First Briton Jailed for Holding Spouse in Domestic Servitude
Last week Safraz Ahmed, the first ever Briton to be convicted of forcing their spouse into domestic servitude, was jailed for a total of two years.
A life of “violence, intimidation, aggression and misery”
Woolwich Crown Court heard how Mr Ahmed subjected his wife, Sumara Iram, to a life of “violence, intimidation, aggression and misery”. After moving to the UK following an arranged marriage in Pakistan, Sumara was forced to endure two and a half years of “physical and mental torture” by her husband.
The court heard how Mr Ahmed would often hit his wife and throw tins of cat food at her. Sumara would also receive constant abusive and degrading text messages, with Mr Ahmed once telling her that she should jump in front of a vehicle or into a river.
In court, Caroline Haughey, prosecuting, spoke of how Sumara – an educated woman who hailed from a liberal background – had arrived in the UK thinking her new husband would treat her well. She said:
“She expected, as any wife, that she was entering a harmonious household where she was an equal,
“He told her he had married her so she could look after his mother and his home.”
The court heard how Sumara was not just expected to tend to her husband, but his mother too, as well as any other relatives that might visit. She would have to start work at 5am in order to complete all of the cooking and cleaning for the entire household.
The prosecution told the court of one particular incident in which Sumara was struck by her husband for not attending to his sister to his standards. Haughey added:
“If the family told her to stand on one leg she should do it without question.”
Over two years of domestic servitude
Mr Ahmed admitted in court to holding his wife in domestic servitude over a two year period from the moment she arrived in the UK in 2012 up to 2015, at which point Sumara was taken to a refuge by police.
Mr Ahmed also admitted to one count of actual bodily harm having broken her nose in 2014, an incident which first brought the couple to the attention of local police. The court heard how neighbours called the police after they witnessed her standing outside the family home wearing just a dress and flip-flops despite the cold, before Mr Ahmed dragged her inside the house by her hair.
Police arrested Mr Ahmed after noticing injuries to his wife’s nose and eye, but the following day Sumara signed a document asking for his release, adding that she was not being forced to do so.
However, once Sumara had left her husband, she told officers that the family had tried to keep her from going to the police by locking her in a bathroom, at one point locking her in the garden shed.
According to the prosecution years of mental abuse, including being told by her husband that he found her ‘disgusting’ and to jump in front a car, has left Sumara with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Haughey also told the court of an incident in which Mr Ahmed told his wife:
“You are scared of being alone, but you are not scared of my beatings.”
“It was an atmosphere of fear, constantly punctuated by violence.”
In 2015, Sumara tried to end her own life, however after speaking with police, she was persuaded to seek shelter at a refuge.
“Brunt of his frustration”
Cathy Ryan, mitigating for Mr Ahmed, told the court that Sumara had arrived in the UK with expectations of marriage that were ‘a little unrealistic’. Ryan added that Mr Ahmed had changed his mind in the six years between their marriage and Sumara’s arrival in the UK, a delay that was apparently caused by her finishing a master’s degree and numerous visa issues. According to Ryan, Mr Ahmed was frustrated, she went on to say:
“It’s right to say that Sumara bore the brunt of this frustration.”
Responding to the prosecution’s assertion that Sumara was not allowed out without supervision, Ryan told the court that she often took her nephew to nursery alone and “could just have walked away if she wanted”. However, Ryan also added that this would have been unlikely due to her lack of contacts and poor English.
Safraz Ahmed was sentenced to eight months for assault causing actual bodily harm and two years in prison for one count of enforced domestic servitude, which will run concurrently.
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Source: The Guardian