London, July 29 (ANI): Honor killings and punishments have been well documented among a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups throughout the world, and especially in the United Kingdom.
Every year in the UK, a dozen women are victims of honor killings, occurring almost exclusively to date within Asian and Middle Eastern families. Often, cases are unresolved due to the unwillingness of family, relatives and communities to testify.
Take the case of Brit Muslim teen Saira. The eldest of four children, she had a blissfully happy upbringing, growing up in a sprawling ten-bedroom house and going to a 20,000-pound-a-year private school.
Her Muslim parents were educated and respected members of the community. Her mother was general practitioner and her dad was a successful businessman.
She was encouraged to follow her dream of becoming a barrister, worked hard and was popular at school in the south of England.
But when she turned 14, Saira's idyllic life changed forever.
Her mother saw her with a friend who was smoking, and that started a catastrophic sequence of events, which saw her being beaten by her mother and father and pulled out of school; packed off to Pakistan for an arranged marriage at the age of 17, being sexually abused and degraded by her husband and falling pregnant.
Forced to flee back to England, she was stabbed in an attempted "honour killing".
The attack led to her losing the baby.
Now 19, Saira says: "I had a happy childhood then my mum saw one of my friends smoking. Everything was different. The atmosphere at home changed but, at that time, I didn't know why.
Saira desperately turned to social services thrice, and when her parents found out, she was battered.
Saira said: "I thought they weren't going to stop until I was dead."
Saira says: "One day I got home and my bags were packed. My parents said I needed a holiday and that I was booked on a flight to Pakistan in two hours. It was so weird - they'd hired a guy to stand guard so even when I went to the toilet he was waiting outside. It was horrific."
Her aunt collected her from the airport in Pakistan and demanded she hand over her passport. Saira was kept as a prisoner with two servants watching her every move. aira says: "I opened my bags and the penny dropped. I nearly fainted - it was all wedding clothes."
She spent a month under lock and key until her "big day". Her parents were there for the ceremony and she recalls sitting next to her mother.
Saira said: "I begged her, 'Don't make me do this', but she just sat there. I couldn't run away, I didn't have my passport."
By now she was 17 - and married to a man of 25 she didn't know.
Saira says: "I was terrified. I was begging my mum, 'Don't leave me', but she treated me like I was dirt on her shoe." Saira endured three months of sexual abuse at the hands of her "husband".
She says: "I was his target for any depravity going. I was like his sex toy. I also had to support us both, working 9 a.m. until 9 p.m."
To make matters worse, she then found out she was pregnant.
Saira realised she would have to be clever to escape her terrible existence. She says: "I called my mum and said I accepted my marriage but wanted to complete my education in the UK so I could sponsor my husband to come over.
"That worked and I returned to England alone. On my third night back my mother looked at me and said I seemed different.
"I broke the news that I was pregnant... and then it all came out - the abuse, how I was working such long hours.
My mum said, 'He is your husband, even if he kills you we don't care'."
Despite social services letting her down in the past, she called again. This time they sorted her a place in a hostel and she began her studies at sixth form college.
She combined that with voluntary work with youths hooked on drugs and alcohol.
Things were going as well and one winter evening, when she was six months pregnant, Saira headed to the local shop to satisfy a craving.
She says: "I saw a man in a hoodie. I'd seen him a few times but thought it was just a coincidence - until he grabbed me.
"He said I had to go home to my parents or he would kill me. I said 'Go ahead' and he repeated his threat. The next thing I knew I was in hospital. I'd been stabbed in the stomach."
Medics operated on her and she was induced. The baby was born but didn't survive.
The doctors called her mother to tell her what had happened. She said she had no daughter - that she died a long time ago.
Despite her belief that her parents were behind the attack, Saira didn't have enough evidence to nail them.
She says: "I didn't have proof except he had said 'return home to your parents' so I couldn't prosecute. They got away with it.
Now aged 19, she is awaiting her A-level results and is ready to take a place at university to study law and continue her dream to be a barrister.
She also has a new man in her life - a Muslim who treats her with kindness and respect.
Saira says: "His family is fantastic. I do sometimes have flashbacks but I count his family as my own now." (ANI)