We are delighted to announce the nominees and winners of the True Honour Awards 2015.
On behalf of IKWRO and all of the judges we’d like to congratulate every nominee for their crucial work to end “honour” based violence and support survivors. Every one deserves recognition and praise.
Afsaneh is a 21-year-old Iranian woman, now living in Turkey. When she was 15, growing up in Iran, her family put pressure on her to marry her cousin. She refused and threatened suicide. When she was 18 years old she fell in love. When her family found out they banned her from leaving the house and forbid her from taking the entrance exam for university. Afsaneh ran away and says “it was a huge shock to me when my father threatened to kill me. I had heard about other Iranian girls being murdered for “honour” but I never believed until then that own father would want to kill me.” Afsaneh escaped from Iran and has been accepted as a Refugee. She has now started to write a book about “honour” killing in the Middle East. Afsaneh says she is doing this “in the hope that it may help stop this cruelty. Knowledge is all that we have to fight fanaticism.”
Ano came to England in 1985 and qualified as a lawyer in 1996. Born and raised as a Hindu in Malaysia, she has actively fought against injustices faced by poor Indians there ever since. In 2007, she lobbied at the Houses of Parliament and number 10 Downing Street for the release of five Hindraf Leaders who were unlawfully detained for speaking out for the voiceless.
As the Executive of the Hindu Council UK, she campaigned for justice for victims of genocide in the latest Sri Lankan civil war and as an advisory council member of her local Hindu temple, Ano organised prayers for the innocent who had lost their lives.
Ano has fought sexual violence against women internationally. She successfully lobbied the Indian government to enforce strong rape laws to deter and bring perpetrators to justice and gave a press statement at a candle vigil for the Damimi gang rape case. Recently, she submitted written representations to the UK’s Home Secretary on the unlawful detention of Ghonche Ghavami, a British law student in Tehran.
Ano joined the Council of Asian People of Haringey‘s Charity Management Committee two years ago. The charity has been instrumental in initiating and supporting the elderly and most vulnerable members of the society in the borough.
Constable David Bowers, Detective Constable Mark Larson & the Criminal Investigation Department team at Heathrow Police station
Both Detective Constable David Bowers and Detective Constable Mark Larson are based at Heathrow Police Station, working within the Criminal Investigation Department. The department deals with most criminal matters that take place at Heathrow Airport, along with management of welfare and safeguarding risks concerning vulnerable adults linked to Domestic Violence, Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage and “Honour” Based Violence. Working with the UK Border Force officers and specialist outside agencies, they assist with early intervention measures to discreetly and safely move vulnerable persons through the airport environment to prevent risk and offences. Recently their exemplary work helped to ensure that a woman being supported by IKWRO was saved from forced marriage and rape.
Soraya has been working with girls and young women at Highbury Fields School for the past 15 years, firstly as a Learning Mentor, and then as a Child Protection Officer. She has always been an ambassador for fairness and justice for all. When at school herself, a teacher comment in her report read ‘Soraya is often in trouble, for sticking up and fighting for others.’
During her work at Highbury Fields School, Soraya has worked with the diverse community that she lives in and has gained a great understanding of cultural and religious issues. Through her training and personal experiences Soraya has been enabled to identify and support those at risk and share good practice with staff at Highbury Fields and other professionals, including statutory services.
When Soraya’s students were asked what should be written about her, they said ‘we feel love and care from her, real talk’.
Polly Harrar is the founder of The Sharan Project, a UK based charity, providing support for women who have been disowned. Polly set up the charity in 2008 to highlight the issues faced by women who have fled “honour” based abuse.
Having been disowned at the age of 17, due to “honour” related abuse, Polly has been supporting women for over 20 year. Her work has involved managing complex cases, including coordinating rescues, overseas tracking and safeguarding, reuniting women with their children, delivering campaigns and influencing policies. Polly has seen over 500 women through the transition to independence and integration. She is committed to ensuring all the women she works with are empowered to take control of their lives. There have been over half a million visits the website.
