The magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains and surrounding beautiful landscape which usually filled Asya with peace failed to do so this morning. There was political uncertainty in Sweden as the anti-immigrant party made historic gains in Sunday’s election. There was talk of refugees and immigrants being sent back to their countries by those who had no regard for what awaited them. She knew firsthand what it was like to be torn from the country of refuge and returned to your country of origin.
At the age of 15, her parents took her back to Turkey after she finished ninth grade to marry a man 20 years her senior. They had three children. Those were the worst years of her life and she dreamed of returning to Sweden. Fifteen years later, after her husband died in a work related accident, she returned to Stockholm with the children.
It was a shock for her when she recently saw the brochure offering tips to those who were married to children. Enraged, she wrote an article on the horrors of child marriage, her own experience and why Sweden needed to be very clear that it wouldn’t tolerate such a practice. It needed to protect the welfare of its immigrant population and stop worrying about being culturally insensitive.
It was a two page article in which she concluded, “I urge you to think about Beeta, the teenage girl who was murdered by her husband after they arrived here from Iran. If we hadn’t been so concerned with offending a culture which fosters a practice which, in my opinion, is criminal, she may still be alive. Instead of being concerned with the culture, protect the individual. We need to be more responsible for the immigrants whom we let into the country and afford them the same rights and protection regardless of whether or not they are ethically Swedish.” Her article was published in Stockholm News and was very well received. Many shared her views and Twitter went viral, calling for the government to do something to end child marriage in a country known for its commitment to child welfare.
Asya turned now to look at the shelter she ran for victims of honor-based violence and oppression. Most of them were the same ages as her daughters. She determined that she would continue to fight for them and those who weren’t in her care. Unlike the politicians and the government, she was going to be morally sensitive to the victims of forced marriages and speak out because as long as child marriage exists it will stand in the way of gender equality. She had to do this for Beeta and others like her.
Marriage is for adults, not for children. Children have the right to be children.
This story is based on true events. Sweden struggles over child marriage and many are calling for the rights of children of foreign backgrounds to be protected.
This story is in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Turning for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.