Alleged Forced Marriage Victim Ran ‘Screaming’ from Family During Rescue

BLACKBURN, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 06: A Muslim woman wearing a Niqab poses inside an Asian fashion shop in the British northern town of Blackburn, the constituency of Member of Parliament Jack Straw, where a quarter of his constituents are Muslim on October 6, 2006, Blackburn, England. Leader of the …
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A British teenage girl tricked into a forced marriage in Bangladesh was seen “running and screaming” from her family during her rescue, Leeds Crown Court has heard.

Intervention from the British consulate only came after the “highly Westernised” 19-year-old secretly contacted her boyfriend in the UK, a court heard Monday.

The alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed that her parents tricked her into going on a family holiday to Bangladesh on July 3rd, 2016, with the intention of forcing her to marry her first cousin, reports the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Both parents, who require a Bengali interpreter in court, deny charges that they attempted to coerce their daughter into marrying against her will.

The jury heard her boyfriend, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, had become concerned after receiving a text message from his girlfriend a week after she had flown to Bangladesh telling him not to message her.

“It did not sound right for her to say that,” the boyfriend said. “I felt like something was clearly happening.”

The couple, who are still together, met in November 2015 but kept their relationship a secret from the teen girl’s parents because they did not “think they would approve”.

The young woman sent details of her location to her boyfriend who then informed West Yorkshire Police on July 11th that she may be in danger. He told the court he had become “terrified” and “scared”.

“She was far away and I did not know what was happening,” he said.

She had been in contact with British authorities for two days before the decision was “taken on face value” to send in a rescue team.

British consulate regional operations manager Matthew Prouten told the court on Friday that the rescue was set in motion after receiving a “threat to life” report.

Mr. Prouten said he was aware that arrangments for the wedding were already being made and he considered the alleged victim to be “highly vulnerable”.

“In my experience, while being in Bangladesh, I have not had a case come through FMU [Forced Marriage Unit] that had gone on to be a successful marriage,” said the Dhaka-based consulate manager.

When a police officer arrived, the then-18-year-old was instructed to walk away from her family. But the young woman, who was covered head to toe in Islamic modest clothing with only her face and hands showing, became “hysterical”.

She “careered around the corner running and screaming” into the arms of the officer before she was bundled into the police vehicle.

The jury heard she then slumped into the footwell, refusing to sit on a seat until she was sure she was safe as she feared her uncle, who she claimed had a gun, would pursue the rescue team on his moped.

The boyfriend told the court, from behind a screen to protect his identity, that three weeks before the trip to Bangladesh, the girl’s father began to sell her personal items. He said she had joked: “What if he is planning to give me away?”

“I can only think of one thing knowing the Asian culture, that’s a forced marriage,” he told the court.

“When it was said to me before she went it was a joke completely, I never thought in this day people still do that.”

“In that moment it just kicked into me that we could have stopped this from happening,” he added.

The trial continues.

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