Ms Mohammed is a refugee who fled to safety after her abusive husband discovered she was a lesbian. She is asking the Home Office to allow her son to join her in the UK. He is on the run and in danger of honour killing after supporting his mum and helping his sister to escape abuse. Ms Mohammed’s appeal is being heard on 20 August.
Background: Ms Mohammed was given full refugee status in 2016 because of the homophobic violence and persecution she suffered in Pakistan. Considering how difficult it is to win asylum in the UK, the fact that Ms Mohammed was quickly granted refugee status shows how serious the threat to her life was.
Ms Mohammed has three children who she was forced to leave behind when she fled. Tragically, her oldest daughter has since disappeared, possibly at the hands of Ms Mohammed’s ex-husband.
Ms Mohammed applied for family reunion through an international programme, but she was told she couldn’t include her son. Reunion was granted for her youngest daughter.
Her son is in grave danger in Pakistan. Ms Mohammed’s ex-husband had planned a forced marriage for his daughter in revenge against Ms Mohammed for leaving. Her son defied his father’s authority and helped his sister escape and now he has been cast out from the family, severely abused and is destitute living underground. The father is a supporter of the ruling party and therefore has additional power in society. Her son showed enormous courage in standing up to his father and the family. Ms Mohammed’s application for him to join her here should be fast tracked so that he gets immediate protection as his life is at risk.
Ms Mohammed says: “If I had been in control of my family I would have brought my children with me when I left. But I didn’t dare; children are considered the father’s possession. My brave son is traumatised by the violence he has suffered and witnessed. He chose not to support his father in persecuting his sister. He should be protected, not punished for that courage. How else will other young men be encouraged to support their sisters rather than side with elder males of the family to ruin their lives? If my son is killed by his own father it will just be another death in the name of fake family honour. It will be justified because he supported his sister to re-join her lesbian mother. This is considered the worst disloyalty. My son is alone and scared and often cries on the phone. As a mother I don’t remember any night when I sleep without crying.”
The UK government claims to be committed to ending violence against women, including so-called “honour based” violence. It introduced a new criminal offence of forcing someone to marry against their will. Pakistan has the highest number of honour-based killing per capita in the world, including of men[i] and numbers are rising[ii].
Ms Mohammed’s son put himself in danger to defend his sister against violence. The very least the UK government should do is acknowledge and value this bravery, including as an example to other men, allow him to be reunited with his family and get protection in the UK. How else do we stop violence against women if not by supporting those that put their lives on the line to prevent it?
Ms Mohammed was delayed in applying for family reunion because there is no automatic legal aid for these cases, and she couldn’t get a lawyer. Despite being herself traumatised and a cancer survivor she has been relentless in her efforts to get help and save her son. She is a member of the All African Women’s Group and is also being supported by Women Against Rape (WAR). WAR did an appeal for a pro bono lawyer but in the meantime, possibly due to the interest generated, when Ms Mohamed applied for exceptional legal aid, unusually it was granted.
Her application for family reunion with her son has been refused. She is waiting for an appeal which is due to be heard in August 2019.