Payzee Mahmod on child marriage, honour killing and freedom
October 19, 2020. Series 2. Episode 12
In this episode fashion stylist and activist Payzee Mahmod gives an intense and moving account of a young life etched with horror, pain but now also, years later, with hope. Payzee was just 15 and living in South London when her Kurdish father ordered her to marry a stranger twice her age. Her 17-year-old sister Banaz had already suffered the same fate. Whilst Payzee lived her own nightmare with an abusive husband, Banaz managed to run away from hers. When she later began a relationship with another man, her punishment was to be abducted, raped and murdered. With a police investigation underway, Payzee was then able to escape her own forced marriage. Banaz’s death, as she puts it, enabled her freedom. But the awful truth about what happened in January 2006 then became apparent. Banaz and Payzee’s father and uncle, along with other male relatives, were later convicted and sentenced to life for her murder – a so called honour killing. Payzee now devotes her life to a campaign to make all forms of child marriage in the UK illegal. This is Payzee’s story told with heartbreaking detail, clarity of thought and driven by a breathtaking, awe inspiring sense of purpose.
Sign Payzee’s petition: https://www.freedomunited.org/advocate/safeguard-futures/
Payzee’s Crisis Cures:
1. Creativity – If I’m not in the best place I want to make something.
2. Social media – For me, it’s where I’ve really found a great deal of support and friendships. I never knew that speaking out and telling my story would encourage so many young, especially Kurdish girls and women to tell me their stories.
3. Walking with my dog just soothes and calms me.
Payzee’s website: https://www.payzeemalika.co.uk/
Chat with Payzee podcast: https://www.payzeemalika.co.uk/podcast
Savera UK: https://www.saverauk.co.uk/
Freedom United: https://www.freedomunited.org/
Sign Payzee’s petition: https://www.freedomunited.org/advocate/safeguard-futures/
This episode is, at times, a difficult listen. At several points in our conversation I struggled to find an adequate response to Payzee’s eloquent and painfully honest description of her young life. How does someone survive or cope with all that Payzee and her sister Banaz endured?
What perhaps struck me most deeply was the inexplicable absence of support for Payzee and, of course, her sister. How could an ordeal lived in plain sight in modern day London be ignored so often and so comprehensively? By schools, shopkeepers, the registrar who married her and, of course, the police. As Payzee said: “It blows my mind that not one person in my life asked if I was ok.” What is also astonishing is that Payzee has only recently been able to find and receive the professional help she needs. She now, thankfully, has a Kurdish counsellor who understands the multi layered complexity of her experience. Payzee is determined, on Banaz’s behalf, to campaign for an end to all forms of child marriage. Through her passionate activism she has turned the oppression that killed her sister, into an inspiring, powerful tool for good. As Payzee puts it: “My sister deserved better. What happened to her and what happened to me – it can’t happen to other girls. That’s what drives me.”
Stream/Buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning: https://ampl.ink/qp6bm
Some Velvet Morning Website: www.somevelvetmorning.co.uk
Host – Andy Coulson
Producer – Louise Difford
00:00:00.00 Intro music
00:00:19.00 Andy Coulson:
Hello and welcome to Crisis What Crisis? A new podcast designed to be a useful field guide as we all try to navigate and come to terms with a dramatically changed world. Whether it’s personal, professional or both, crisis is without doubt, the new shared experience. I’m Andy Coulson, a former newspaper editor, Downing Street Director of Communications and one time inmate of HMP Belmarsh. For the last four years I’ve been putting all of my experience, the good and the bad, to use as a strategic advisor to business leaders and I can tell you that the bad has been just as useful as the good. And that got me thinking that there are plenty of great podcasts out there where you can hear stories of success, there are far fewer where you can benefit from the experience of those whose lives have properly unravelled.
00:01:06.22 Andy Coulson:
So, in Crisis What Crisis? I’ll be talking to the embattled, shamed, courageous, ruined, damaged, resilient, unlucky and lucky survivors of crisis. Some names will be familiar, some less so, but all our guests will talk about their crises honestly, often with humour, but always in the hope that what they have to share might be useful to anyone facing down their own demons and challenges. Put simply these are crisis stories worth sharing. If you agree and enjoy what you hear please do give us a rating and a review, that way even more people will hear them and that in the end is what it’s all about.
00:01:43.13 Andy Coulson:
Crisis What Crisis? Is generously supported by Myndstream, a brilliant company who harness the power of music for personal wellbeing. Whether it be music for meditation, to help focus, sleep, stress relief, yoga and fitness, rejuvenation even grief and loss, Myndstream is there to improve human performance. I’ve tried it, it works, and I’d recommend having listen to the Myndstream catalogue yourself. Just search Myndstream, that’s mind with a Y, on Spotify. Thanks again for joining me.
00:02:17.05 Andy Coulson:
My guest today is the fashion stylist and activist Payzee Mahmod. Payzee’s story is one of the most difficult we’ve explored, frankly, or are ever likely to explore on this podcast. Parts of this podcast story you might have seen dramatised very recently in ITV’s Honour. A programme that Payzee is keen that I make clear she didn’t contribute to. Instead she prefers to tell her story herself and it’s a privilege to have her here today to do just that.
00:02:43.02 Andy Coulson:
Born in Iraqi Kurdistan, Payzee is one of six children who in 1999, when she was eleven, and after some time living in Iran, her mother and father came to live in South London. The family settled into life in Mitcham, as part of the Kurdish community. Strict, often oppressive, patriarchal community with a clear code of behaviour, particularly in relation, of course, to young women. Payzee’s eldest sister Bekhal rebelled against that regime and as a teenager she left the family home and was eventually put into foster care. As a result Payzee’s father, Mahmod, was ostracised, he had, in the eyes of his community, dishonoured them.
00:03:19.22 Andy Coulson:
As a result her father’s control over Payzee and her other sisters became even more restrictive. To gain back that respect, at just seventeen, he forced her sister, Banaz, to marry an older man. A year later Payzee walked into her sitting room to be told that the stranger sat in front of her, a man twice her age, was to be her husband. Banaz was soon the victim of abuse at the hands of her partner, abuse she reported but that was ignored by her parents and the authorities. Sometime later, and having left her husband, she began a relationship with another man, Rahmat Sulemani. Payzee, during this time was living her own forced marriage nightmare.