As an advocate for change, Polly can often be heard speaking out about issues such as forced marriage, dowry related violence, child sexual exploitation, grooming, cultural conflict and other topics that can affect an increase in “honour” based abuse. In 2013 Polly was highly commended at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards for her social and humanitarian work and named in the Independent on Sunday’s 100 Happy List of people who make Britain a happier place to live.
Bal Kaur Howard
Bal has been employed by Suffolk Constabulary since March 2009 in their Domestic Abuse Unit as Project & Performance Officer for “Honour” Based Violence (Forced Marriage, Female Genital Mutilation) and Communities. She delivers training within in the organisation and to partner agencies, such as health, education, social care and the voluntary sector.
Bal advocates for victims and survivors, being a voice for those who experience crimes rooted in the name of “honour”, giving practical and emotional support and participating in girls/women’s survivors groups.
Bal was born in India and was brought to Britain aged one. She was forced into marriage at the age of 17 in Darlington and forced to sponsor her husband for permanent residency in the UK. Bal went back to education at the age of 26 after escaping from her forced marriage and subsequently has been disowned by her family for over 17 years. She now has two Diplomas. Bal has volunteered at Karma Nirvana and her experience is featured in Jasvinder Sanghera’s second book “Daughters of Shame”.
Bal is keen to share her experiences to raise awareness, to reduce the isolation of victims and to increase reporting. In Bal’s words “I refuse to take my past into the future and regard myself to be an empowered survivor”.
In 2014 Habiba founded Aurat Supporting Women, a West Midlands based organisation which supports victims of cultural based abuse and exploitation and believes that all women should be treated with respect and dignity and that they have the right to stand equal in today’s society.
Through Aurat, Habiba supports women around issues that are taboo within some communities, understanding the pressures and stigma that can be attached if they go against cultural beliefs and values. She supports women facing domestic violence, forced marriage, “honour” based violence, female genital mutilation, and sexual abuse. Through Aurat Habiba also supports LGBTI women and vulnerable women with mental health difficulties. Aurat has a helpline, provides support on a one-to-one basis and also sign posts women to relevant organisations that can give them the help and advice they need.
Habiba recently undertook research on “Unregistered Marriages in the West Midlands” investigating whether these women know their legal rights in the UK, which was presented to the House of Lords on 10th Dec 14. Habiba will continue to support women by doing research on these issues to better inform policy makers.
Liz Jones MBE
Liz Jones is a Domestic and Sexual Abuse Coordinator in Oxford. She is also a facilitator for a community-based programme, which works with men who perpetrate domestic abuse. In addition Liz is a volunteer and Vice Chair of Circles South East, a charity that supports sex offenders to reintegrate into society and reduce the likelihood of re-offending. Liz works in partnership in her local region to improve the understanding, support and response to people affected by “honour” based violence in all its forms.
Meena Kumari is the founder and director of H.O.P.E. Training & Consultancy (Helping Other People Everyday), a specialist BME training company, started in 2007 which provides support and training in tackling Forced Marriages and “honour” based violence.
Meena is a graduate from Aston University. She has spent years training staff in the domestic abuse sector on the practical aspects of helping victims, the signs to look for and where appropriate, to signpost to. In 2008 Meena, with partners, set up a national conference in Leicester, attended by over 200 delegates, where survivors had the opportunity to share their harrowing stories. It was at this conference that Forced Marriage Protection Orders were launched.
Meena continues to work on the front line with victims, as the Service Manager of the SAFE project, a domestic abuse service. She oversees the IDVA service, outreach, a domestic abuse helpline and refuges (three for women and one for men) with a team of twenty-two people. She also works very closely with the domestic abuse unit based within Leicestershire police and provides support to other colleagues in Forced Marriage & “honour” based violence cases.
