The Price of Justice

The following contains a story of rape, suicide and abuse.

I knew Levine and Frances Andrade. Not personally but as a violinist from Manchester. Levine was often held up as a role model for a fair few Indian kids on the strings. And I was shocked to read today’s news and hear about the stories of a school I once nearly joined.

Frances Andrade was 14 when she was asked to go to a teacher’s office at the famous Chetham’s School for Music. Michael Brewer would make her take her top and bra off and touch her. The abuse continued until the age of 18.

Both Michael and his ex-wife Kay were found guilty of indecent assault (due to the lack of a penetrative act it cannot be charged as rape in the UK).

Michael resigned from Chetham’s in 1994 after another incident where he had an inappropriate relationship with a 17 year old girl. As part of the terms, the case was dropped and Mr. Brewer went on to have a long and highly successful career in music. He was the Artistic Director of the National Youth Choirs of Britain. He directed the World Youth Choir and even appeared on TV as a workshop leader for the reality show Last Choir Standing. He was even awarded an OBE for services to music in 1995!

Mrs. Andrade gave evidence on January the 16th and 17th in full view of the court room. The investigation was sparked by her telling a friend about her time at Chetham’s and her friend reporting it to the police. She then cooperated fully and agreed to take part in the prosecution.

Quoting from the article written in the Telegraph and Syndicated out here…

She was called a fantastist and liar by Kate Blackwell QC, Brewer’s barrister. Judge Martin Rudland remarked that she was “clearly undergoing a cathartic experience, whatever the source” while giving evidence. He said she was “combative” during cross-examination by Kate Blackwell QC, representing Brewer, and she had taken personal issue with some of the barrister’s questions but the judge indicated that Miss Blackwell had acted professionally. During the cross-examination, Mrs Andrade told Miss Blackwell: “You are hugely insulting, even though it’s your job.””

She was put through the ringer. It’s not for me to say how we defend our cases in court. The courts are rigorous and witnesses must be examined thoroughly. Whether the cross examination from Kate Blackwell (QC) was too much or not, is not for me to judge. Your job as a lawyer is to rule out all possibilities including “fantasist”. It may be distasteful but that’s how we get justice and there are precious few systems better than this.

That’s the point of a fair trial. To cast doubt over the words of each side and to hope that out of the maneuvering some truth will arise.

A day earlier, the jury – on the direction of the judge – recorded not guilty verdicts on five counts of indecent assault against Brewer due to insufficient evidence about how old the complainant was at the time of the allegations. The lack of evidence crippling the prosecution. That was on January the 24th.

After a few more days of maneuvering and the release of the knowledge of Mr. Brewer’s past “dalliance” the verdict was read out as guilty of indecent assault.

And then the Jury were told. On the 24th of January, Mrs. Andrade committed suicide. Her death was kept from the papers due to her involvement in the case.

The judge, prosecution and defence lawyers knew (UK law basically) and they maintained confidentiality until today’s verdict. After the verdict the news was released to the court requiring a halt of proceedings to retain composure.

I don’t know whether Frances Andrade found catharsis or freedom. I don’t what she was thinking. Nor will I say what she should have done. But she tried to get justice and paid a price for it. I do wish someone could have been there to hear her out. It’s a sad and pointlessly tragic death in a sad and pointlessly tragic story.

Take what morals you want from this. It’s just a bit close to home.

No Honour

I am British.

I am also Asian. To my american readers, a british asian is what you would call “Indians”. In the UK it’s a catch all for Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans who settled in the UK. I actually find it such a misnomer since it treats “Asian” as a single culture when most british asians adopt local variations. I am more mancunian than british. It’s a diverse group of people who range from the “richest and best educated demographic” (British Indians) to “one of the poorest and least educated demographic” (British Pakistani/Bangladeshi). Generalisation never helps especially not here.

I am British Indian. I come from an upper middle class family. I am Indian in ethnicity but me and India have little in common. I am more brit than indian. It’s not a betrayal of my heritage (If anything this has made me even more proud of my heritage than most Indians and more well read about Indian history than many Indians) but an understanding of living in a multicultural society in a country I am proud to call my home.

Multiculturalism means acceptance of all cultures. It does not mean that stupid things in different cultures cannot be criticised. Multiculturalism does not and should not mean that I cannot call Scientology a ridiculous scam. It doesn’t mean that you can turn a blind eye to monsters. Not all “culture” is good. What I write is filled with trigger warnings (Abuse, Murder, Suicide) so proceed with that in mind. It is graphic, but the graphic nature of such things needs to be known. Death is not a clean process, it is a horrible messy termination of a human being. Sugar coating the incident detracts (IMHO) from the fact that someone has died.

