British-Pakistani diplomat loses mother to COVID-19

Diplomat Fouzia Younis pays heartfelt tribute to her mother Zohra Begum who lost her life to coronavirus

Murtaza Ali Shah

LONDON: British-Pakistani diplomat Fouzia Younis has paid a heartfelt tribute to her mother Zohra Begum who lost her life after contracting COVID-19.

Fouzia Younis is currently posted at the British High Commission in Islamabad as the director of communications.

Her previous postings with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) were in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, while she has also worked at Number 10 Downing Street.

Her mother Zohra Begum fell ill in January 2021 after testing positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalised for three months before her passing.

Taking to Twitter, Fouzia Younis shared her mother’s journey as a newly-wedded bride who travelled to the UK from Pakistan to join her husband.

“At 18, she arrived in the UK in February (1977), newly married & with hope & worry. Her first slip in snow taught her that she needed to change her stilettos for boots. Her first home was my aunt's two-bed house, sharing it with her four children, grandfather & dad,” Fouzia said on Twitter about her mother’s first experiences in the UK.

Fouzia mentioned how her mother was never sent to school and could not write letters to her family but instead, she used cassettes to record her voice “long before they became cool on Whatsapp”.

“Mum devoted herself to family & community. Her samosas were the first to go at school fairs, extra money was raised by stitching clothes, she looked after my grandad who was severely disabled after a stroke. Everything was done with a smile,” Fouzia said, reminiscing her time with her mother.

Zohra Begum was a staunch advocate of girl’s education who raised four successful children. Her children include an award-winning lawyer, a businessman, and a full-time diplomat.

The diplomat shared that her mother faced prejudice in many forms but didn’t let that come in her way as she believed in positivity and perseverance.

She shared: “We had eggs being thrown at our door. There were comments made about the colour of our skin. She used to say to us that we are the standard that we set. You as brothers and sisters don’t let the colour of your skin define you — that doesn’t matter. She battled Islamophobia post 9/11 particularly, she battled sexism from within in her own community.”

Remembering her mother, Fouzia said: “My mum was from a generation of women who put self-interest aside to raise Britain's future generations, who are now making a difference in all walks of life. Their stories are often not told, their voice still missing from conversations. We owe you. Thank you."