Farida’s Story

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles – Psalm 34:6, NKJV

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I was 13 when my parents married me off to a 36 year old rich Arab man.  He was the second man who wanted me to be his wife.  The other man was a neighbor and he knew me since I was a baby.  He was in his 60s.  He offered 40 cows but the Arab offered money.  My parents accepted the money.

I had no choice.  I left my village and went with him.  Before we got married, I had to spend 15 days with his family.  I hated it there.  They didn’t like me because I was African and dark-skinned.  It didn’t matter that I was a Muslim like them and that I spoke Arabic.  They would have preferred if he had married an Arab woman.  I think they had a problem with my age.  I overheard his mother ask him why did he agreed to marry someone so young?  His response was that I was very pretty and he wanted me.  I think it was because he was controlling and believed that a younger wife would be more obedient.

My life before marriage was a nightmare.  At night he would ravage me and the following morning at 7am, his mother woke me up to pray and do housework.  I felt like a slave.  I felt so alone and helpless.  Things continued and got progressively worse after we got married.  We moved into his home.  I continued to do the housework, cook and pamper him.  I was forced to have sex every night even when he knew that I was very upset or tired, he didn’t care.  He went ahead and had his pleasure and fell asleep afterwards while I lay there beside him in the bed, in the dark, crying.

My marriage wasn’t anything like my parents’.  I never saw my father mistreat my mother and she seemed to enjoy taking care of him.  It wasn’t like that for me.  I didn’t want to be married.  I wanted to be in school, getting an education.  I was hoping to be a doctor but that dream was squashed by a marriage forced on me by my parents.  My mother even said to me, “This marriage proposal is a gift from Allah, his way of keeping you out of trouble. If you say no, you will be showing your lack of faith in him, and you will be punished.  This man’s rich and he will provide well for you.  All you have to do is be a good wife to him.”

How could she expect a teenage girl to be a wife?  She didn’t even get married until she had finished school.  And she married for love.  Why couldn’t I marry for love too and when I was ready?  It seemed so unfair.  I came to the conclusion that my parents didn’t love me.  If they did, they wouldn’t have married me off to a man almost three times my age.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I imagined that my husband being so much older than me would take care of me.  He would be like a father to me.

arab-arab-culture-arab-man-arabart-757307I soon learned that a husband is never a father.  He expected me to be a wife, despite my age.  I was more like a slave.  He took great pleasure in telling me that he used to have hired help but dismissed them after he married me.  He expected me to keep a house which was very big with a lot of rooms.  I was exhausted by the time I finished cleaning it.  Then, I had to do the cooking, laundry and ironing.  I was exhausted by the end of the day but I still had to satisfy him in the bedroom.

I hated my marriage, I hated him and I hated my life.  I wished that I could run away but I knew that it would be pointless.  He told me once that if I did, he would find me because he had people watching the house when he wasn’t there.  And that life would be a thousand times worse for me.  I believed him.

Night after night, I prayed to God to help me.   I knew that what my husband was doing to me was against our religion. Islam prohibits all forms of oppression and injustice yet he felt that it was his right to beat me if I were disobedient to him such as refusing to have sex with him when he wanted it.  The Qur’an clearly teaches the sexual relationship between a husband and wife should be mutually satisfying but it was never like that for us.  As his wife, he demanded sex from me and whenever I refused him I was beaten and then raped.  He told me that God got angry with disobedient wives but I remember a friend once told me that when obeying a husband involves behavior that is hurtful or destructive to oneself or others, a Muslim wife must remember that her primary obedience is to God.

I wanted God to help me.  I wanted out of this nightmare.  I couldn’t continue living like this.  I felt like I was caught in a trap and nothing or no one could get me out of it except God.  For 25 years I was trapped in an abusive marriage and then my husband died.  He left nothing in my name and his family denied me everything, including the dowry I was entitled to.  He and I didn’t have any children together and that was why they were able to rob me of my inheritance.  I had wasted 25 years of my life.