Shafilea Iftikhar Ahmed was born on the 14th of July 1986 to Ahmed and Farzana. In September 2003, she went missing. Her house isn’t that far from where my parents live. Shafilea’s body was found in the River Kent near Sedgwick in Cumbria. The corpse was deliberately hidden and dismembered. As in all cases like this her parents were suspected but nothing came of it. Shafilea Ahmed’s murder was to be deemed unsolved.

In 2010 Alesha Ahmed, Shafilea’s younger sister arranged a robbery at her own parent’s house. Alesha’s relationship with the family was deteriorating. When arrested, Alesha laid out a bombshell. She claimed that she knew who murdered her sister a stance she had held when she was younger but retracted.

It is alleged that on September the 11th, 2003. Shafilea was picked up from her part time call centre job, driven home where an argument broke out.

At some point in this scenario, her mother pushed her onto the sofa and ordered her husband to “Finish it Now”. Farzana and Iftikhar Ahmed were then alleged to have held her down, forced a plastic bag into her mouth and covered her airways till she suffocated. Shafilea fought to live, struggling against this assault. Her father had his weight over her chest. Alesha described her final moments as a struggle to breathe with her eyes bulging in strain for a single breath of air and wetting herself as the life was choked from her. After she died her father struck her a single hard blow to the chest before getting up.

This was done in front of her four siblings. She was allegedly executed in such a fashion for bringing dishonour to the family. By not conforming to her parents “Pakistani Villager” ideals of what a girl should behave like. If this scenario did happen, then this was a calculated plan by parents to murder their child. What drove her parents to do this was a lot of things but on that day it was because Shafilea went out wearing a white t-shirt and trousers. She was allegedly killed because of the clothes she wore.

Farzana was then alleged to have been seen sorting through sheets, black bin bags, duct and parcel tape. Later when Alesha looked out of her window she saw her father carry black bin bags to his car and drive away. Her mother unusually came and slept in the dead girl’s bed in the shared room.

In 2010 after this admission, the parents were placed under surveillence. Conversations of note include a discussion about whether the police could check whether a car has been on a certain journey or whether the police could track mileage or GPS movements of a specific car. Farzana discusses the possibility of saliva detection which was dismissed by her husband as possible proof. They discuss getting away with murder if one has the support of newspapers as well as claiming that the UK works on proof and without any proof, there is nothing we can do to them.

It’s not for me to decide whether or not Ahmed and Farzana are guilty. I am not in the jury. I do feel that they are guilty but I am biased from the newspapers I read and from historical precedence. This isn’t a new story or a unique story. It is just the latest and greatest. What hurts me was the cry for help that was unanswered. Shafilea’s death was probably avoidable.

Shafilea loved poetry. She loved to write. She was a human and humans are all desperate to leave a mark on the world in some small and tiny way. Her killer or killers didn’t know that. I feel that writing is one of the most fundemental things a human being can do. Writing is an affirmation of communication, tool making, opposable thumbs and everything that makes human beings so special and wonderful. In words people still live and what lives here is pain.

I wish my parents would be proud of wot I done
Instead it’s ‘you’ve have bought shame’
Or something else lame
I don’t wanna hear this no more
No no no.
“I feel trapped.  All they think about is honour, I was like a normal teenage kid, didn’t ask 2 much, I just wanted to fit in, but my cult
ure was different. Now I’m sitting here playing happy families still crying tears”.

Shafilea was in pain. And no one fucking listened. Shafilea died because of her parents, but we all fucking sat and watched. And we knew this was happening. Prior to her death, her teacher Mrs. Code was worried about her due to her continuous absences. When she rang the house she spoke to Ahmed but insisted on speaking to Shafilea. When Mrs. Code asked whether she should be worried about Shafilea, the teenager responded with “yes”. But nothing came of it.

Shafilea ran away from home twice, there was no community support available or options she knew off that would keep her safe from her family. Twice she was brought back often being found at a friend’s house. Shafilea was even sent to Pakistan for an arranged marriage (different papers reported it as a marriage to a complete stranger or a cousin who she never met), when told she was to stay in Pakistan Shafilea attempted to kill herself by drinking bleach. When taken to the hospital Farzana insisted that it was due to the fact that Shafilea mistook it for mouthwash and drank it by accident. In the current trial it was reported as being mistaken for fruit juice. Alesha reported that Farzana wasn’t really perturbed by the suicide attempt so much as the fact that Shafilea survived it. Farzana infact yelled at Shafilea for making such a fuss.

