Lesbian refugee who fled domestic violence in Pakistan pleads: Rescue my son - he's in danger
PUBLISHED: 08:50 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:09 04 July 2019
A mother and refugee is desperately pleaing with the Home Office to allow her "hero" son to join her in this country.
Ms Mohammed, a Pakistani refugee who fled the south Asian country a decade ago after her husband discovered she was a lesbian, is currently appealing a goverment decision to block the "family reunion" for her son.
A number of women's groups based out of Kentish Town's Crossroads Women's Centre - where the Islington woman is a regular - have rallied around Ms Mohammed. She has not disclosed either her own first name or those of her children out of fear that her former husband - "a powerful man" in Pakistan with a political profile - could track her down.
The groups backing her include Women Against Rape, Queer Strike, the All African Women's Group and Black Women's Rape Action Project.
A motion about Ms Mohammed's case is currently set to go before Hampstead and Kilburn Constituency Labour Party.
Ms Mohammed told this newspaper how her son had been integral in helping her flee domestic violence, and he also helped her daughter escape a forced marriage.
But now alone in Pakistan, there is no one to protect him from the consequences of his bravery.
Ms Mohammed told this newspaper: "I came here almost a decade ago. I fled because of my sexuality - and I had to leave my children back home.
"I did not have much power there. I don't remember any day or any night when I don't remember them.
"I don't remember any night when I have slept without crying."
Ms Mohammed was reunited with her youngest daughter, but her son is "moving from place to place" and "destitute" while she does not know where her eldest daughter is. She could have been killed or forced into marriage.
"It's such a big hardship for a mother. I can't explain how much I have suffered," she said.
Being a lesbian in Pakistan was "really bad", Ms Mohammed added.
"I was living like a slave. It was unbearable. I was fearful for my life, that's why I had to flee."
In the years since escaping her abusive marriage, Ms Mohammed has fought for the safety of her children.
Her battle was thrown into sharp relief when she was diagnosed with cancer shortly after arriving in the UK.
She said: "I came here and the first time I went to the GP, within two months, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was not able to do anything. I was scared that if I died my children would never know."
In north London far from her family, she said her distress was magnified.
"It was not my only fight. I was fighting cancer, for my safety and for my children."
She called on the government to live up to its pledges to defend human rights and help her son escape.
She said: "This is the country that emphasises it is a champion of human rights. They say they are against violence against women, but then I see what I am suffering.
"He's still part of my family. He's still my child. I haven't seen him for so many years. I don't know how long I will live.
"He is suffering too. He helped my daughter to escape. She's under 18, it was only my son who was helping her, but now there's no one to help him.
"If something happens, what do I do? What can I do for his safety. That's what he provided me. I am a mother - I can't give up."
She said protection for her son should follow naturally from the Home Office's acceptance of her own plight.
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"If they realise that I need protection, if they say my daughter should be with me, then the should consider my son.
"This is an exceptional case. He needs protection - he needs to be with his family. His childhood was abusive.
"He was the protector. He had suffered so much but still he helped his sister. They tried to make her have a forced marriage. I am begging for someone to give permission for my son."
She said it felt as though this was "discrimination".
They [the government] say one thing and do something else.
"If he's left there, he is in danger."
Ms Mohammed spoke of how in the conservative world she had left, her son's life was in very real danger.
She told this newspaper: "Honour killing is not just for girls. It's a risk for boys as well. He is very vulnerable.
"By helping my daughter escape, he too offending their [his family's] honour.
"Now he is moving from place to place. He is destitute.
"Because of what he did for his sister the family are going after him. What he did was against their honour."
Crystal Amiss of the Black Women's Rape Action Project and Queer Strike added: "This is such a clear injustice. He has taken such a practical stand and the Home Office is ready to just ignore all of that.
"To tackle violence against women, you have to start with men. This man has done everything that could be asked for and now he's in danger."
Crystal explained that with Pride coming up this weekend, the groups hoped to build support for Ms Mohammed's case in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.
She added that changes to the family reunion rules which could help Ms Mohammed's son, needed to be passed.
"It's just a matter of time before they change the law to raise the age for family reunion," she said. "It's already been passed in the House of Lords."
Confronted with Ms Mohammed's case, a Home Office spokesperson said: "Our family reunion policy provides a safe and legal route for partners and children under 18 to join those granted protection in the UK.
"Guidance is clear that there is discretion to grant visas for extended family members in exceptional circumstances. This includes young adults who are dependent on their parents and relatives, or those living in dangerous situations."
They said that with a legal case ongoing, they would not be able to comment further,
Through Women Against Rape, lawyers are helping Ms Mohammed to prepare for the appeal - which will take place in August.
How to support Ms Mohammed
Ms Mohammed is an integral part of the All African Women's Group who meet in Camden.
Her case has also been taken up advocacy group Women Against Rape. Ms Mohammed has thanked this coalition of supporters.
"All of this group, all of these people are campaigning on my behalf," she said.
To help support her, the charities are asking people to write to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid along with shadow cabinet counterpart Diane Abbott and shadow women and equalities chief Dawn Butler.
To help support Ms Mohammed and her bid to be re-united with her son, contact the All-African Women's Group on firstname.lastname@example.org.