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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Lover 'heartbroken' over killing
By Jane Mower
BBC News, London

Banaz Mahmod Babakir Agha
Banaz's body was found in a suitcase in Birmingham
The boyfriend of a young woman murdered by her father and uncle because they deemed him "unsuitable" has spoken of his heartbreak.

Rahmat Sulemani, 29, who has been forced to move home and live under a different name following the murder of Banaz Mahmod, said the family of his former lover hid their "dark side" beneath a veil of respectability.

He also criticised the police for not taking his initial concerns about 20-year-old Banaz seriously enough.

Mahmod Babakir Mahmod and Ari Mahmod Babakir Agha were found guilty this week of murdering 20-year-old Banaz Mahmod Babakir Agha last year.

Locked up

They were convicted at the Old Bailey of killing Banaz and burying her body in a suitcase in the garden of a house in Birmingham.

"My life went away when Banaz died," he said. "The only thing which was keeping me going was the moment to see justice being done for Banaz. I am just heartbroken and I am falling apart day after day."

Rahmat was a hard-working friend of the family who was often invited to dinner, but despite this, he was not considered an option for Banaz.

People couldn't see the dark side inside them because they were good at hiding that.
Rahmat Sulemani

Yet this did not stop their friendship developing into something deeper.

"We became close friends and at first it was just a normal friendship," he said. "Then it kept on going. The more we knew about each other the stronger our feelings were for one another."

He tried to convince Banaz's father Mahmod to let the pair marry but he told her it was never going to happen and that even if he agreed, his brother and other members of the community would not allow it.

Banaz was taken to a relative's house in Sheffield where she was locked up for two weeks and beaten.

When that did not work, a family meeting was called in December 2005 where it was decided to kill the couple unless they stopped seeing each other.

The first attempt to kill Banaz came on New Year's Eve when Banaz was lured to her grandmother's house and forced to drink brandy.

She eventually escaped by smashing a window before collapsing in a cafe and later being taken to hospital, covered in blood.

Rahmat recalled visiting her in hospital.

He said: "It is a moment that I can never forget in my life, the state that Banaz was in, with bruises, scratches and blood all over her body."

Being followed

He recovered video footage of Banaz explaining what had happened, which was later played in court, because he did not think people would believe her family were capable of such things.

"Her parents are a very strict Muslim family," he said. "It would be hard for people to believe me. They would be saying, 'No Banaz's family would never touch alcohol, he is a Muslim'."

He added: "People couldn't see the dark side inside them because they were good at hiding that."

Despite pretending to break up, they were followed and seen together.

Bekhal Mahmod
To do this to their own flesh and blood was unforgivable.
Bekhal Mahmod
One night when he tried to telephone Banaz and could not get through, he knew something was wrong.

He became increasingly concerned when there was no contact at all the next day and criticised the police for not doing enough at the time.

"Literally, I was harassing them," he said. "I know I felt inside of me that she was gone."

Three months later, her body was found in the West Midlands.

Banaz's older sister Bekhal, 22, said she paid the ultimate price of finding happiness with a man who did not meet with the approval of her Kurdish family.

"She just wanted to get out of it and live her life. That's all she wanted - she didn't want the world," said Bekhal.

Four years before her sister's death, Bekhal fled the family home in Mitcham, south-west London, after being beaten and threatened by her father for "bringing shame on his name" by adopting Western ways.

Now living in fear of her own life, Bekhal refuses to reveal where she lives and never ventures outside without wearing a full veil, showing only her eyes.

Bekhal said: "To do this to their own flesh and blood was unforgivable. Forgiveness isn't even a question. They don't deserve to be on this earth.

"How can somebody think that kind of thing and actually do it to your own flesh and blood? It's disgusting."



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