Karishma Dharni

Southall Black Sisters hosts book launch of No Safe Place

Southall Black Sisters hosts book launch of ‘No Safe Place’ to mark the National Day of Memory for Victims of Honour Based Abuse

‘No Safe Place’ is a memoir by Bekhal Mahmod with Dr Hannana Siddiqui, member of Southall Black Sisters (SBS).

The book launch is a hybrid event – full details and registration can be accessed on Eventbrite here.

The book launch includes a panel discussion chaired by Samira Ahmed, the award winning BBC presenter, journalist and author. Speakers include the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, and Jess Phillips MP, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding.

Dr Hannana Siddiqui will also be speaking. For security reasons, Bekhal Mahmod will not be attending, but will be available on the telephone during Q&A.

For the first time, Bekhal Mahmod’s book fully talks about her traumatic life experiencing ‘honour’ violence from the hands of her parents; and an attempt on her life by her brother for bringing ‘shame’ on the family and the Iraqi Kurdish community in South London after fleeing home at fifteen. She had been threatened with a forced marriage to her much older cousin.

Bekhal also talks of her sorrow and pain at the loss of her sister, Banaz Mahmod, who was killed by in a so called ‘honour killing’ by her father, uncle and five male cousins in 2006. Banaz had been forced into a child marriage to a man who she said raped and beat her. Banaz was accused of bringing ‘shame’ for leaving her husband and wanting to re-marry to her boyfriend of whom her family disapproved. Banaz has sought help from the police five times before her death, and even named the suspects who later went on to kill her.

Bekhal was the first daughter in history to give prosecution evidence against her own father. She also testified against her uncle, a powerful community leader who instigated the crime, and cousins, who were convicted of murder and/or related crimes. An investigation by a police complaint watchdog found the police should have done more to protect Banaz, although there was insufficient disciplinary action against two officers with the most serious failings.

Bekhal is now on a witness protection scheme, and will never be safe from her family and community. Bekhal is also campaigning with Dr Siddiqui and SBS to introduce a ‘Banaz’s Law’ to prevent the use of cultural defences such as ‘honour’ to justify violence against women and girls.

Bekhal Mahmod says:

Writing the book has been a long and painful journey, but if it helps even one woman or girl to escape honour based abuse, then it would have been worth it; and Banaz’s death would not have been in vain.

Dr Hannana Siddiqui says:

Bekhal’s story and campaigning has already inspired many women and girls to come forward for help and to demand change. We are together calling for a ‘Banaz’s Law’ to protect victims, for justice and to challenge cultural and religious norms. We also demand more resources for specialist ‘by and for’ services for black, minority and migrant women.   

In 2015, 14 July was declared a Day of Memory for Victims of Honour Based Abuse. It represents the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed, who was killed by her parents in a so called ‘honour killing’ in 2003.     

Endorsements for the book include:

Banaz’s courageous and campaigning sister, Bekhal, and the distinguished legal reformer Dr Hannana Siddiqui here document the full horror of the violence which can be experienced by women in our minority communities . . . no cultural justification should be made for so-called crimes of honour. Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

This remarkable book by Bekhal and co-writer Hannana Siddiqui, reveals their awesome courage and compels us to ask: How can this be happening in Britain? Why does it go on? When will it end? Can we feminists be as brave and uncompromising . . . and build up momentum to stop culturally sanctioned crimes against females? It is time. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, author and journalist

A heart-breaking, powerful and crucially important story from an incredibly brave woman. Jess Phillips MP

A staggering story, beautifully written! And an important insight into both paralysis and heroic resistance . . . from the first pages, I felt myself gasping with the shock of it, and yet driven to read on, and on . . . takes us to the geopolitics of fundamentalist faith and power, to visceral fright, resistance and to the wonderful Southall Black Sisters. Beatrix Campbell OBE, writer and activist

Media Enquiries Contact:

Dr Hannana Siddiqui – [email protected]

Publisher Press Release

Click here for a press release by Ad Lib Publishers about the book with all endorsements by leading authors, lawyers, politicians, film directors and activists.

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