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Justice For Saira
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The act of child marriage is not rare: from 2000-2008, 64% of women aged 20-24 in Bangladesh were married before they were 18 years old.
1:Saira during her child marriage. 2 & 3: Saira now
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My name is Sami Ahmed, I am a 19 year old University student and the daughter of author Saira Ahmed from London. Twenty years ago a serious violation of my mother's human rights had occurred in Bangladesh, and I would like for the government of the time to recognize this and issue an official apology, in accordance to their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
When my mother was 13 or 14 years old her child marriage was arranged in Bangladesh to Muzibur 'Nunu' Rehman; a British-Bangladeshi man in his mid-20s. She was taken out of education against her will, and brought to England with this man and subjected to domestic violence, psychological trauma and rape. Soon after my mother fell pregnant with me and Social Services told her the day I was born, that he was a paedophile and a manic depressive. That day she decided to break free from him, and spent months in refuges and government given housing with me.
We are now in a much better place in our lives, but neither of us have been able to return to Bangladesh, since her ex-husband's brother, Shafikur "Farsu" Rehman was the Bangladesh Nationalist Party's secretary in her town of Hobigonj when she lived there, and still has strong, corrupt, political connections and has threatened to kidnap me from my mother. This threat was since the day I was born, and continues until today. My maternal grandfather has since passed away, and we have not been to his grave, nor have I ever seen my maternal grandmother; I am her first grandchild. My mother has never exercised her right, under British law, to family support, nor under Muslim law has she demanded 'Den Mohor'; the right to property assigned during the wedding.
It is important for an individual to know their rights. It is my mother's innate human right to be given an apology from the Bangladesh government on two accounts: firstly, they had failed to protect her as a child and her ex-husband's brother, Shafikul Islam, as BNP secretary, had lied about his brother's true condition without legal charges ever being pressed against him.
I have researched below the articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that I believe the Bangladesh government had violated:
•Article 1: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." My mother suffered humiliation in the undignified selling of herself in marriage.
•Article 5: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The nature of my mother's child marriage to a paedophile was cruel, inhuman and degrading.
•Article 13, part II: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his own country." My mother has been unable to return to Bangladesh, from a crippling fear of her child, me, being taken away from her.
•Article 16, part II: "Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses." My mother's marriage was arranged and forced upon her. Her 'consent' was the result of pressure and oppression; a definition that does not coincide with Bangladesh's commitment to the Bill of Rights.
•And finally, Article 8 states "Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law."
Despite the government having failed to provide an 'effective remedy', my mother has taken steps of her own: she has published her autobiography 'Breaking Free' and rights have been secured to develop this into a feature film by an American company.
We only have one world; reconciliation and responsibility ought to play a part of that world. My mother has reconciled her relationship with her family as the truth was hidden from them also. However, it will take more than one lifetime to lift the barrier that traditional and religious thinking has placed upon her family and many others.
What remains is the Bangladesh government have failed the United Nations and my mother. She was kept prisoner in Bangladesh through her circumstances and only truly did she break free when I was born, and with the support of Social Services in England. It is time for the Bangladesh government to do the same. How will you compensate for her emotional and financial loss? And how will you prevent this happening to other girls that face the same fate my mum did? We urge you to take notice of our petition,
The Justice For Saira petition to The Bangladesh Government was written by Sami Ahmed and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition. Contact author here. Petition tags: justice for saira, human rights, bangladesh government, sheikh hasina, childrens rights