Friday, December 19, 2008

Parents drugged, bound and gagged doctor in forced marriage bid December 19, 2008

An NHS doctor was imprisoned, drugged, bound and gagged before being forced into marriage in Bangladesh, it emerged today, as a British judge issued an order telling her parents not “to pester, harrass or intimidate” her.

Dr Humayra Abedin, 32, was held captive for four-and-a-half months by her family and was forced to marry while under the influence of drugs. She was freed by a court in Bangladesh and returned to Britain on Tuesday.

In the High Court in London this morning, Mr Justice Coleridge issued injunctions against Dr Abedin’s parents, a paternal uncle and the man she was forced to marry.

He declared that it was “vitally important for the message to be understood in those communities where this kind of behaviour is sanctioned” that the courts will act “swiftly and decisively” in cases were there had been such a “gross abuse of an individual’s human rights”.

Outside court Dr Abedin said: “I’m very happy to be back, but I’d like to get back to my life. I’m looking forward to starting my job.”

She said she was grateful to the support she had received from the media and told others in her position: “Don’t give up hope. There is hope.”

Dr Abedin came to Britain in 2002 to take a masters in public health at Leeds University. A year later she moved to London to train as a GP at Whipps Cross hospital. She had been due to became a registrar at an East London surgery this summer.

In court, Dr Abedin’s lawyer, Hassan Khan, read from a statement describing how she flew to Bangladesh in August, believing that her mother was very ill.

On arriving at the family home “she was manhandled into the property by a number of people and immediately locked into a room,” the statement read. “She was always monitored by four or five guards and she was not free to leave the property. Her passport, tickets and other documents were taken from her.”

She was able to alert friends in Britain via text message, and a Bangladeshi human rights organisation called Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) came looking for her at the family home.

This prompted her family to confiscate her phone and try to send her away with people claiming to be police officers. “Following her repeated refusal to go with them, her hands were tied behind her back and her head was covered with a cloth,” the statement says.

Screaming for help, she was “physically manhandled” into an ambulance. “Two of the people in the ambulance gagged her by placing their hands over her mouth to the extent that at one point she believed she would suffocate because she could not breath. She then decided there was no point in screaming further because she feared for her life.”

Dr Abedin was then taken to a psychiatric hospital in Dhaka where she was injected daily with mood stabilisers and psychiatric drugs. She remained there for almost two months.

“By that time she was in a complete state of despair, her spirit was broken and she felt there was no means by which her position could be resolved. She felt helpless.”

Isolated from the outside world, she was told that she had lost her job in Britain and could not return. Her parents told her they wanted her to wed Dr Khondokar Mohammad Abdul Jalal, whom she had previously declined to marry.

On November 14, she was taken to the Khulna area, where, still under the influence of drugs, she “entered into a marriage ceremony against her will and under duress”.

By early December, ASK had obtained a court hearing, but Dr Abedin was “told by her parents that if she said she wanted to go to the United Kingdom both her mother and her father would be put in prison and she would be placed in police custody”.

“Dr Abedin states that although she is an intelligent and educated woman, by then her spirit and will had been so worn down that she believed what she was being told.”

Last Sunday the court in Dhaka ruled that she must be freed. Dr Abedin “retains a natural love for her parents despite their treatment of her,” the statement said. “She does not wish for her parents to suffer any punishment for what has been done by them to her. She is an only child.”

Dr Abedin’s solicitor, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, said of the case: “The profile it has received means that other people will feel that they can come forward and seek the relief that, as Mr Justice Coleridge said, they’re entitled to.” She said Dr Abedin would seek to have her marriage annulled in Britain and had no plans to return to Bangladesh.

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