A HARROWING play highlighting the violence suffered by Asian women who breach their culture’s code of honour is about to start a tour of Scotland.

If I Had A Girl previews tonight in the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow in advance of a three-day run before moving on later in the year to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee and possibly Stirling.

It is written by Mariem Omari, who has spent years working with women who have suffered appalling violence at the hands of their families.

Omari, whose mother is from Aberdeen and whose father from the Lebanon, was brought up in Australia and worked in the Middle East and Jordan.

She decided to write the play to bring the suffering of the many innocent victims of honour violence to the attention of the wider community.

“In the Middle East and Jordan, honour killings are quite prevalent so when I moved to Scotland it was an area I already knew about.

“I had been working with women using storytelling and various other techniques to deal with the trauma of sexual violence and started working with women’s refuges here.

“They brought women who were either still in a violent marriage or had recently escaped a violent marriage – some forced, some arranged – who were going through various traumatic experiences.”

Omari described some of the stories the women told as “incredibly harrowing” leaving listeners feeling drained.

She said: “We wanted audiences to hear these stories for themselves. The mixture of humour and courage is incredibly distressing.

“They suffered violence not only from a partner but from other members of their families because of the issue of preserving family honour, even if that means you get a beating which leaves you within inches of death.

“Some women who were left barely alive were told not to go to the police or to say anything to anyone. It is quite incredible to think they are lying there bleeding and that is what they are being told.

“The challenge for me was to weave these stories together and do justice to the women and hear from those who perpetrate this kind of violence.”

Omari said she also interviewed two men in Edinburgh who were perpetrators of violence.

“We did not want to justify what they had done but these men come from a culture and tradition which puts them under exceptional pressure to conform to the idea of preserving family honour.”

Omari believes honour violence, which tends to happen behind closed doors, is on the increase in Scotland.

She said: “There needs to be an understanding in the wider community that this is happening next door. Honour violence is on the increase in Scotland but for the most part it is being ignored, or worse, covered up.

“That is why this play and this work is so important. This is not only happening behind closed doors but is being ignored by other members of the community because they don’t want to wrestle with widely held perceptions and beliefs.

“It is about bringing this work to the community and saying we are not going to keep it quiet anymore.

“But the women who speak to us, some of whom are very brave because they are still in violent relationships, have to remain anonymous because their lives are at risk. The outcome of speaking out would certainly be them being killed by one of the members of their family.”

If I Had A Girl is the result of a partnership with the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre in Glasgow under its violence against women programme.