Birmingham teenager rescued from Pakistan after attempts to force her to marry
A Birmingham man has been convicted of attempting to force his niece into marriage after locking her in a house in Pakistan.
The 55-year-old was also found guilty of child cruelty along with his wife, 43, at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday.
The 21-year-old victim had been born in the UK, but her mother had to return to Pakistan after being unable to get a visa, so she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Witton at the age of four.
Far from being treated as a member of the family, she was made to do household chores and look after younger children. She was deprived of food and new clothing and often beaten by her uncle. She was left at home during family outings and police have described her treatment as modern day slavery.
At the age of 10 she was sent to live in Pakistan, but returned four years later for dental and medical treatment. At this point she was sent to live with another aunt in Birmingham, where she finished her education and found a job.
But in July 2016 her aunt and uncle, who cannot be named for legal reasons, tricked the teenager into travelling to Pakistan, telling her that her mother was ill and she needed to visit her.
When she arrived her passport was taken from her and she was locked in her uncle’s home. She had no access to money and was not allowed out alone.
Before leaving for Pakistan she became suspicious so left instructions with her employer to contact authorities if she failed to return.
But this did not happen and the teenager was trapped until the following year when she was told she was to be married and a husband had been selected for her. When she tried to refuse, she was threatened with a gun and told the marriage would go ahead.
However she found a lifeline in a friend she had made in Pakistan, who smuggled a mobile phone to her, and she was able to call the British Embassy. And in September 2017 the woman, then aged 19, was rescued, taken to Islamabad and then back to the UK.
Back with her aunt in Birmingham, a Forced Marriage Prevention Order was taken out to protect her, but the terror did not stop there and death threats were followed by threats to burn her aunt’s family home in Pakistan, which became a frightening reality in December 2017 when the house was set on fire.
Following a three-week trial, the uncle was convicted of forced marriage and two counts of child cruelty. The aunt was convicted of two counts of child cruelty. They will be sentenced on January 31.
Det Sgt Helen Lenihan, from the West Midlands Police Public Protection Unit, said: “This has been an extremely complex case and a very sensitive issue, but our priority was always the welfare of this young woman.
“Her bravery in coming forward, after what she had been through, is immense and an inspiration to others in the same situation.
“It’s vital that people who are being forced into marriage understand that we will believe and support them.
“Anyone who is considering marrying a person against their will must understand that we will thoroughly investigate any such offences, wherever they take place in the world.
“We have specialist public protection officers who work with other organisations to safeguard victims and help them throughout the judicial process."
For more information visit west-midlands.police.uk/your-options/forced-marriage.