00:03:59.01 Andy Coulson:
Banaz and Rahmat endured a number of death threats which again were reported to the police. In January 2006 he reported Banaz as missing. Three months later her body was found in a suitcase buried in a garden in Birmingham. Payzee, then eighteen, arranged her twenty year old sister’s funeral, the community offering no support or help as she did so. But in that same month she was able to divorce, herself. As she puts it, her sister’s death enabled her freedom. The following year Payzee and Banaz’s father and uncle were convicted, along with a number of other male relatives of murder, guilty of her so-called honour killing. Banaz had been raped, tortured and strangled. A decade later Rahmat, very sadly, took his own life, unable to cope with the horror of what had happened to Banaz.
00:04:49.05 Andy Coulson:
As I say, Payzee was able to escape her forced marriage and begin the rebuild of her young life. Her childhood so damaged she’s focused with quite remarkable resilience on two things. First a career in fashion, the profession she loves and more recently as an activist. A campaigner against forced marriage, child marriage and FGM, something she and her sisters were also forced to undergo as young girls. Payzee is an ambassador for the IKWRO Women’s rights organisation. She’s turned her sister’s murder and the unimaginable tragedy of both their young lives into a truly powerful purpose. Payzee, welcome, and thank you for joining me on Crisis What Crisis? How are you?
00:05:35.03 Payee Mahmod:
I’m well, thank you so much for having me, it’s a pleasure to talk with you today.
00:05:39.19 Andy Coulson:
Before we start, your petition to end child marriage in this country, to make child marriage illegal, has reached more than 150,000 signatures. You must be delighted with that progress.
00:05:55.06 Payee Mahmod:
I am, to be honest I never, ever thought it would gain this amount of incredible public support. We’re almost at 200,000 signatures and it’s great to see that there’s so much support, yeah. I think for a long time I always felt that what happened with me and my sister and these marriages taking place, may be quite rare. But the more this conversation happens online, the more people reach out to me on social media and talk about their own experiences and the more people are keen to lend their support and agree that this is horrendous and has to stop especially in a country that we say we’re leaders.
00:06:32.04 Andy Coulson:
Let’s chat briefly about the law, which of course is at the heart of your campaign. It is in Scotland, before we talk about England, but in Scotland you can marry from sixteen without parental consent, correct?
00:06:48.22 Payee Mahmod:
00:06:50.20 Andy Coulson:
In this country you need parental consent at the ages of sixteen and seventeen. But of course, and as we’re going to discuss as we talk about your story, that in some ways I think you would argue facilitates coercion. Is that how you see it?
00:07:12.00 Payee Mahmod:
Yes, absolutely. So I think the first thing to remember is that in our current law children can’t make that decision for themselves anyway. So in a sense we’re saying that by having these laws, seventeen and sixteen year olds can’t make that decision, they’re not able to have informed decisions. And so somebody else, an adult, has to step in and allow them to make that decision. So what we’re saying is if children can’t make that decision, we know they shouldn’t be, so let’s cut off that loophole completely and not allow anybody to be able to use this as a means to abuse.
00:07:52.10 Andy Coulson:
And your point is that the percentage of marriages that are actually involve sixteen and seventeen year olds is so small, well under one percent, that this is an issue that should be relatively easy to fix?
00:08:09.11 Payee Mahmod:
00:08:10.06 Andy Coulson:
That’s part of the argument?
00:08:12.12 Payee Mahmod:
Yes, exactly. Although, as you said, the numbers are low when we’re talking about registered marriages, we also have to take into account that in the UK if you do marry under any sort of religious or cultural marriage it does not have to be registered. So we have to remember that, yes we have these marriages on record but how many girls are being married in cultural or religious marriages, or marriages that happen abroad that the government cannot see a picture of? So that’s really important if we’re talking about completely illegalising child marriage under eighteen, that covers everybody, that coves people who are doing religious marriages or cultural marriages, therefore there’s a clear cut message for everybody.
00:08:55.14 Andy Coulson:
Of course. Your situation, your marriage, was registered, am I right?
00:09:00.09 Payee Mahmod:
00:09:02.01 Andy Coulson:
Well look again, congratulations on the campaign and I hope that this conversation will add a few more signatures.
00:09:08.23 Payee Mahmod:
I hope so too. Especially ahead of our second reading. So the bill which was presented on October 6th by Pauline Latham, MP, how now got a date for a second reading. So it would be incredible to just keep the support up for that reading and hopefully we’ll get it to the next stage.
00:09:27.17 Andy Coulson:
Payzee, how early in your life did you become aware of this concept of honour that sits at the centre of your story?
00:09:41.18 Payee Mahmod:
To be honest with you, it might sound crazy, but I remember being a little girl, around the age of five, maybe six, and being told how to behave. And it really stayed with me because the way that me and the other girls around me were told how to behave, was so different to how boys were allowed to behave. So I had male cousins and I lived in a massive household with my uncles and aunts and their children. And of course I have an older brother. But there was always this distinction of you are a girl so you must behave in this way because essentially the way you behave paints a picture of your family’s reputation and how well you’ve been raised. As though it didn’t matter for boys and it didn’t matter how boys behaved because their behaviour doesn’t add anything to the family’s reputation. So I became aware of that from a really, really young age.
00:10:42.22 Andy Coulson:
Was that idea even more pronounced in the conversations that you would have with your family, once you’d arrived in the UK?
00:10:56.15 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, definitely. I think so there were things growing up where I spent the first eleven years of my life. I grew up in Iran where we didn’t go to school because we were Iraqi immigrants. We never really left the house; we didn’t integrate with anybody outside of our home. But coming here we started going to school, we started, you know, having friends, watching TV and being exposed to, I guess, this whole new world. And I think for my parents there was a massive threat in that and they really kind of upped the levels in terms of what we could and we couldn’t do. So my parents didn’t like us listening to music that wasn’t Kurdish, for example. They didn’t like us to watch soaps because soaps would explore the idea of relationships and, you know, drinking or smoking or dressing too western, they would put it. So they really did become more and more strict when we lived here, yeah.
00:11:52.22 Andy Coulson:
Your older sister, Bekhal, was the first to display the spirit of independence. What do you remember about that? She was the first in the family, what effect did that have on life at home?
00:12:17.04 Payee Mahmod:
To be honest, as soon as she sort of started displaying those, I guess what at the time for us was, out of the norm behaviour. So she would have friends and she would wear makeup and she would work. Or she would socialise and for us we were so shocked by it, me and my sisters, because we were so worried about the repercussions if any of us were to behave like that. And I think watching how brave she was and how she stood up to my dad, she didn’t care that it would get her in trouble, she just wanted to be a normal teenager.
00:12:53.13 Andy Coulson:
Just explain the age differences between you all, between the sisters. So Bekhal at this stage is what age?
