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My mother was the victim of honour killing

Britain's most controversial Muslim playwright tells the extraordinary story of her mother's murder and growing up as the daughter of an honour killing.
I was six-years-old when my mother, Shakeela Begum Khan, a beautiful, sassy, educated young Muslim woman, was murdered.

Returning home from school one day in 1976 to the one-room bedsit in East London where we both lived, I found police officers and an ambulance crew removing her body.

I remember that scene now as if it were a vague dream.

Did it really happen, or did I just imagine it?

I have no memory of how I felt, only of what I witnessed.

As I grew up, older relatives had to reassure me that my memories weren't delusional.

Many years later, I also discovered the killer had set up the room to make it look as though it were a brothel, and my mother a prostitute.

As anyone from a Muslim background would instantly recognise, it was the ultimate way to dishonour a woman in the eyes of her family and community.

Soon after my mother's death, her estranged husband, Rasib - my father - was accused of the murder, charged and tried, but he was acquitted.

Taken by Rasib to live with his new wife and a half-brother, both of whom were cruel and abusive to me when my father was not around, I was never allowed to utter a word about my mother.

For the next eight years, I lived in an atmosphere of secrets, lies and crippling fear, reluctantly protecting my vicious stepmother and half-brother from the fury my father would have unleashed on them if he'd known what they did to me.

I lived in constant dread that if I told anybody, the ultimate punishment for them would be death.

Now, three decades later, I have attained a form of poetic justice.

As a playwright, I challenge the forces that try to impose silence and censorship on me.

Having been silenced for so many years of my life, I am now determined to say the unsayable whenever necessary.


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