Shaheen Hashmat did an interview for the Scottish Sunday Mail ten days ago, and she has the article on her blog.
This is the transcript of an article by journalist Jenny Morrison featuring the most in-depth interview about my experiences that I’ve done to date. It took me a while to agree to do this, as it would a mean a lot more detailed exposure closer to home and my fear of a backlash was greater. But the imbalance of efforts to raise awareness and provide support throughout the UK is too significant to dismiss an opportunity to at least try and address this. Please note the minor clarifications I’ve included below the transcript.
She was just 12 years old when she escaped from her family home.
But Shaheen Hashmat says the emotional scars of her childhood have been harder to leave behind. Growing up in a large Pakistani family Shaheen, now 31, says relatives controlled everything from how she should dress, to who she should speak to. She was expected to work in her family’s businesses from an early age – and if she refused, she’d be beaten. As she grew up, Shaheen saw several female family members being put on a plane, sent to Pakistan and forced into marriage. When it became clear that the same fate awaited 12-year-old Shaheen, a concerned relative tipped off social services and the police. With the legal protection of the authorities, she was able to leave her family but it has taken years for her to come to terms with the honour abuse she suffered.
She’s talking about it now because she wants to help people in the same situation. When she was a child she thought she was all alone.
I would see people getting beaten and there was a strong history of forced marriage in my family. Every single aspect of my life was under strictest control. When you are raised to believe you have no choice in anything you do, when every aspect of your life is so closely monitored, you feel worthless. At times, I have felt suicidal. But I am determined that I am not going to hide away – what happened to me is not my shame, I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not going to change my name or adopt a new identity because I shouldn’t have to hide. Sadly I’m not the only person this has happened to but if I can help others by speaking out, then I must.
When she was 12 she escaped, with the help of a relative and the police.
Shaheen says a turning point in her life came three years ago when she read Jasvinder Sanghera’s book Daughters of Shame. The book, which tells the stories of women who have survived honour abuse or been forced into marriage, let Shaheen see she was not alone. She said, “I could really relate to these women’s stories. I hadn’t been forced on to a plane and forced into a marriage but I was still a victim of honour abuse.”
If only they could all escape, but it’s only a tiny fraction who can. Yet.