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Justice For Saira

This petition was published by Sami Ahmed on Jun 04, 2010

Dear Sheikh Hasina, PM of Bangladesh

We are the Justice For Saira supporters. Twenty years ago a serious violation of Saira's human rights had occurred in Bangladesh, and we 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 Saira 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 Saira fell pregnant and Social Services told her the day her child was born, that her husband 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.

Saira is now in a much better place in her life but she has never 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 her daughter. Her father has since passed away, and she has not been to his grave. Saira has also 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 Saira'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.

The articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we believe the Bangladesh government have violated are:

•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 Saira'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." Saira has been unable to return to Bangladesh, from a crippling fear of her child 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." Saira'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, Saira 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.

We only have one world; reconciliation and responsibility ought to play a part of that world. Saira 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 Saira. She was kept prisoner in Bangladesh through her circumstances and only truly did she break free when her child 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 Saira did? We urge you to take notice of our petition.

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