A man who treated his wife as a slave at their Charlton home has been jailed for two years in a breakthrough legal case.
Safraz Ahmed, 34, of Elliscombe Road, pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court for “holding a person in domestic servitude” – the first Briton to be convicted for the offence involving two relatives. He was also found guilty of assaulting wife Sumara Iram.
Following their arranged marriage in 2006 Ahmed subjected his wife to physical and mental torture. “It was a living nightmare,” she told the court.
She said: ”When the beatings first started, I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing, especially as Safraz’s family did not come to my aid. I overlooked the assaults as I wanted to prove that I was a good wife. I naively accepted such behaviour because he was my husband.
“I was in a foreign country with no family support; I had no friends who I could go to for advice or intervene in my plight. When I first approached the police I was a broken woman.”
That call came to police August 2014 who received a plea from a woman saying she had been locked inside her home. Police helped and took her to a place of safety where the 29-year-old said she had been kept as a domestic servant for Safraz and members of his family who lived at the same address working from 5am to midnight.
She was required to cook, clean, wash, iron and look after other people’s children, and if this work was not done to the required standard, she was beaten. She had tins of food thrown at her, was sent streams of abusive text messages and told to kill herself.
Sumara was not allowed to leave the house alone and received £10 per month to top up her phone.
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Three other members of the family were charged with conspiracy to hold a person in slavery but the case was dropped.
Sumara said: “I was a fun-loving, athletic, free-thinking and confident girl, educated to MA degree level – these qualities were beaten out of me systematically. I was drained physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and financially.”
She said she was now on medication for panic attacks and depression as well as to counteract the impact of her beatings, which left her with difficulty breathing following a broken nose.
She said she had been scared to go out because of rumours spread about her in the Muslim community and she cannot return home to Pakistan as a “dishonourable” divorced woman.
“I have been left homeless, penniless and destitute. This is not the life I was expecting to lead. It has wasted the 10 years that I was married to him and has robbed me of my future. It is unlikely that I will ever marry again.”
Det Sgt Pal Singh, from Greenwich CID, said: “Ahmed kept Sumara in his home for the sole purpose of using her as a domestic servant. She thought she would live here as his wife. Instead she lived as his slave.
“I am pleased that Ahmed has received a custodial sentence and this should act as a warning to other people who are thinking of using marriage as a means of enslavement. Sumara’s right to a full family life has been destroyed and she can’t return to her native country for fear of harm and retributions.”