00:13:01.03 Payee Mahmod:
So she would have been about sixteen now, she was just leaving school and going to college and starting to become a bit more independent and learning about other things like maybe working part time and having friends and not wearing school uniform and expressing herself through fashion and makeup and music and all those things. And I just remember thinking wow, she’s so brave because I would be way too scared to you know do those things.
00:13:31.17 Andy Coulson:
How old were you at this stage?
00:13:34.10 Payee Mahmod:
So now, I would have been about thirteen, going on thirteen yeah.
00:13:41.00 Andy Coulson:
You were having your own few acts of small rebellion weren’t you? If one were to walk into your bedroom at that age, I’ve heard you talk about it, Britney Spears posters on the wall, your love of fashion was already beginning to show itself. How were you finding that balance at home?
00:14:06.00 Payee Mahmod:
You know what? I was really trying to take little steps into discovering new things. But I was always… I found my sister, for example, she was very open about what she wanted to do and she would display her I guess, her desires for the things that she was interested in. But I remember I would put posters in my bedroom but they would go on the inside of my wardrobe, so that I could only see them if I was opening the door to get dressed and my parents wouldn’t see them. And I was just collecting them.
00:14:41.03 Andy Coulson:
So that your dad wouldn’t see them?
00:14:44.13 Payee Mahmod:
No, yeah, exactly. And he would always say ‘why do you have posters with people wearing clothes like this’, crop tops and you know, girls and boys provocatively standing next to each other. And that kind of thing. He was really worried, I think, that was one of his biggest worries was that we would learn about relationships and the idea of sex and this forbidden thing that no girl should ever know about until she’s married.
00:15:15.06 Andy Coulson:
When you look back at that period of your life, because of the sort of tragedy that followed and the events that you directly lived yourself, are you able to look back on your childhood with any pleasure? With any fondness might be a better word.
00:15:41.16 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, there’s very little moments. I mean, I shared a room with two of my sisters. So my little sister, who was four years younger than me and also Banaz. So there were three of us in this bedroom with bunk beds and just the silly things like deciding who gets to sleep on the top bunk what night. And you know, those little things that we would kind of go through together. And sharing Goosebumps books and borrowing an item of clothing to each other, those little things I think are what…
00:16:13.24 Andy Coulson:
You were a gang?
00:16:14.23 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, that kind of make me feel good about my childhood. But as a whole it was really hard growing up in our household, it was hard.
00:16:24.05 Andy Coulson:
How was life outside of the house? So how was school?
00:16:28.12 Payee Mahmod:
I think school was, for me, my biggest escape. I loved school, especially not having gone to school until I was eleven, I just loved the idea that I could walk into a library and have access to all these books and go on a computer and have friends and learn all these different things, you know. For most children school starts when they’re about five, six. But for me I was eleven going on twelve when I started going to school and just…
00:16:54.17 Andy Coulson:
So you’d been home educated up until that point?
00:16:58.19 Payee Mahmod:
Not really, to be honest, because my mother was illiterate. So it was just mostly watching TV and learning the odd alphabet here and there. So when I came to this country I just spoke my mother tongue. I didn’t know much about learning, about school, about all those things that kids would have naturally learned at that age already.
00:17:23.08 Andy Coulson:
And your father, in terms of his education?
00:17:28.07 Payee Mahmod:
So my father’s quite educated because he came to the UK before me and my family, a few years before us. And so he learnt English and he sent us a few books and tapes and things to learn English before we came here. So when I came to the UK the only thing I knew was this very strange American accent of pronouncing apples and dogs because the tapes were American. So I learnt the alphabet and the few words from those tapes.
00:17:59.16 Andy Coulson:
Right, and we mentioned your mum. What was your relationship like with your mother when you look back to that stage of your life?
00:18:12.12 Payee Mahmod:
My relationship with my mother, I always adored her because she was her mother. And I think every little girl can say that they absolutely adore and idolise their mother growing up. I used to think of her as, she has all these children and she manages so well in the house. And she does a great job of raising us and you know just I guess being very resilient in her situation especially when my father had left us alone in Iran. I always saw that she was strong. I think it’s only as I got older that I kind of sometimes would think back and ask myself, why did my mother not step in at this time, especially as a woman.
00:19:01.02 Andy Coulson:
00:19:02.22 Payee Mahmod:
But I think in the eyes of a child at the time I just admired her strength.
00:19:07.24 Andy Coulson:
When Bekhal left and the community effectively ostracised your family, that affected you all. As I understand it there were significant threats; it was a visceral thing, it wasn’t just whispers in the street. How did that feel for you? How were you able to, or were you able to make any kind of sense of that at all?
00:19:37.04 Payee Mahmod:
I think what happened was, we as children, I think we were kind of following my parents’ lead in this. So for them it was, the way I picked it up was it was so normalised. So I remember coming home from school and seeing the fax machine and pages and pages of faxes coming through. And there would just be threats and my dad would ask me to read them and translate to him what the pages said. And there would just be threats saying, we will blow your house up with everyone in it, we will throw petrol bombs in your house. You can’t come anywhere…
00:20:11.02 Andy Coulson:
Coming through on the fax machine?
00:20:13.15 Payee Mahmod:
Yes, exactly, yeah. And I think because my parents normalised it, especially my father, there wasn’t really any reaction. I mean, I think myself if I received something like that now, I’d be absolutely horrified but there wasn’t any reaction. So I think for me at that time it was just so normal. Oh, you know, I’m just reading a piece of paper for my dad today, it’s no big deal. And it didn’t really seem strange at all.
00:20:43.12 Andy Coulson:
But children, you know, you’ve just given us an example of it, children are incredibly resilient but they’re also sponges, aren’t they? So you and your sisters must have been absorbing that kind of constant tension. However normalised it was in the way that your father would react to it, you must have been sort of soaking all that up in the most painful way.
00:21:05.17 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, and we definitely, I think I definitely sensed the tension because we went from socialising all of the time with our cousins, with our extended family and community, to feeling like they don’t want us anywhere near them. And this is all because my sister had left. So it was a case of dealing with the fact that, which I think we never dealt with anyway, my sister had one day been here, the next day she disappeared. And it was like she never, ever was in our lives in the first place to now dealing with the fact that everybody blames you for that and everybody is basically shutting you out because your sister has left. It was all so strange to understand and to make sense of. And I think it gave us a lot of internalised shame and guilt, as though we were responsible, this was our fault that my sister had left.
00:21:57.09 Andy Coulson:
So Bekhal resists what must have been incredible pressure to keep her independence in effect she goes into hiding, as I understand it. And her life turns into something that must have been unbelievably difficult. And your father’s attention focuses on you and your other sisters. You and Banaz of course. You’re effectively the route back for him, back to being a figure of respect in your community. Is that the sort of right conclusion to draw?