I’m 38 now and a part of the ActionAid supported women’s group working to advocate against FGM and child marriage.  I don’t want anyone to go through what I did.  A girl should have the right to decide when and whom she wants to marry.  Education should come first.  Marriage should be a healthy, happy and safe choice for us.  Islam teaches that each person has been given freedom of choice and is accountable for his/her own life.  Today, I am pushing for girls to be independent and to choose their own future.

I don’t know if I would ever get married again.  I had such a horrible experience.  I’m just thankful to God that I’m no longer living in an abusive marriage and that I can focus on empowering girls to understand and live out their rights, including saying no to child marriage.

This story is fiction but child marriage is a disturbing reality.  I was inspired to write this story after reading Aleyna’s* story in an email sent to me by Equality Now.  She was 13 year old Lebanese girl and forced to marry a 36 year old man who abused her for 40 years before he died, leaving her nothing.  Equality Now’s partner in Lebanon, LECORVAW (The Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Women) is working with women like Aleyna who need legal support to access the justice they deserve.  Aleya says that, “I have a lawyer who works for LECORVAW, she is defending me in court and that is very important. LECORVAW is giving me psychological and legal support. I feel so much better thanks to them as before I was struggling to cope.”

Child marriage is an evil practice which has to be eradicated from society.  Girls should be allowed to finish their education and to decide when they want to get married.  Marriage is for adult men and women NOT adult men and children/girls.  We need laws to protect girls from child marriage.  Let’s raise awareness and support the organizations which are working to end child marriage.

 

Sources:  Religion Unplugged; Faith Trust Institution; ActionAid

 

Toshiro Returns to Tokyo

Z8VeQHoI_oToshiro was back in Tokyo.  He returned two weeks ago.  It was hard being away from Kampala.  All he could think about was Ife and how much he missed being with her.  All along he knew that what he had been doing was wrong but he couldn’t help himself.  He wanted Ife so much.  She filled him with a desire that was so potent and raw that it scared him.

He could tell from the way she responded when they made love that she wanted him too.  And that realization was what he used to rationalize his actions.  But his conscience continued to trouble him.

And he felt badly about Asuka.  They had been going steady for some time now and still he hadn’t broached the subject of marriage with her.  His family expected him to pop the question soon and he imagined that her family might expect the same thing.  He knew that Asuka was in love with him but he realized that he didn’t feel the same way and that was before he met Ife.

Speaking of Asuka, he was supposed to meet her for a coffee at the cafe where they usually went.  It was within walking distance from his apartment.  No doubt she was already there waiting for him.  She was always very punctual.

They hadn’t seen each other for months and when he was in Tokyo, he made sure that they spent time together.  This year, however, it was different for him.  He didn’t look forward to coming home anymore.  For him, Kampala was home.  It was where Ife was.  He closed his eyes briefly.  Oh, Ife, I wish I could be with you right now.  Was she thinking about him?  Did she miss him?  She’s probably glad to be rid of you for a while because of what you’re doing to her, an accusing voice retorted and he flinched.

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As soon as he walked into the cafe, he spotted Asuka.  He went over to her and she stood up, her expression one of delight.  She was obviously very happy to see him.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips.  Then, she sat down.  “I ordered you Hot Tea.”  She put it in front of him.

“You’re welcome,” she said.  “You must be happy to be able to speak Japanese again.  How are things in Kampala?”He attempted a smile.  “Thank you.”

“The usual,” he said.  “Well, while I was there, journalists were protesting alleged abuse by the police.  They saw what was happening as an attack on press freedom in Uganda.   Then, there’s growing concern among some Ugandans about Chinese funding because of the debts they see other countries struggling with.  And then there’s the charcoal trade which is decimating forests.”

“Last week Tuesday was World Toilet Day so I was reading up about it online and came across an article which said that there’s a toilet crisis in Kampala.  It said that there aren’t public toilets for about 1,200 people, I think and that mud tinged with feces washes into homes during heavy rains.  How disgusting!”  She made a face and shuddered.  “How could people live like that and why isn’t the government doing something about it?”

“Yes, the sanitation crisis is growing worse.  It’s not only happening in Kampala but in South Africa, India and other places.”