To put it into perspective? Bleach is incredibly caustic. It would burn your throat and oesophagus trying to drink it. It is an agonising way to die. Shafilea survived due to medical care she recieved, but her mother was more annoyed that she brought dishonour. I assume this is because whoever she was supposed to marry decided not to marry the crazy suicide girl. To pick this as a way to kill yourself is an act of complete and utter desperation. To claim that she made a mistake between mouthwash/fruit juice and bleach shows a complete lack of logic. Shafilea tried to commit suicide to escape from a situation she thought and knew was hopeless. And it is our job as human beings to offer. And we can do that by accepting that criticism of a culture is not racist if it is  an honest criticism. Shafilea was killed by her parents because they belonged to a rural islamic culture which placed an inordinate amount of value on “familial honour” and treated women as property or livestock. Her tribal culture played a part due to the idea of honour. Islam played a part as it doesn’t treat women as anything but a set of reproductive organs. Our culture played a part because it is unwilling to criticise real things that need criticism.

Shafilea to her parents was nothing more than a brood cow that wouldn’t birth. It is wrong, it is not cultural imperialism to point it out. It is common sense. It is like a MRA suggesting that women are all bitches or cunts. It is like the Stormfront suggesting that all black people are superhuman crime and rap machines. It is empirically a bad viewpoint and we are not racist for calling them out on it and actively seeking to destroy that bit of culture. To put it into perspective as to how vile this culture is to go back to the events in the story. Alesha claims that after Shafilea was killed, her brother Junyade told his surviving sisters that “She (Shafilea) deserved it”. Junyade is just 13. What sort of culture creates that? It’s certainly one that has no place in my country.

People mock scientists and atheists as soulless. We “torture” animals in the name of medical research. We cut up humans to make them better with (if you listen to the likes of Natural News) callous disregard for human life. We deal in cold hard science rather than nebulous unprovable faith. We follow rules created by men rather than the supposed rules of the divine. It’s not true, we just find different things which affirm our fundemental humanity. And what affirms us is shared humanity. That we are all alive and human.

Sometimes self flagellation is needed to remind us of what happens when we forget that. I looked around and found some of the poems that Shafilea wrote. Read it, and remember that this was someone who suffered violence and pain. That there are more women like her. And that you shouldn’t think that someone else will say something or do something. This is something we all need to do wherever we are. That you irrespective of your gender should stand by these women. There is no carrot in this, only sticks. After this, I think that’s all we really deserve.

Happy Families
I don’t pretend like we’re the perfect family no more
Desire to live is burning
My stomach is turning
But all they think about is honour
I was like a normal teenage kid
Didn’t ask 2 much
I jus wanted to fit in
But my culture was different
But my family ignored
Now I’m sitting here

Playing happy families
Still crying tears
But no we’re a happy family
I have these fears
I wish, I wish, I wish
For a happy family

I lay in bed hoping the next day would be better
It was just a thought
Because it never happened no
But I still dream of this today yeah hey
I wish my parents would be proud of wot I done
Instead it’s you’ve have bought shame
Or something else lame
I don’t wanna hear this no more
No no no.
I Feel Trapped
I feel trapped, so stuck I don’t wot 2 do the feeling is mutual, I don’t know how to explain
Im a trapped so trapped (so trapped )
Now u know where I stand, when I fall back I got no where else to land
I don’t know how to say
I’m trapped so trapped I’m trapped wit u.
It was my last year in school, so happy with my friends I got lots to do —
But came this day when everything changed
I came home it seemed like a normal day
But sumthing wasn’t right —-
I wish I coulda changed the event
I shoulda killed myself instead
I’d rather have been dead
Coz now I have a burden on my chest
And no it won’t go away, the guilt, the pain
When I look back on things I coulda changed coulda stop, prevented, exchanged
But i had to turn out this way (so trapped)
Now I’m sitting on my window bay
Looking at the rain —-
Drowning sorrow and pain
Will this ever go away —-
I feel trapped so trapped, I’m trapped
I’m trapped, so trapped I’m trapped
(I don’t know wot do) I feel trapped.
But my family ignored