00:22:38.24 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, definitely. I think he saw it as well if one of my daughters has shamed me essentially in the community, I can then use my other daughters to win back the community and win back their respect. So essentially me and my sisters were just used to either win back respect and status or to actually lose it.
00:23:05.08 Andy Coulson:
Do you remember anything in terms of that dynamic between your family and the community, do you remember a particular moment where you could see that? Both at the time when you were effectively ostracised but then also seeing your father trying to find his way back in, is there a memory of that?
00:23:28.03 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, the things that really stick out for me is going from getting death threats to then having these wedding parties where the people that were sending us the death threats were there celebrating and kind of, I guess, clapping for my dad and sort of giving him the nod of, you’ve won us back. I think that was one of the strangest things for me was how did we go from you want me and my entire family dead because of my sister leaving to now congratulating my dad on his success of marriages, two child marriages. And I think it was so strange to see, it was just so confusing.
00:24:13.15 Andy Coulson:
To put it mildly. How you even begin to process it would, I think, be beyond most people listening to this podcast. But Banaz is the first to be forced into a marriage. What do you remember about that? And how did that impact you? This is your sister, you’ve been sharing that bedroom together, you’re incredibly close, very tight unit and then suddenly she’s, presumably, she sits you down and says, dad’s just told me that I’m to be married.
00:24:45.17 Payee Mahmod:
She was my best friend and we always did everything together. But all of a sudden, when the conversation of marriage for her came up, all of a sudden she I felt like my parents had kind of put a distance between us and her. So they would talk to her privately and I always found it very strange. In the beginning I sensed that she didn’t want to tell me what was going on and then she just said to me, ‘my dad says I’m going to get married’ and she became all… It’s kind of cheesy to describe it in this way but she became really prim and proper. And she started behaving in the way that my parents had kind of told her to start behaving as though she wasn’t seventeen, almost like I remember she was even wearing clothes that for me, as teenagers, I found it so strange. She would wear like collared shirts that were more for somebody my mum’s age, very mature clothing. And she started, in the way that she behaved, really engaging differently and not laughing and not finding things that we would usually laugh at funny. She had just become mature overnight. And I think she felt the pressure from my parents to behave that way.
00:26:00.04 Andy Coulson:
Do you think she was trying to protect you as well?
00:26:05.05 Payee Mahmod:
I think she was very confused yeah, and she also didn’t want me to know that she was just going to up and leave. I think she knew that this was all going to happen. But for me, until the day she actually married and went to Birmingham, I had no idea that was happening.
00:26:23.18 Andy Coulson:
Then at the age of fifteen, I think I’m right in saying, you’re told that you’re to be married. If you don’t mind, Payzee, would you mind just telling us, talking us through, how that happened, when that happened and then that first meeting with a man twice your age, who you’d never met.
00:26:49.24 Payee Mahmod:
The first time that my parents did speak to me about marriage was when I was fifteen, yes. I was on GCSE leave and it was really casual. My dad just said to me ‘there’s somebody who wants to marry you’. And I was quite, I guess, childish in my reaction. I sort of laughed at him and I said, ‘but I’m just fifteen’. And I think he took great offence to that because thereafter he sort of really distanced himself and he really emotionally abandoned me. And not long after that, it was only a few months, I think maybe six months after that, I’d turned sixteen now and then he said to me again, ‘there’s somebody who wants to marry you, there’s a new person’.
00:27:32.08 Payee Mahmod:
And I think all I could think about way how much it hurt and how lonely and how terrible it felt to have my father’s reaction from the first time, that this time round I just felt like I had no choice. I felt like if I say no again, what could my dad do after the last time, let me just say yes and please him. So it went from that conversation again very informal to just being called into our living room and I was told like not to speak. I was told to just sit there and pay my respects. And I just remember having a very quick sneak at this guy and I was just terrified. Who is this guy? He’s a complete stranger, I don’t know him and I know for a fact that this is my fate, this is me and my future is this.
00:28:30.15 Payee Mahmod:
There was a very strange dynamic between me and my father in the sense that I always yearned, from the bottom for his approval and to make him proud. And they were sort of very small drops of his proud moments when he would, let’s say, ask me to translate something for him or he would ask me to do something. And he would raise me and make me feel like he was proud of me for a second. But that particular time when he just allowed this stranger to basically come into my life and take away the best years of my life, it just made me, I think, deep down start really resenting him and just feeling just so hurt by him.
00:29:26.22 Andy Coulson:
And that’s not a gradual thing, you walk into your sitting room. There’s a man you’ve never met, twice your age as I say, your father’s in front of you, the man you trust as your father, and you’re going to marry that man. It’s not a gradual slide towards that, is it? It’s a sudden thing. It must have been an unbelievably, apart from anything, it must have been a terrifying moment for you?
00:29:55.10 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, it really was such a shock because I was in a whole new world. I was thinking to myself I’m going to go to college and I’m going to wear the clothes that I like, I don’t have to wear uniform anymore. I couldn’t wait. And I was told that when I go to college I’ll have a mobile phone. And at the time the thought of a Nokia was mind blowing, you know. You’ll have a Nokia phone all to yourself. This was my priorities and this was what was so exciting for me but it was almost just like a big smack in my face that was such a reality check and it was just so confusing. I think I use that word a lot because I was often asking myself am I wrong for not wanting this? Would every other girl in my position just doing what their parents say? Because that’s all I knew. At the same time, deep down, I knew this is wrong, this isn’t right, this isn’t what anybody should be doing, anybody my age. None of my friends are doing this and all of my friends have their own lives and don’t feel this way about their dads.
00:31:09.02 Andy Coulson:
So the marriage takes place. What do you remember of the wedding day itself?
00:31:19.18 Payee Mahmod:
The wedding day, I was unsure in terms of where I was going. Because I’d never seen where I was going next, I was just told to pack my things.
00:31:32.23 Andy Coulson:
You didn’t know that it was the wedding day?
00:31:36.24 Payee Mahmod:
No, I didn’t. I was… I got all glammed up, you know, I had all this makeup put on me and the wedding dress but I didn’t really understand that this is what makes it official. Because prior to that I’d had my Islamic ceremony and again I was all dolled up and basically this Imam went through the process of marrying me to this man but then I still stayed at my parents’ house. So it was all like so what’s next? And nobody was telling me this is what’s going to happen, you’ll have the wedding and then you’ll go to your husband’s house. They just said to me, pack your stuff. And you know I just remember thinking to myself, I don’t want to leave any of my books behind, I want to take all my posters and my silly little diaries, my fluffy pens and things like that. That was really what was so important to me.