“We’re so lucky, Toshiro.  We have access to clean toilets at home and in public.  I think that sometimes we take these things for granted.  I wanted to help so I sent a donation to one of the charities which is helping to provide clean toilets for the people in Africa.  Using public toilets isn’t safe for the women.  They could catch diseases or even get raped.  Can you imagine that?  And children aren’t safe either.  I read about four children who drown in pit toilets.  I still get choked up just thinking about them, especially, the three year old. ”

“Let’s not talk about this anymore because it’s upsetting you.”  He couldn’t bear to hear it anymore.  It made him think of Ife and how she could have lost her job if it had been discovered that she had used the toilet in his suite that day when he caught her.  He wondered if she was one of those people who didn’t have toilets in their homes.

“You’re right.  Let’s talk about something else.  The hotel where you stay, is it nice?”

“Yes, it is.  It’s a 5 star hotel.”

“What do you do when you’re not on business?”

“I go sightseeing or I stay in my room and catch up on the News.”  That wasn’t true.  He hardly went sightseeing and in the evenings, he was in his suite with Ife.

“Maybe one of these days, I will visit you there.   I read that it’s a relatively safe place for tourists.  Besides, I won’t be alone.  You will be there to protect me.”  She reached over and squeezed his hand.  “It’s so good to see you.  I always miss you so much every time you go away and I count the days when you’ll be back.  When do you go again?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe next month.”

“But not during Christmas and New Year’s I hope.”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you go there so often?”

“Business.”  That wasn’t true anymore.  Ife was his reason for going to Kampala now.

“Well, I hope you plan to spend Christmas here.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he sipped his tea.  I wonder what Christmas is like in Kampala. 

“My parents are wondering what your intentions are.”

He stared at her blankly.  “What do you mean?”

“Well…we’ve been dating for five years now and they are wondering if we are going to settle down anytime soon.  We’re both in our thirties now.”

Toshiro sighed.  “Asuka, I have something to tell you.”

She looked wary now.  And she set the cup of coffee down on the table.  “What is it?” she asked.

“I haven’t been completely honest with you.  You asked why I go to Kampala so often and I told that it had to do with business.  Well, it doesn’t–not entirely.  This year I have been involved with a woman I met there.”

Asuka stared at him.  “What do you mean by involved?”

Toshiro could feel his face getting warm.  “I’m in a relationship with her.”

“But you’re in a relationship with me.”

“I know–”

“Does she know about me?”

“No.”

“Are you sleeping with her?”

“Yes.”

Asuka’s face was pale now.  Hurt and pain etched her features.  “Are you in love with her?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  I have kept myself pure for you because I believed that we were going to get married.”

“You told me that you couldn’t sleep with me because you’re a Christian.”

“Is that why you’re sleeping with her?”

No.”

“Well, I guess this is it for us.”  She got up and pulled on her coat and scarf.   Grabbing her handbag, she muttered, “Goodbye, Toshiro” before she turned and walked away.

He sat there for a long time, feeling terrible.  The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt Asuka.  If he hadn’t met and fallen in love with Ife, he would have married her.  In time, he would have grown to love her the way she loved him.

He finished his tea which had gotten lukewarm and then got up and left the cafe.  He didn’t go straight home.  Instead, he walked for a while, thinking.  He had to sort out what he was going to do about Ife.  He hadn’t banked on falling in love with her.  Initially, it had been an extremely strong sexual attraction which he thought that he would get over after a while.

He knew what he ought to do but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  This whole thing had turned into a great mess.  He needed to talk to someone.  Miko.  He called her immediately on his cell.  Her voice mail came on.  He left a message asking her to call him.

She returned his call a couple of hours later.  He asked her if he could stop by her place the following day because he really needed to talk to her.

Next up is Toshiro’s Exploitation.

Source:  AP News

Mary Said Yes!

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” – Luke 1:38

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When the angel, Gabriel appeared to a young virgin named, Mary, in the town of Nazareth and told her that she would have a Son, she found the news astonishing seeing that she had never been with a man.  Yet, after he explained how this miraculous conception would happen, she believed him and her response was Yes.  She called herself the maidservant of the Lord.  In other words, she was going to do what the Lord asked of her.