Rachel Lau & Tom Nunn
Rachel Lau is a senior caseworker at Wilson Solicitors LLP. She obtained her first degree in German and History and then she obtained a PhD in law from the University of Birmingham in 2014, exploring gender violence and refugee status. While at the University of Birmingham, Rachel also lectured in law. She also previously worked for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
Rachel joined the immigration department of Wilson Solicitors LLP in April 2014. She is committed to helping those who have suffered harm and persecution specifically because of their gender and specialises in asylum cases involving domestic violence and so called honour crimes.
Rachel has worked closely with IKWRO on a number of cases including asylum and applications for indefinite leave to remain under the domestic violence concession and has successfully represented women from Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.
Tom Nunn is a senior immigration caseworker and trainee solicitor at Wilson Solicitors LLP. He joined the firm in January 2013 having previously worked for Bail for Immigration Detainees and a number of charities in Cambodia working to prevent human trafficking. Since joining the firm, he has successfully represented clients from a range of countries helping with their asylum and/or personal immigration issues.
Tom was approached by IKWRO early on in his career at Wilsons and has since forged a strong relationship between the two organisations, both taking on cases himself and referring cases to colleagues. He has helped a number of women to gain legal status in the UK in order to protect them from returning to countries were they would be likely to face “honour” based violence and other gender based discrimination.
Oluwakemi Odujinrin is both a qualified teacher and social worker. She is currently working as a social worker with the London Borough of Enfield. A recent case led her to research “honour” based violence and she concluded that the family could be at risk of significant harm if drastic action was not taken. So she worked quickly and did everything that she could to ensure they were moved to a safe place. The mother and children are now secure and happy. Aware that “honour” based violence does not only affect women but also men, she is a strong supporter of services coming together to ensure that any victim of “honour” based violence, no matter what their economic status, gets the support that they need.
The True Honour Awards Judges selected four outstanding nominees as Winners of Awards of Special Recognition.
Winner of Special Recognition of a Professional Working to End “Honour” Based Violence.
As a solicitor with Dawson Cornwell’s Cross Border and Public Children Law team, Sulema undertakes all aspects of domestic and international family law, specialising in children and women’s rights, child abduction, child custody, forced marriages, abandoned spouses and “honour” based violence. She has a law degree from Cambridge, where she was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship and the Becker (Law) Scholarship. Sulema is a founding member of the British Pakistan Lawyers Association.
Sulema is also an Advocate of the High Courts in Pakistan, and a member of the Punjab Bar Council. Until 2012, she was a partner at the leading human rights law firm in Pakistan, appearing on numerous custody and guardianship cases as well as representing many women and children in prison pro bono and helping to prepare reports on prisons.
Sulema was editor of an annual publication on Violence Against Women in Pakistan in 2010 and 2011 which was shared with parliamentarians and law enforcement agencies and in 2011 she helped the Supreme Bar Court Association organise South Asian conference for 1200 lawyers.
Sulema has assisted in drafting legislation for the Pakistan government, including the Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 and two bills which have not yet been passed; a Bill on the prevention of domestic violence and the Acid and Burn Crimes Bill.
Winner of Special Recognition for Work to End Female Genital Mutilation
As an Anti FGM Campaigner and Community Activist, Alimatu works with organisations such as the Home Office, Met Police, NHS, NSPCC and third sector agencies to safeguard women and girls at risk from FGM.
As a Keynote Speaker at first Girl Summit 2014, hosted by the Prime Minister David Cameron and UNICEF, Alimatu joined world leaders in calling for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation/cutting and child early forced marriage in this generation.
Being very determined to end FGM in this generation, Alimatu recently founded a community action group, ProjectACEi which advocates against the practice of FGM in the UK and overseas through education and training programs.
Winner of Special Recognition for International Work to End “Honour” Based Violence
Sara Mohammad, was born in southern Iraqi Kurdistan and is a Swedish-Kurdish human rights activist, who in 2001 founded the organization GAPF – which in English stands for Never Forget Pela and Fadime – two women murdered in “honour” killings. Sara has focused her activity on the struggle against “honour” based culture, violence and oppression as well as child and forced marriages. Sara has saved several hundred of young people from a life of misery and has personally taken in young people, who have been abducted abroad.