00:32:27.12 Payee Mahmod:
And so the wedding party happened and I think that was one of those moments where I think reality started kicking in. Where I thought, okay, everyone is here and there’s a massive celebration so maybe I’m not going back home. And it was only when the wedding ended that I then went to this hotel with my husband, which was supposed to be our honeymoon, and again, I had no idea what any of this meant. You know you have to bear in mind, growing up in my household I didn’t know what marriage was. I didn’t know what relationships were I had never had access to sex education. All of those topics were completely restricted from our lives and so the idea of marriage, I didn’t even know what that meant. I’d only ever seen my parents who were married and all my aunts and Banaz, who was married. And from seeing Banaz’ marriage it just looked so depressing and so nothing that I wanted any part in.
00:33:34.00 Andy Coulson:
I’ve heard you describe yourself at that moment as feeling like an auction item, that you were something that was for sale. You’d been completely dehumanised.
00:33:45.06 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, absolutely, yeah. I remember being told by my parents, ‘when you meet your husband don’t speak’. You know it was almost like we’ve presented this picture of you just keep the picture as we’ve presented it and don’t embarrass us. It was so strange.
00:34:04.01 Andy Coulson:
We mentioned it earlier but your marriage was then…. You then had a registry officer service; it was a registered marriage. And of course that’s not something that can happen within the community only. That involves people from outside of the community, a whole range of different individuals. So that dress that you described had to be brought from a shop. The arrangements for the party, you know, all these things involved other people outside of your community. No one raised a question? No one said, ‘what’s happening here?’ Nobody asked you, ‘are you okay?’
00:34:53.17 Payee Mahmod:
No, not a single person and I just remember going through all of those moments of the wedding being organised and going shopping and I just kept throwing tantrums. And yet again, as you said, not a single person thought something was off. I remember being in a jewellers in south London in tooting and we were going around from shop to shop because my parents kept telling me to choose jewellery and to choose big, huge necklaces and things like that. And the thought of those things just made me sick because all I kept thinking was, well my favourite pop stars don’t wear those things, so I don’t like those things and I want something glittery like my favourite pop stars. And we would be in these shops and I would kick up a fuss every time and I would just say I don’t want to. My mum would say ‘try this on’ or ‘try that on’. And the shopkeepers would just be there really trying to sell us, trying to make money and they didn’t care that this young girl, well this teenager, was being basically forced by her parents to buy wedding jewellery, marriage bands, those kind of things, they just didn’t even care.
00:36:08.04 Andy Coulson:
What about the registrar on the day of that service?
00:36:13.18 Payee Mahmod:
To be honest, even then, nothing. and I think I was in quite a particular mood that day because I really felt like this isn’t just within, as you said, our community, this isn’t just the Imam, I knew this is going to get stopped here. I know someone’s going to say, hold on a second.
00:36:29.21 Andy Coulson:
That’s how you felt on that day? This is the moment when people will realise?
00:36:36.05 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, I really did because I’d never seen a child get married. And I thought my parents… I didn’t even know it was legal to be married at that age. And I thought that that’s when they would say, ‘hold on how old is this girl?’ and maybe they will speak to me on my own and if they spoke to me on my own I’ll tell them ‘I don’t want to be married so please just stop it if you can’.
00:36:59.19 Andy Coulson:
But no one asked you.
00:37:01.13 Payee Mahmod:
No, it was over in five minutes. They made us sign pieces of papers and they said, ‘do you want to take pictures in the garden?’ and I just thought, oh my god.
00:37:11.15 Andy Coulson:
How do you rationalise that now, Payzee? How do you not have, or maybe you do, have anger towards those people now? How do you try and rationalise it in your mind? What was it, ignorance? Laziness? Cruelty? Where on that spectrum do you place those people who, let’s put it mildly, turned a blind eye?
00:37:36.11 Payee Mahmod:
To be honest with you I feel very angry at those people. I do feel there was definitely ignorance involved. I think sometimes people judge from the outside and think to themselves, well they might be from a certain community so why should I get involved? And I think there was definitely a big factor of that in my situation. Because I truly believe that let’s say an English girl ended up in a registry office with a man twice her age, I do believe somebody would be asking the question, ‘what is going on here?’ Especially remembering my mood very clearly and being very miserable and sulking, I know somebody would have picked something up.
00:38:27.18 Andy Coulson:
So even now, a long, a lot further down the road beyond your marriage, presumably you would say to anybody who found themselves in the orbit of a situation like that, say something, do something, step in, ask the question.
00:38:50.01 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, definitely, I think so many people are so worried that they’ll offend somebody. But I always think to myself would you rather be accused of offending somebody or actually not doing anything and turning a blind eye and not knowing what that person has to live with? Because even though you’ve mentioned some of the people, up until this point of the story, that could have changed something, it blows my mind that not one person I came across in my life, ever, even said to me ‘what is going on? Is this, are you okay?’ Because none of it seemed normal. It just everything about it looked off.
00:39:37.07 Andy Coulson:
Your marriage, you touched on the fact that you’re then taken to this hotel and your husband has expectations, let’s put it that way, and you refuse and he attacks you immediately, I think. And you turn to your parents and tell them what happened and you are, as I understand it, offered no support whatsoever and effectively told to get on with it. This is your life now.
00:40:11.10 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, I was shamed for speaking up because, as I said, I had no idea what was expected of me, what my husband expected I didn’t know this is what happens. I didn’t know that you know, honestly it might sound very naive but the truth is, up until the day I actually was faced with the situation, I had no idea that this is what happens, physically I mean, between a man and a woman. I had no knowledge of that. And this is a British girl living in London, because I had that much control over what I did, who I spoke to, what I looked at, what I watched I had no idea.
00:40:57.24 Payee Mahmod:
And so I was quite… I think the only thing I can describe I was so terrified of what does it mean for somebody to be that physically close to me? Because I didn’t know what it meant. I thought it only amounted to violence, I didn’t know that is what happens. And I knew absolutely nothing will change how I feel about this person. Even at such a young age, I knew there was nothing that could make me feel any different to the amount of resentment and hate and bitterness towards this man already, because I fell pregnant very early on in my marriage.
00:41:36.14 Andy Coulson:
Yes. You had an abortion. How were you able, if you don’t mind me asking, Payzee, because this is deeply personal question and if you’d like to move on we’ll move on, but I think it’s a demonstration of your unbelievable resilience. Having heard everything that you’ve explained so far I have no doubt that anyone listening to this would agree, where did you find the courage to do that? And where did you find the support to do that?
