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Campaign launched to cut through honour attack veil
The handful of honour crimes reported in the county every year represents just the tip of the iceberg.
Campaigners believe that hundreds of crimes could be committed and go undetected because victims are too scared, silenced by their oppressors or don’t know who to turn to.
They also believe that forced marriages are taking place within Sussex, including weddings involving very young victims and those marrying for cash or passports.
The revelations come as Sussex Police and national charity Karma Nirvana hosted a special roadshow yesterday to raise awareness of the issues of honour-based violence and forced marriage within the county.
During the year to March, Sussex Police received just 20 reports alleging so-called honour-based behaviour including forced marriages and violence for transgressions of cultural or religious practices.
Less than half of these reports were recorded as crimes – six resulted in charges and three produced convictions for grievous bodily harm.
Victims The other 11 reports not recorded as crimes were referred to local charities.
However, Karma Nirvana said it had 32 calls to its helpline from Sussex residents between April and August this year.
The charity says more than half of their calls are not possible to trace to a geographic area because they are made from mobiles.
Police officers said the issue of potential honour-based crimes was of particular prominence in Gypsy, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Turkish, Kurdish, Afghani, African, Middle Eastern, Southern and Eastern European communities.
In Brighton and Hove alone there is a combined population of Eastern European, African and Asian communities of about 24,000, while Crawley is home to 21,500 and Hastings and Eastbourne 14,500.
Natasha Rattu, operations manager at Karma Nirvana, said that there is no doubt that forced marriages are being carried out in Sussex.
She said: “When you look at the communities in Sussex that are affected by this then there is the potential for a lot more victims coming forward.
“When the police only receive 20 reports in a year, I imagine there is are a large proportion that we just don’t know about. They are just the tip of the iceberg.
“The key thing is to improve reporting levels and we are trying to get across the message that there are people to talk to.”
Detective Sergeant Hari Flanagan, the force’s lead for honour-based violence, said: “We suspect there’s more going on based on the size of the communities likely to be affected by honour-based violence.
“We are not naive to the fact that forced marriages are happening in Sussex which is why we want to raise awareness and make people aware there are services they can contact.
“We respect differences in culture but religion is|not an excuse for violence of any type in the UK, and Sussex Police Adult and Child Protection Teams will do everything possible to support and protect victims of honour-based crime.”
For more information about Karma Nirvana visit www.karmanirvana.org.uk or contact 0800 5999 247.
It terrifies me to think of what might have happened
Honour crime victim Alex Khan, of Brighton, says he was nearly forced into a marriage with a girl he had never met, witnessed the murder of his cousin and was groomed as a potential jihadist in a fundamentalist school.
Alex, not his real name, was three years old when his family was torn apart.
His father’s Pakistani family objected to their son marrying a white, English non-believer.
His father then abducted him and took him to Pakistan where he lived until he was six.
On his return to England, he was repeatedly told his mother was dead and he should start moving on with his life.
At ten his father died suddenly and his stepmother’s brother became the dominant influence in his life.
Alex would be locked in his bedroom or outdoor toilet and was abused verbally with his uncle calling him a Kaffir, the Muslim word for a nonbeliever, because he was half-English.
When he was 13, he was taken to Pakistan again and at a family gathering was made to sit down next to a nine-year-old girl.
It was only years later that Alex, now 37, learnt that he was betrothed to this girl who was one of his uncle’s daughters in Pakistan.
The marriage had already been decided and the dowry and land set to change hands already negotiated.
His uncle then enrolled Alex into an Islamic school, known as a madrassa, based between Peshawar and the Afghanistan border run by terror group Haqqani Network, which has links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
He was surrounded by mujahedeen fighters carrying AK-47s who were fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Alex knew he had to escape but with torture and whipping commonplace at the school, he was aware of the dangers if he were caught.
He says if he had been captured and returned back to the madrassa, he probably would have stayed there and could have become a teacher or even a mujahedeen fighter. Alex said: “It terrifies me to think what might have happened.
“It happens to this day where British Muslims get brainwashed and sent on jihad. When I was 19, a couple of my friends went down the jihad route.”
Having escaped from the madrassa, Alex made it to his father’s village but was told he would never go back to England again.
Aged 15, and living in the village, he saw a cousin murdered by her husband because she was accused of having an affair.
Her husband was later jailed for the murder, which Alex says affected him for years.
As a witness to the murder, his step family in Pakistan were worried he might talk to the police, so he was sent back to England.
He was repeatedly told that he would marry his uncle’s Pakistani daughter but Alex grew increasingly defiant and was even thrown out of home.
It was a chance meeting aged 18 with a youth worker who suggested he join the army that would change his life.
He forged his stepmother’s signature on Army forms and made a clean break from his uncle knowing he wouldn’t dare ask the British Army where Alex was.
After seven years in the army, Alex is now building a new life for himself. Happily married and with a son from a previous relationship, he now works as an electrical engineer in Brighton.
He was even reunited with his mother in 2010 after hiring an investigator to find her. He said: “I didn’t know she was alive, I just hoped. I felt as if someone was looking over me and I believe that was my mother.
“I think people are more aware of crimes like this now. It’s in the media more and people are getting prosecuted like in the Shafilea Ahmed case this year.”
Alex’s autobiography, Orphan of Islam, is available to buy now. For more information visit www.alexander-khan.co.uk.
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