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Don’t suffer in silence. You are not alone- despite lockdown
I grew up in South London in a four bedroom house with my parents, four sisters and one brother. Many of us shared one bedroom. The eldest sisters had their own room. My brother had the smallest room in the house. You could say we were overcrowded.
We had one bathroom. Mornings were the worst. There would be shouting: someone switching the hot water off at the boiler because the person in the bathroom was taking too long; the steam from the iron would fill up the hallway whilst we took turns ironing our clothes, along with the mandatory argument of who should put the laundry away.
Mealtimes were manic. We would always eat together, no matter what. It was a rule in our house that we had to follow. On weekends, we would go on a family picnic, do homework, or split chores between us around the house. We weren’t allowed to have friends over or go out to play with them. If it were to happen it would be a rare occasion: catching my parents in a ‘yeah sure’ mood was rare in itself.
My mother and father were quite strict. When they were around (which was all of the time as neither of my parents worked), what we watched on TV was always their preference. They would leave the house only if they were visiting family, close friends, doing grocery shopping or attending a doctor’s appointment.
There was a TV in the bedroom which I shared with my two sisters, but we were not allowed to turn it on after a certain time of the day, even after I had reached the age of 15 and my sister Banaz was 16. We didn’t have any games, or the luxury of being on the computer for as long as we wanted. Firstly, the computer was placed in the living room so my father could keep an eye on us; secondly he restricted the amount of time we would be online for. It just wasn’t fun.
The idea of entertainment just didn’t exist in our home, although we had a few things in the house we could play with. Just as an example: we had a huge back garden and a ball and tennis rackets, but my mother had planted herbs and vegetables all over the garden, so it was inevitable we would accidentally step on her crops. Then all hell would break loose and the fun would end before it had even started. Our next-door neighbour had a cat, which my parents found unacceptable for hygiene reasons. If the ball ever ended up in the neighbour’s garden, it was gone: it would go in the trash. And of course, asking for a new ball would bring up lengthy debates about what happened to the previous ball. It just wasn’t worth the hassle.
I can’t deny that being home was boring, and that weekends dragged because there was only so much we could do. Cooking, cleaning the garden, and doing the whole family’s laundry was no fun. School, however, was different: we could enjoy ourselves, use the computer in the library, look up song lyrics and sing with friends, play football and jump on a trampoline. This was fun!
You see, my parents didn’t understand the importance of a safe and happy home environment, or that it was their responsibility to create that for us. I remember vividly that when one of my siblings did something my parents were not happy with – particularly something that my father, as the head of the house, was not happy with – the entire family would suffer the consequences. These would range from the silent treatment to emotional blackmail and sometimes even physical punishment.
Like most people around the world right now, I am currently staying at home, with a lot of time to think. I often find myself getting flashbacks of my childhood, of the almost military environment I was living in. These thoughts make me anxious. I also can’t stop thinking about those who are living in such environments now.
I have been seeing a lot of coverage about the worrying rise in domestic abuse cases following the Coronavirus lockdowns all over the world. In the UK, Refuge reported a 25% increase in calls to it’s national domestic helpline in the first week following the start of the lockdown. This is a horrifying statistic for me. It drives me to continue to raise awareness about ‘Honour’-Based Abuse, which I know will also be increasing in the current situation. I consider myself lucky to not be living in that abusive environment anymore. I can only imagine that my family home would have been even more hostile during the current climate.
I understand that this is a worrying time for many people whose families and homes should be, but are not, a safe space for them right now. I want to say to those of you that are affected by ‘honour’-based abuse and domestic abuse that I stand with you in solidarity.
Although the current restrictions make it difficult for services to support those at risk in the same manner they do usually, most are continuing to operate nonetheless. So, it’s very important to know that if you are experiencing ‘honour’-based abuse, or if you know someone who may be, help still remains available during this unprecedented crisis. You can get support – and you are not alone.
If you relate to what I have shared in this piece, I want to leave you with some hope. You absolutely do not have to stay in an unsafe environment, and you are worthy of love.
ALL forms of gender-based violence are against the law.
Call IKWRO (UK) Mon to Fri 9.30-5.30 0207 920 6460
For out-of-hours emergencies call
Kurdish / Arabic / English: 07846 275246
Farsi / Dari / English: 07846 310157
Forced Marriage Unit
Helpline: 020 7008 0151 (or 0044 20 7008 0151 if you are overseas)
Helpline Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm 0800 5999 247
Southall Black Sisters
Helpline: Mon, Wednesday and Friday 9:30am -4:30pm – 0208 571 0800
National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
Payzee Mahmod is the younger sister of Banaz Mahmod, whose life was stolen by ‘honour’ killing. Both Payzee and Banaz endured abusive child marriages in the UK. Payzee now campaigns to end ‘honour’ based abuse and is Ambassador for IKWRO – Women’s Rights Organisation