00:42:09.02 Payee Mahmod:
You know, I remember when my family came to the UK in 1999 and I just I think a dream I had from the day we came to this country was that one day I will be able to be the woman that I want to be and I will be able to make the choices I want to make. And no matter what happened in my life, even up until this point where I was faced with deciding on an abortion and having no idea what that looked like, I just kept reminding myself in the back of my mind that, one day I’m going to have my chance. One day I’m going to live my life. Even if it means I will be married to my husband for fifty years, for the last two years of my life I will be my own person.
00:43:01.03 Payee Mahmod:
And I think that’s something that kept me going. And I don’t know where that dream came from because even from being a very little, little girl in Iran I would picture what the western world would look like and I would picture living in a world where women had rights and women were free and women could travel on their own. I know for some people listening this might sound really crazy but the idea that a woman could make her own choices from where I’m from, and a woman could travel alone and live alone and do the things she wanted to, they were very, very far from reality. And so this thought just kept me going. I think that’s one of the things that just always stayed alive in me. I just always had this fantasy that I’m going to be free one day.
00:43:49.03 Andy Coulson:
Let’s just talk about the period that for a while, as I understand it, both you and Banaz were living together with your husband.
00:43:58.21 Payee Mahmod:
00:44:01.13 Andy Coulson:
How would you describe your state of mind at that stage?
00:44:07.06 Payee Mahmod:
I think it was… I was in fantasy mode because the reality of mine and Banaz’ life was that we were miserable because we were living with our husbands but we were also so happy because we were living together. And we just found happiness in the silliest things. You know, cleaning the house which we naturally hated doing for these men that we just disliked, cleaning the house together whilst the men went to work, it was a joy. And we would blast music, you know, we couldn’t do those things when they were at home. So we would blast modern music obviously like artists that we loved, Maria Carey, Boyzone, Westlife and we would blast this music and dance our way through cleaning and just laugh and we would find those moments that kept us going. And then when our husbands would come reality would set in and we almost switched back to being wives.
00:45:10.01 Andy Coulson:
Banaz, as I mentioned in the intro, was physically abused by her husband. She left him and went home, back to your parents. Later she began a relationship with Rahmat Sulemani, a relationship that your father refused to acknowledge. In fact I think I’m right in saying that he banned her from seeing him. But that relationship continued and then there were more of those death threats that you mentioned before. The community considered this to be a dishonour to the collective, if you can put it that way.
00:45:49.09 Andy Coulson:
Those death threats were reported to the police, as I understand it, both death threats against Rahmat and your sister. And then in the January Banaz is reported missing by Rahmat. What are you able to kind of, because you must have I’m sure, traced back every step of this in your mind? That period between the threats and Banaz’ disappearance, what do you, when you think back to that period, how do you remember it? How do you feel about it?
00:46:42.16 Payee Mahmod:
It felt like, here we go again. Because what had happened with my other sister was now happening all over again. And I think, once again, it became normalised the fact that somebody was receiving death threats, the fact that somebody was being followed. And this was my sister. You know, she would tell me about it and she would say, ‘today I went to the police station and I told them about this phone call that I received’. And I think that because of what our family had already experienced it was just this normal thing to be receiving death threats over dating somebody that other people didn’t approve of. You know, it just became incredibly normal that if you do something others don’t like you can receive death threats.
00:47:30.15 Payee Mahmod:
But I think the difference, which I didn’t see at the time, I never pictured in a million years, in my wildest dreams, that anything would ever happen to my sister. Because I’ve seen all of this happen before, I’d seen the death threats. You know, even my father had reported the death threats he was receiving to the police. And all these years later on, for my sister to be receiving these death threats again, being followed, being harassed, I just thought nothing will come of this, you know, she’ll get harassed for a few years until my father will do something to overcome another, this other obstacle and then it will just maybe kick off again in another few years. That’s really how it felt at the time. But I never imagined, even to the day that my sister was reported to the police, I never, ever imagined that anything would happen.
00:48:29.24 Andy Coulson:
So it’s 2006, I think I’m right in saying, January 2006 when Banaz is reported missing by Rahmat. When you heard that she was missing, what was your first thought? Did you fear the worst?
00:48:46.09 Payee Mahmod:
No, absolutely not. When I heard she was missing I thought to myself, she’s probably just turned off her phone and she’s just hiding for a day or two. I never, ever thought anything could have happened to her. Like, it didn’t even cross my mind. You know, her boyfriend was really concerned but I just thought maybe she’s thinking I’m just going to hide for a bit until all of this calms down. But I never thought, nothing ever crossed my mind of her being in danger, never.
00:49:23.06 Andy Coulson:
At what point do you start worrying?
00:49:26.12 Payee Mahmod:
To be honest with you my sister was missing… So at the end of January she went missing, all of February, all of March and for the most of April she was still missing. I can’t say in any of those months leading up to the police saying ‘we’ve found your sister’, it ever crossed my mind that she’s not safe or she’s jot alive, it never crossed my mind. I had all these crazy thoughts about what country she’d gone to, what she’s doing. Where she’s renting a bedroom. I had all these crazy thoughts, but the idea that she could be hurt or she could be dead, it never crossed my mind, never. And even when the police said that they’d found my sister I didn’t believe it. You know there was obviously such a huge level of shock and surreal moment but I just, I couldn’t process the fact that this could be real, this could have happened to her.
00:50:39.22 Andy Coulson:
As you mentioned, Payzee, Banaz is found, her body is found in the garden of a house in Birmingham. That moment, when you’re told that that’s what happened, who tells you that? Do you talk to your parents? Is it a conversations with your parents or is that a conversation that you’re having with the police?
00:51:05.11 Payee Mahmod:
So the police actually got our family together and that’s when they told us the news. I think it was towards the end of April and we were very adamant, this can’t be real, how is this possible? And the police said that they had actually checked against her dental records and they confirmed that this was my sister.
00:51:31.23 Andy Coulson:
And the community at that stage, we’ll talk about the difficulties for you family from that point on, but the community puts up a wall of obstruction, as I understand it, really. And no cooperation, no support, no help. I mean, that alone for you to have witnessed must have been deeply traumatic, on top of the fact that your sister has been killed. This idea that it’s going to be covered up. Was that clear to you at that stage?
00:52:13.04 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, it was because nobody was, you know when you think of a community you think people who’ll support you. But even at that time I had already… the experience I’d had from our community was that they will do anything but support you. And so although I didn’t expect much from them at that point it was still so painful to see that, even at a time like this, your community will still not support you. And they will do everything in their power to actually, as you said, hide what’s happened and hide the truth. Even though my sister was, at this point, already not alive anymore.
