R.E.A.L. … It is heartbreaking, even as it is unsurprising. In Britain, the authorities are now reporting the forced marriage of girls as young as nine years old on British soil. We are not talking about one case, but several, which take place under official protection. We are not speaking, then, about parents or “husbands” who are being charged with a criminal offense. The situation, in other words, is completely unacceptable and makes clear that we have a crying need for a new approach to these matters. Government must put its foot down — and powerfully so — so that there will be no doubt as to the way in which such grotesque crimes will be addressed.
First, when I say that the marriage of nine-year-old girls in today’s Britain (and the rest of the EU, for that matter) is unsurprising, my statement is based on my own 17 years of experience in the field of immigration: forms of assault based on tradition and religion — including child marriage, forced marriage, genital mutilation, so-called honor-related offenses such as rape and murder — have become established here as a result of immigration, mostly from Muslim countries. Instances of these offenses have been documented in countries such as Norway (where, to be sure, there have been no recorded cases of marriage to girls as young as nine, but where the marriage of an 11-year-old came to light in a TV documentary that I worked on as journalist; such cases have also been known in Sweden). The only phenomenon that has not been documented in Norway thus far is forced eating by girls before they are to be married off. I was told about this practice by feminists in Paris in 2003, and the phenomenon had been imported into France by immigrants, mostly from Mali. Girls are locked up and fed like geese before being married, because in their culture being fat is considered beautiful.
This being said, the news from Britain, which has been reported in the Times, deserves widespread attention. Because the authorities are obviously aware of very serious information about actual children who are supposedly under the protection of those very same authorities. In other words, Britain’s Ministry of Justice, if the Times is to be believed, knows who these children’s parents are, parents who have attempted to arrange for the rape of their own children. For this is what we are talking about here: the deprival of children’s freedom, plus countless years of repeated rape. Such phenomena must force authorities to sit down with a cool head and a warm heart and ask themselves: who are we, and where are we going? What are we doing to ourselves as a nation, to our heritage, to our culture, to our future? According to the Times, however, British authorities are not doing anything of the kind. Here comes the proposed initiative, and before you read this sentence you had better take a deep breath. The Ministry of Justice says that the children’s parents are receiving help from the authorities “to solve the problem.”
I must admit that the principal methods being used in such cases in Norway and in Europe generally — namely, information and dialogue — no longer hold a particularly cherished place in my heart. In my view, the methods must be appropriate to the crime. By far the majority of parents in Europe understand that marriage to children is not “good”; it is precisely for this reason that such weddings do not take place in display windows. The same goes for the husbands with which these children are compelled to tie the knot — and by whom they are raped. As a consequence of the very high levels of immigration from majority-Muslim countries to Europe, we have seen the establishment in European cities of more or less closed enclaves which live according to the norms and values of the residents’ countries of origin. These enclaves, as a rule, have turned their backs on the countries of which their residents are citizens; you might say that they close their blinds. My view is that the current situation calls for stronger measures. Because we are entirely behind the times.
The political establishment has allowed things to go too far. What is happening within extended families and within these immigrant communities is out of control, and the victims of this state of affairs are the most vulnerable people of all. If one is to have any hope whatsoever of regaining control of the problem, it must be answered back with firm and uncompromising demands and measures: in cases of child marriage, first with a long prison term and then, most important, after the prison term has been served, with expulsion from the country.
I mean this very seriously: if we do not begin to make use of such methods immediately in serious cases such as child marriage, genital mutilation, the dumping of children, so-called honor killing and honor rapes, then we will simply continue to be tilting at windmills for the rest of this century. These grotesque practices will not peter out over time — as our leading politicians quite seriously believed was the case, in the last decade, with both genital mutilation and forced marriage. (I could provide the names of actual politicians with whom I have discussed this, but these have been conversations in closed rooms which one does not write about if one hopes to maintain their trust. I can, however, say this: that they believed that the problem would disappear in the generation of immigrants’ children, their reasoning being that this “second generation” was born here and would therefore behave like other Norwegians.)
