US government the order initially even stopped citizens of the United States who had a green card from entering the country and it is still unsure whether the policy applies to green card holders are now allowed to enter the US.

Tens of thousands of people are protesting at airports across the US and worldwide there has been widespread condemnation from prominent figures. Activist Malala Yousafzai has stated that she is “heartbroken” by the law and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has publicly criticised the policy, stating that the policy “flies in the face of the values of freedom and tolerance.”

London saw thousands of protesters voicing their concerns at a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street on Monday. Another protest in the UK is planned on the 18th of March, on UN Anti-Racism Day. If you would like to take part, visit this link. A petition that has already gathered over 1.5 million signatures calling for PM Theresa May to cancel President Trumps planned state visit has been circulated. Even former president Obama, in a move that is highly unusual for an ex-president to do, has spoken out against the measures.

When signing the order, Trump stated that “We don’t want them [radical Islamic terrorists] here.” And in a statement released later, he wrote “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting, this is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

However, this is stereotyping millions of people. We at JAN Trust condemn such a policy and hope that the will of the people can make President Trump change his mind. Our Prime Minister Teresa May must also make a stand against such a policy that fosters such hatred and islamophobia.

We need Britain to make a stronger stand to show that other nations will not accept turning away refugees and stigmatising Muslims. Many have been sharing statistics which show that an American is far more likely to be shot by another American than killed by Islamic terrorists. It is a racial and religious profiling that stereotypes all Muslims to be potentially dangerous.

This policy is divisive and terrifying. It will lead to more problems rather than less, and has already done so. There has already been a terrorist attack in Canada with the murder of 6 Musin a mosque. This is where the irony lies. More American citizens have died at the hands of other American citizens than from a foreign terrorist threat and a policy like will only create further divisions in the US along ethnic lines. The protest on the 18th of March will show that citizens are united against racism and islamophobia.
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