00:53:00.08 Andy Coulson:
It’s some time, of course, before those responsible are brought to trial. Those responsible include your father and your uncle and other relatives. Payzee, how do you begin to cope, how do you begin to find sense with a situation that is so dark, on so many levels, at that point in your life?
00:53:34.15 Payee Mahmod:
Oh god… I’ve tried to answer that question. To be honest with you it’s something I’m still trying to make sense of. You try to, you know, you try to make sense of the fact that you grow up in this particular dynamic and then one of your sisters just disappeared one day. And then another sister disappeared one day and then your father goes to prison and then your uncle goes to prison. And it feels like you know from very early on in my life so many… just one thing after the other. And I think I’m still trying to make sense of it and still trying to… I guess one thing I did for a long time is to try to understand why. But it’s, that’s really a way to, I realised, to torment myself and to just torture myself because I’ll never know why. I’ll never really understand why any of this happened because it doesn’t make sense.
00:54:44.18 Andy Coulson:
Of course. You’re a believer in counselling and its positive influence. How soon were you able to start getting that though? Because your life, Payzee, I hope you don’t mind me saying so, up until this point in the story, I’m not really seeing where you’re getting support from anyone other than your sisters, one of whom has now been killed. I don’t know where you’re getting support from so I don’t know how you’re surviving at this stage. But at some point you start getting support. When is that first moment when you start to feel the world is now beginning to understand what’s going on here? Is it when the reality of the crime and the arrests and the process that starts thereafter, did the support for you start in parallel with that? Or did it come later?
00:55:46.23 Payee Mahmod:
I’m afraid it didn’t start there. It was, I always felt and I think this was something that I don’t believe the police managed very well. Because although they were dealing with perpetrators who were the victim’s family I think there was a great deal of the police against the family. And so I personally always felt like there was not much support, even though we were going through this as a family and yes the police were prosecuting a family member but they were not prosecuting every family member. And that there were people who were affected by this and who were sad to see this happening.
00:56:31.08 Payee Mahmod:
It might shock you, but I think the first time I felt a sense of support was maybe a few years ago. In terms of counselling it started quite early on. I think it was maybe a year after my sister’s death my college tutor had suggested that I speak to somebody. And I felt instead of this helping me and this making start my journey onto, I guess, accepting and healing, it was actually very traumatic for at least seven or eight years of counselling. It was extremely traumatic because every time I went to a counsellor I felt very misunderstood and I felt as though the things I was talking about; they were not understood and they were not picked up.
00:57:26.00 Payee Mahmod:
I think they didn’t understand the level of… so all the different… because for me whenever I look at my life and my situation, there are so many complexities and there are so many different layers of control and manipulation and coercion and abuse and there’s so many different factors. And I had this quite a few times, I would often speak to therapists about, for example, my relationship with my father. And I would you know really try to understand where to go from here and how to move on and how to heal from everything that has happened between me and my father. And I would often get suggestions like ‘but you should go and see your father and speak to him’. And I used to feel like but my father is in prison for my sister’s murder, like, this isn’t advice that I can take, this isn’t useful advice.
00:58:18.12 Payee Mahmod:
And they would always say to me, ‘well, the only way to rebuild your relationship and to move on is to start having open communication’. And I just used to feel like I’m talking to people who don’t understand what I’m talking about. And they don’t understand this level of control and this… I think there was also quite a lack of, I don’t want to say cultural, because it’s not so much cultural sensitivity, it’s more I think they just didn’t understand the dynamics of let’s say growing up in an environment like that.
00:58:52.02 Payee Mahmod:
And I’ve tried various counsellors. I think the point where I just gave up was maybe about four or five years ago I had a therapist and I spoke to her about one of the difficult things for me to overcome was accepting my sister’s death and living with my grief. And we sort of spoke really in depth about the way my sister had lost her life and while I was talking she actually broke down and she started crying. And I just felt so, I felt so bad because I thought, if somebody like her is not able to cope with the things that I’ve gone through, surely this is not reparable, surely I can’t move on from this and I just have to live with it and I just have to stop trying to get help.
00:59:41.11 Andy Coulson:
Goodness. We’ve talked a bit, in previous podcasts, Payzee, with other guests about the value of counselling and how it is so important that you find the right person, that that’s as important as taking the step to going and getting help in the first place. You’ve just given us the most extreme sort of demonstration of why that’s right. I hope I’m right in saying that you continued with that aspect of your recovery, if I can use that word, and that you have found the right people and that you have made progress.
01:00:26.04 Payee Mahmod:
I finally have, I do… I’ve only actually started this year and I am actually getting therapy from a Kurdish therapist. So she’s very knowledgeable on these issues and it’s, as you said, it takes time and fourteen years later, I’ve found the right person, thank god. I think the older I get and the more that I start thinking about what it really means to support your children or to have a support system in your family, the more I sort of feel quite let down and quite neglected by my parents. So I think it’s living with all of that and still trying to maintain the relationships. It is challenging to say the least.
01:01:13.24 Andy Coulson:
Payzee, some of the sentences that come out of your mouth as we’re having this conversation that ‘I feel slightly let down by my parents’, I think anyone listening to this will be loaded with nothing but sympathy but also I hope admiration. Because you’ve done all this yourself, that’s I think one of the most remarkable aspects of your story if you don’t mind me saying so is that there’s been no help really until what, this year, that your finally having a conversation that’s helping you. I mean, it’s just remarkable. You have used what is an unbelievable, profound and deeply moving phrase, Payzee, that I touched on earlier, that for you your sister’s death enabled your freedom. Is that why you’re now putting this campaign to work in the way that you are in such a powerful way? Is that I’m assuming is what is for you the driving force behind it?
01:02:30.07 Payee Mahmod:
It definitely is a big part of why I do what I do and why I’ve kind of dedicated my life to this. I think one of the things that is really hard to live with is the fact that as tragic as it sounds, my sister’s death is what pushed me to get out of my marriage. And although I feel, you know, often I feel incredibly guilty that she’s not able to continue her life and I am, it’s something that stays with me often and at the same time it gives me a massive drive and a push to say this can’t keep happening.
01:03:22.16 Payee Mahmod:
What happened to my sister and what happened when I was a child, it can’t happen to other girls. And it might sound really crazy but I sometimes, I ask myself, this is really difficult and why have I taken this journey? And it’s never long before a matter of minutes before I remember I have to, if not just for me for my sister and she deserved better. So although I can’t save her and I can’t change what happened to her, it can change somebody else’s life.
