London doctor is held as forced marriage hostage

Race is on to release trainee GP lured to Bangladesh by family, held captive, beaten, and about to marry a stranger against her will. Nina Lakhani reports

British lawyers were this weekend working frantically to rescue a London doctor who has been beaten and held captive in Bangladesh in an attempt to force her into marriage. Dr Humayra Abedin, known as Dorothy to her friends, this weekend faces being forced to marry a complete stranger, unless efforts by lawyers to free her, using new powers, succeed.

Dr Abedin is being held hostage by her family in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, where she is thought to have been gagged, bound and violently beaten to get her to comply with her parents' wishes. The 33-year-old trainee GP is depressed, suicidal and without hope, according to an email she managed to send to a close friend last Friday. This is the first time friends have heard from Dr Abedin for more than three months.

Her parents and uncle were yesterday served with a Forced Marriage Order issued by the British High Court on Friday. Dr Abedin, who has worked as a doctor in the Britain since 2002, is among the first cases to be heard under the Forced Marriage Act which came into force on 25 November. The move came after the family ignored orders from the Bangladeshi high court to bring Dr Abedin to court.

The new legislation allows judges to issue protection orders to prevent forced marriage and help to rescue victims who have already been married off. Those convicted of forcing people into marriage can be jailed for up to two years.

Anne-Marie Hutchinson, the solicitor from Dawson Cornwell acting for Dr Abedin, said: "There are real concerns for the safety of this young woman. It is understood that she is to be married this weekend. The Forced Marriage Act offers protection to all residents of this country. It makes it clear that because she lives here it is not just a domestic matter for the Bangladesh authorities."

While the Act is not enforceable in Bangladesh, lawyers for Dr Abedin are confident it will strengthen the resolve of the authorities in Dhaka.

The only child of Mohammed Joynal Abedin, a retired businessman, and his wife, a housewife, Dr Abedin trained as a doctor in Bangladesh and then came to England in 2002 to study at Leeds University. She has since set up home in Leyton, east London, while working in hospitals across the capital. Dr Abedin is described by friends as an intelligent young woman who loves Bollywood films and Hindi music. She is only a year away from qualifying as a GP.

Her Muslim family became incensed after she developed a close friendship with a Hindu Bangladeshi man she met in London. Since May, they have made several attempts to keep her away from him and to force her into marriage. The Metropolitan Police launched an inquiry at the end of June, after she was held captive in her flat by her mother and uncle, who visited for several days. Her case has also been taken up by Interpol.

Her family duped her into returning to Bangladesh in August, by claiming her mother was seriously ill. They then hid her passport and plane ticket, and have held her captive since 5 August. She has been subjected to physical and psychological violence and denied contact with friends or lawyers. There are also unconfirmed claims that Dr Abedin has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital at the wishes of her parents, who have insinuated in court that her relationship with a Hindu man is a sign of mental illness.



Deprived of any access to a telephone or internet, Dr Abedin somehow managed to send an email to a close friend last Friday. The tone of the email conveys the desperation of her plight. She has lost all hope and says she wants to end her life.



Dr Abedin is one of hundreds of young British men and women who are thought to be forced into marriages every year. In the first nine months of this year, the Government's Forced Marriage Unit was contacted by 1,308 concerned callers fearing they or someone close to them might be forced into marriage. The unit directly helped 388 of these victims – nearly twice as many as in 2007.

The Ministry of Justice minister, Bridget Prentice, said: "I am delighted that the courts have already begun to make use of the Forced Marriage Order to prevent forced marriage. This is very significant and demonstrates quite clearly that the Act will make a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I expect the Act to send a clear message that forced marriage is a fundamental abuse of human rights and will not be tolerated. Forced marriage, like other forms of domestic violence, is underreported, so we do not know the full extent of the problem."

Lawyers acting for Dr Abedin's cousin are pursuing the case in Bangladesh. The high court in Dhaka has for the fourth time ordered her parents and uncle – who are in contempt of court – to bring her before the judge on 14 December. The cousin, Dr Shipra Chaudhury, is said to be under huge pressure to withdraw the petition.

The majority of British victims involve families of South Asian origin, but there are cases from a range of countries including Somalia, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Another protection order has been issued for an 18-year-old girl who has been missing in Iraq for more than a year.

Ms Hutchinson said: "Dr Abedin's case shows that even bright and educated adult women can fall foul of these practices. These proceedings will not end until she is produced. If we are too late and she has been married, it [the Forced Marriage Act] will help us to bring nullity proceedings for her."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
Extras
indybest
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: One of SThree's most successfu...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style