She also has personal experiences of “honour” based violence. When she was 17 years old, she ran away from home to go underground after she was beaten and her life was threatened by her brother who held a Kalashnikov to her head. He wanted to force her to marry an older man who she had never met before. She fled on her wedding day.
Sara Mohammad has won several prizes and awards in Sweden, for her work and is a sought-after debater and lecturer. She has influenced Swedish politicians to put the issue of “honour” based violence on the political agenda and the prime minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven, spoke at Fadime’s Memory Gala, in Stockholm on 17th January 2015.
Winner of Special Recognition for Lifetime Activism to End “Honour” Based Violence
Sawsan was an active member of a leading women’s rights organisation, Independent Women Organisation (IWO) before leaving Iraqi Kurdistan in 1994. In 1999, she established the Kurdistan Refugee Women’s Organisation (now KMEWO) in the UK. In 2002, she launched an international campaign against “honour” killing, working with other Kurdish women across Europe.
Through years of service provision, campaigning, information sharing, regularly contributing to Al-Nisa magazine in English and Arabic and editing Aweza newspaper in Kurdish, Sawsan has greatly contributed to raising women’s voices to combat “honour” killings, other forms of violence against BMER women, institutional racism, no recourse to public funds and notions of cultural relativism.
Sawsan regularly speaks at conferences and seminars throughout the UK, Europe and Iraq on human rights, domestic violence and “honour” killings. She has given a number of interviews to Kurdish and European television and radio stations and has written many newspaper and magazine articles.
Sawsan’s book “Kurdish Women”, sets out her vision for the future; a future where equal rights are not something which are granted to women by men but are recognised as inalienable and fundamental rights which belong to us all regardless of gender.
Winner True Honour Award 2015 – Neda Barzegar
When Neda was 11 she fled Iran with her parents and sisters as her father’s political activities meant it was too dangerous to stay. Tragically, soon after settling in the UK as a refugee, she lost her mother to Leukaemia. Her father remarried and “honour” based violence began at home. She lived under constant threat that if they perceived her to bring shame, she’d be forced into marriage in Iran. She did everything that she could to shield her sisters from the abuse. Her stepmother insisted that their only future was as housewives and tried to prevent her from studying, so Neda faked a school note so that she could go to the library. Her school was not trained to understand “honour” based violence and their responses only escalated the problem.
On discovering that visits to a family were actually part of arrangements to force her 16 year old sister to marry a man in his forties, Neda called the police and was told, “we can’t do anything, this is your culture”. So, still a teenager, Neda took action into her own hands and fled with her sisters, the youngest still only 11. She says the most difficult thing about leaving home was the idea of having brought “shame” to the family and the isolation from the community.
With almost no support, taking two jobs, Neda raised her sisters. After years of hard work and struggle, Neda and her two sisters have all become independent women pursuing their own ambitions. Neda has recently completed her PhD in eye research and is currently working as a junior surgeon.
Eighteen months ago, Neda contacted IKWRO over twitter and began to speak about her past experiences. She wanted to help improve understanding, in particular by the police and schools, about “honour” based violence, so that other’s would not be failed as she was. As Survivor Ambassador, she shared her history with the Forced Marriage Commission and she attended parliament and won support from a shadow minister, who she brought to tears. She informed IKWRO’s Right To Know campaign calling for schools to be fit to safeguard students from “honour” based violence and to teach young people about their rights and using the pseudoname Laila, she shared her story to bring a survivor’s voice to the campaign.
Now Neda has decided that she is ready to speak publically, in her own name, about her experiences and the lifelong impacts of “honour” based violence, so that she can help increase awareness and improve law and policy to help others.
This award is given to Neda in recognition of her lifelong journey taking a stand on “honour” based violence and to demonstrate our warm support for her as a Survivor Ambassador for True Honour.