01:04:04.24 Andy Coulson:
You, as part of this journey that you’re on now, you gave a Ted Talk which I listened to. And to anyone listening to this podcast I would strongly urge you to give up about fifteen minutes of your life and listen to it because it’s an astonishing thing. How difficult was that to do, Payzee, because you did it brilliantly? And that’s the first time really, that you kind of stood on a stage and told that story in the way that you told it. It must have been incredibly difficult challenge for you, but you really met it.
01:04:51.13 Payee Mahmod:
You know it was, I think it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. With everything that I’ve experienced in my life and the way that I was raised, there’s so much shame and a feeling of not wanting to be loud and be the centre of attention. There’s a lot of that that is internalised and I’m continuously working to get rid of that, especially you know all my life hearing as a girl, ‘don’t draw attention to yourself, don’t be loud, don’t speak loud, don’t behaving in a loud manner’/. Doing something like that was so challenging because I had to sort of really challenge all those things that I’ve been taught all my life.
01:05:38.21 Payee Mahmod:
And up until the moment that actually on the morning of the day that I was doing the talk, I just kept saying to myself, I won’t be able to do this. And the night before my talk I actually dreamt of my sister and I think it’s very rare that I dream of her. It’s in the last fourteen years maybe I’ve dreamt of her five times, it’s very, very rare. And I actually dreamt of her that night and when I woke up I felt as though she was almost giving me her blessing. I’m not very spiritual, I’m not one of those people who believes in signs and things like that but it was so rare to dream of her. And I know that’s what gave me the power and the courage to just go on stage that day. I had cards; I was supposed to read my whole thing. I was struggling to remember it all…
01:06:30.04 Andy Coulson:
I noticed that. You were completely without notes. I know some people use an autocue on occasionally on Ted, but you did an amazing job.
01:06:41.09 Payee Mahmod:
Thank you. I know my sister gave me the courage and the strength to do that. I swear I could not have done it by myself.
01:06:50.01 Andy Coulson:
You did it brilliantly. Of course what we should say in almost in parallel to a lot of the story that we’ve been talking about you have worked, right? You’re a very talented fashion stylist. You’ve had a number of jobs. I know it’s not been the straightest of roads professionally. But you’ve been a terrific success. It’s a very important part of your life isn’t it? When you think of that part of your life, you know, when we talked earlier about all that oppression that you had in your upbringing, it’s not just that you survived but that you also had the courage to pursue that career it’s an extraordinary thing. That’s a big part of your life, still yes? And will be always?
01:07:43.17 Payee Mahmod:
Yes, yeah. I think fashion was always a bit of an outlet for me. I think one of the first things I noticed as a little girl was how people dressed at parties and how people dressed when they were happy and getting together. And I think not being able to do those things, especially when we came to the UK and all my friends were dressing up and stuff, it just made me want to do it more and it just made me kind of visualise for the day that I could do it. And I would watch my mum on her sewing machine, she would often make us things and she was extremely creative. And I know I get my creativity from her because she would just take a piece of fabric and she would turn it into something before your eyes, you know, incredibly talented. And she’d never studied this, she just saw her mother doing it.
01:08:36.03 Payee Mahmod:
And I would go on her sewing machine, she had a very old singer machine, I would go on her machine and make things and she would say, ‘where did you get that from?’ and I’d say ‘I made it’ and she wouldn’t believe me and she would say to me, ‘I don’t believe it, show me how you did it’. And I would show her and she’d be absolutely shocked. And it was just from watching her that I would learn and I kind of just continued with that and it just gave me… it think because I wasn’t allowed to express myself for so long…
01:09:04.11 Andy Coulson:
It’s your freedom, right?
01:09:05.23 Payee Mahmod:
Yeah, exactly, just made me feel like I want to communicate this to the world. And you know, I think at that time, in the ‘90s fashion was, it was just so incredible in the UK. And I remember seeing music videos and posters and things like that and just thinking, wow, you can express yourself with clothes. That must be so incredible.
01:09:30.15 Andy Coulson:
Payzee, we ask all our guests on this podcast to give us three crisis cures. If I’m honest, as I say that, it feels like a trivial request given the story that you’ve told us in the last thing I want to do is trivialise your story. But what we do is we ask people to give us three things that they kind of lean on in the darkest days. Not another person or a process, we’ve discussed that, but are there three specific things that when I ask that question that come to your mind?
01:10:07.22 Payee Mahmod:
I think, thank god I can say this now, because throughout the last fourteen years there was a lot of things that I should not have turned to as a coping mechanism that I did for very long, but I think I’ve started to pick up really healthy habits of coping. And one thing for me that I always turn to is creativity. So I just think to myself if I’m not in the best place I want to make something and I want to be creative. So that’s definitely something I turn to whether its…
01:10:39.21 Andy Coulson:
What did you make the last time you did that?
01:10:42.09 Payee Mahmod:
What did I make, oh I actually made a two-piece, a trouser and a top, yes, very like, soft warm cotton fabric. Cosy, just something to chill around in the house with.
01:10:57.18 Andy Coulson:
Good, right well that’s the first. Two more?
01:11:03.16 Payee Mahmod:
I think one thing that also really helps me is building up my own kind of network of support. So social media for me is really where I found a great deal of support and almost friendships. I never knew speaking out and telling my story would encourage so many young, especially Kurdish girls and women, to support me and to tell me their stories. So, for me, I find that reminding myself that I have the support is incredibly… it helps me remember why I ‘m doing this and what I’m doing it for.
01:11:44.06 Andy Coulson:
Very good and the third thing?
01:11:48.14 Payee Mahmod:
The third thing, I think walking. I absolutely love walking as a child I had to walk to most places because my parents were always talking about how cars were bad for the environment and we shouldn’t take the car unless the journey was over an hour. So I kind of got used to walking. But now I just find it so soothing and coaming and relaxing especially having my dog. So I just take him on his leash and go for a walk and that always really helps me.
01:12:24.18 Andy Coulson:
There aren’t the words really that I can say to summarise the conversation that we’ve had today other than thank you. Usually we end the podcast asking listeners to leave a review or a rating for us but I’m not going to do that today. Instead I’m going to ask those of you listening to sign Payzee’s petition which you’ll find at change.org. the link will also be on the episode summary and on our website www.crisiswhatcrisis.com so please, please do it. Payzee, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. You’re an amazing woman.
01:13:03.16 Payee Mahmod:
Thank you so much, Andy, thanks for having me.
01:13:29.10 End of transcription