Asma, Survivor of Honour Based Abuse reflects on Karma Nirvana’s Day of Memory conference.

Karma Nirvana held its third Day of Memory  to remember those who have been killed in the name of so called ‘honour’.  The event took place in Leeds at the magnificent Civic Hall.

Travelling up from London for this event was an honour for me, an honour in its truest sense.  Not the misguided notion of honour that meant females, males and also non-binary people were  murdered by so called family members who were supposed to love and cherish them.

There were events to commemorate the Day of Memory all over the UK, I imagined all the gatherings and how they could be, some with flowers, some with balloons and some with samosas I hoped!

Leeds Civic Hall provided the ideal place to bring people together to carry out duties and activities for their local people, but also people from all over the nation to share in remembering the valiant people killed wrongfully because of culture or religion.

The images of victims of honour based violence in the UK were projected before us and left marks etched into our souls as each person’s face disappeared from the screen, I feel like I will not forget them.  The music that accompanied this seemed to me to have been written just for this occasion.  Time seemed to stand still, no one moved, just the tears that streamed down our faces.  There was an overwhelming feeling of wanting to turn back time and make sure these lost lives could be saved.

I would like to share Naz and Matt’s story which was heard by all that attended this event and resonated very strongly with me as someone who identifies with the LGBTQI community and is currently facing separation from my birth family.

Matt and Naz were together for thirteen years and they loved each other and were going to get married.  Naz was forced to come out to his conservative Muslim family.  Two days later Naz killed himself. Matt shared the loss of his partner Naz, who died because his family would not accept their love because of religion.

Matt talked so vividly of the day that he lost Naz; the pain he experienced could be felt across the room.  It felt like we were there with Matt when he discovered that he had lost Naz his soulmate. The loss was still evident in the words that he spoke.  Matt has channelled his loss and turned it into an energy and strength to help others by setting up the Naz and Matt Foundation to support LGBTQI+ individuals who are facing homophobia from family and friends to challenge this and resolve issues by encouraging communities to be open. The mission of the foundation “is to never let religion, any religion, come in the way of the unconditional love between parents and their children”.  Karma Nirvana and the Naz and Matt Foundation are starting to work together to tackle this.

I was in a very privileged position to hear all the amazing speakers sharing stories, poems, laughter and tears.  Hearing a brother talk about the loss of his sister was very sad but I am glad you were there and wish everyone had a brother like you – who would stand up for his sister. I am sorry we could not meet Sobhia.

The male theme was pervasive in this year’s Day of Memory because victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour based violence can be male too and it is important to recognise this.  Females remain the main victims however, forced marriage and honour based abuse and violence crosses into all walks of life, we therefore need to work together. The lives of those who do not fit the binary model of gender are not spared either if anything they are more at risk because sexual expression is wrongfully viewed as shameful.  Males are not all about being machismo, patriarchy is maintained by all genders and we need to work together to challenge this, this is a clear message from the Day of Memory.

As a non-binary survivor who has spoken at a number of events for Karma Nirvana about my experience of a threat of forced marriage and living within an honour code system, it feels to me that we have more allies and could support each other.  “Female” because I was categorised as this at birth and society puts me in a box and I have lived like this because I was not able to understand gender for myself growing up in a very binary system.

The work of Karma Nirvana continues to push through into society and is becoming more recognised, it was amazing to see that Leeds City Council, the NHS and West Yorkshire Police pledged to rid forced marriage and honour based violence from their communities in Leeds.  This is an action that needs to be taken up across the UK to protect all that reside in our nation.  After all we all have the right to choose, the right to be free and love who we want!

I just want to be able to cry and not feel shame anymore, I don’t want to be cured or “pray away the gay!”  This is what I hear and what I say in my head all the time and this was heard at the Day of Memory too.

I should not lose people I love and we definitely should not harm them in any way!

Asma