Allow me to give a specific example from a criminal case in Norway that is currently under litigation. In August 2005, Human Rights Service reported to the police a couple whom we suspected, with good reason, that four of their then six daughters had been genitally mutilated. All of the children had been born in Norway (meaning that they had not been genitally mutilated as children before immigrating to Norway, which is not a crime), and the four oldest, who were then aged 5 to 11, were sent to one of the parents’ three exquisite properties in Gambia “to learn about their parents’ culture and religion,” as they so nicely put it. When I visited the girls at their parents’ residence, they had already been there for two years, under the “care” of their father’s second wife (he now has three wives). The girls were not only emotionally mistreated by this woman; an adult individual told me that they had also been genitally mutilated in the jungle in the Gambian interior shortly after their arrival in 2003. They were to be “disciplined,” as this source put it, and the girls were “totally disciplined,” according to the source, when they were returned to wife #2 a week after their mutilation.
After we filed our report in 2005, the police in Norway worked intensely — and the case went entirely up to the top prosecutorial levels in both Norway and Gambia — to get the four little Norwegian citizens back to Norway. Now we are writing in 2010, and the girls are still “imprisoned” in Gambia, while their parents live freely — and supported by the government — in Norway. In short, the police have made several unsuccessful efforts to persuade the courts to allow them to hold on to the parents’ passports while their case is being investigated, so that they, for example, would not be able to travel to Gambia (where the oldest girl, age 15, is waiting for her parents to come and marry her off to a cousin, according to sources in Gambia).
In 2008, Norwegian authorities decided to investigate the parents’ two youngest daughters, who lived with their parents here in Norway. The three-year-old girl was not genitally mutilated, but the five-year-old was. (The latter had also been in Gambia, while the former had not.) The father was taken into pretrial custody (a historic imprisonment in Norway), while the mother escaped punishment on the grounds that she was once again pregnant. After a few weeks, the father was a free man again, but has still refused to bring his daughters back to Norway. So far he has not been punished.
What do you think would have happened in this case if the father’s citizenship could have been revoked? The case would most likely never have been a case at all. The parents would never have played Russian roulette with what appears to be the only thing they love, their Norwegian citizenship and the financial bounty it affords. For that’s all that Norwegian citizenship means to parents like this: money. In their minds and hearts, they are still back in Gambia.
If someone now comes along waving international human-rights conventions in defense of such parents, I can reply with the same conventions, for example the convention on children’s right to live with their parents, and as long as the parents deny their children this right, Norway can ensure that the children are given this right by sending their parents back to Gambia. Also, if we allow us to use our critical common sense, what matters more: an adult’s right to retain a citizenship he has acquired in his adulthood when in fact he could just as easily live in his country of origin, or a child’s right to be protected from ritual mutilation, and then from forced marriage with rape to follow — not to mention right to be brought up with the care and love he or she deserves?
We have seen the development in Europe through the 1990s and up to the present time, and it can no longer be denied: larger and larger groups from the Muslim world are living in self-imposed isolation and practicing criminal traditions that negatively affect the health of children, young people, and women. No one can answer the question of how many of these practices have become more common, precisely because they take place “in the dark, on the inside.”
I believe that the practices have increased in frequency and will continue to do so in line with the rate of immigration, the number of Muslims living in Europe, and the resultant increase in the isolation of these minorities. In any event, we cannot “sit and wait for better times” — because this is about the destruction of human life, and the sustainability of our welfare state. Simply the fact that women’s rights are now going in reverse (see also Aftenposten’s report on the Muslim moral police who operate in the Oslo neighborhood of Gronland, and who among other things deprive women and gays of their freedom) is completely intolerable.
To sum up, I think that it is alarming that we should be so extremely naive as to believe that the conditions will suddenly become so much better in this decade. We need for the police to take an entirely different approach. We need to speak and act in such a way that no one can misunderstand that things have crossed the limits of patience. A society based on humanism cannot live with such conditions. It is, after all, about helpless and defenseless children and teenagers, and marginalized women.
My last word on these matters, then, is this: the thoughts that govern official policy in these areas are about ten years out of date. At the same time I am quite certain that it is only a matter of time before citizenship will not be so sacred anymore as to be untouchable.
By Hege Storhaug
Translated from the Norwegian by Bruce Bawer.
© 2010, Assyrian International News Agency.