Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 16:41 UK

Slavery mother-in-law divides town

By Ruth Clegg
BBC News

Naseebah Bibi outside court
Naseebah Bibi made her daughters sew for 13 hours a day

On the surface Naseebah Bibi did not appear to be an out-of-the-ordinary figure.

Often seen around her home town of Blackburn, she would wear a niqab while shopping for her family.

But behind closed doors the grandmother imprisoned her three daughters-in-law and used one as her slave for 13 years.

Since the details of the 63-year-old's "enslavement" of the three emerged her actions have been described as "inhumane", "horrific" and "outdated".

But to some women she is held in awe and, instead of anger, they pity her.

They blame her incarceration on her three victims who "clearly wanted revenge against this poor lady".

Blackburn, with a population of 105,000 - of which nearly a quarter are Muslim Asian - is greatly divided when it comes to Bibi.

She was found guilty of falsely imprisoning Nagina Akhtar between 1993 and 2006, Tazeem Akhtar from 2001 to 2003 and Nisbah Akhtar between 2005 and 2007.

One of Naseebah Bibi's daughters-in-law recalls her treatment

The three women, who cannot speak English, were married to her three sons, who were also their first cousins.

Preston Crown Court heard that the three women would be subjected to constant beatings and abuse and were made to sit behind a sewing machine for 13 hours a day.

Some Muslim women have said she was exploited by her three daughter-in-laws who came to the UK because they thought "money grew off trees".

One woman said: "I feel sorry for the elderly lady [Bibi], she has not been treated well and I think it is a clear case of revenge."

Nas, a local community worker, said: "As a first generation Asian we have experienced these things first hand and I don't think it's enslavement."

"I am saddened by it living in an age where equality and justice is there for everybody
Musharrat Zia, the director of Practical Solutions

Shop owner Jamil, who knows the family, said he was shocked that this could happen to "such a nice family".

But he condemned Bibi's abusive actions, saying: "It's acceptable to treat women like this in other countries but not in our country, in England no, it's not acceptable."

Musharrat Zia is the director of Practical Solutions, an organisation which works to challenge stereotypes and negative myths about different cultures.

She said: "I am saddened by it, living in an age where equality and justice is there for everybody.

"This practice is quite outmoded, its outdated.

"I am surprised that it has taken so long to come to light - it could have been fear or their [the victims'] lack of awareness.

"I am very sad that this is an older lady and she should be setting an example in their communities.

"It may have been perceived as the norm in her generation in other countries, but that should make her set a precedent by not doing it.

"I just hope this sentence acts as a deterrent to other people, no one should have had to go through what they did."

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'Slavery' mother-in-law is jailed
29 May 09 |  Lancashire

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