She even sang a song, glorifying God, her Savior, rejoicing that He regarded her, his humble servant.  For saying yes to His plan, she would be called blessed by all generations.  She declared that, “…He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-49, NKJV).

Saying yes to God isn’t always easy.  It could cause problems.  For Mary a lot was at stake.  After she was betrothed to Joseph and just before they got married, she was found with Child by the Holy Spirit.   Joseph had no way of knowing how she got pregnant.  All he knew was that she was and that was a huge problem.  He loved Mary but he couldn’t go through with the wedding.  He had to divorce her quietly and he had to do it quietly because according to Jewish law, a betrothal was the same as a valid marriage.  So, although they weren’t formally married, Joseph was still considered Mary’s husband by betrothal.  A public divorce would have alerted the community to the fact that Joseph wasn’t the father of Mary’s child and she would have been stoned to death for adultery (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23).  

Poor Joseph.  His reaction to Mary’s pregnancy was understandable.  As far as he was concerned she had been unfaithful to him.  Mary must have tried really hard to explain how she got pregnant but it must have sounded too fantastic to Joseph.  While he was agonizing over what he had to do, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20, 21, NKJV). 

Joseph woke up from the dream.  What a relief.  All his troubles were gone.  He joyfully did what the angel commanded him.   He married Mary but didn’t consummate their marriage until after she had given birth to her firstborn Son Whom he named, Jesus.

Sometimes saying yes to God’s plan for your life might bring trouble, opposition or conflict into your life but God is in control.  He knows exactly what He is doing.  All you have to do is to trust and obey Him as Mary did.  She put God first and He blessed her and us with the Savior of the world.  Sometimes a situation may turn out to be completely different from how it appears.  Initially, Joseph saw Mary’s pregnancy as a betrayal but once it was explained to him, it became a blessing.  In his charge was the Christ Child.

This Christmas, be thankful that Mary said yes to God’s plan despite the risks.  She trusted in the God for Whom nothing was impossible.  Celebrate Joseph’s obedience too because once he learned the truth about Mary’s pregnancy, he didn’t hesitate do what the Lord commanded him through His angel and as a result he was there to witness God’s greatest miracle–the birth of His Son, Jesus.     

Ife’s Loss

Herieth_Paul_Women20194_R“He was only twenty-nine!”  Ife couldn’t believe it.  Her ex-husband, Damba was dead.  “What happened?” she asked  her brother, Irumba.  It was a Sunday afternoon and she was at home.  Miremba was out with her friends.  Irumba had stopped by to give her the news.

“He was killed in  road accident.  It was caused by over-speeding which resulted in failure to brake.  He died instantly.  His sister said she was trying to reach you but couldn’t.  The funeral is next week Friday.”

Ife sighed.  “I always warned him about driving too fast.  He never listened.  That was his problem.  I warned him about so many things but he never listened.  And now, he’s dead.  Poor Miremba.  She’s going to take this really hard.  She loved her Dad.”

“What about you?  Did you love him?”

“I thought I did but now I don’t think so.  I cared about him but I didn’t love him.  Soon after we got married I realized that I had made a mistake but I wanted to give our marriage a chance because of Miremba.  I learned that staying in a marriage for the sake of a child isn’t the best thing for that child.  He and I quarreled a lot and it was beginning to affect Miremba and that’s why I decided that a divorce was the best thing.”

“Couldn’t you have tried to work things out?  What about marriage counseling?”

“We couldn’t afford that.”

“You could have come to me and I would have helped you.”

“No.  Damba wouldn’t have wanted your help.  And he wouldn’t have wanted to go for counseling.  I know that divorce isn’t a good thing but in my case, it was the only option.”

“How are you doing, otherwise?”

“I’m getting by.”

“Why don’t you move out of this place and neighborhood and find somewhere better and safer for Miremba and you?”

“It’s not that bad.  It’s close to Miremba’s school and I don’t have to travel far to get to work.”

“Are you still working at that hotel?”

“Yes.”

“Ife, you’re a smart woman.  Why are you wasting your time cleaning a big, fancy hotel?”

“I got pregnant and got married soon after I finished high-school.  I didn’t go to university.  I became a housewife and a mother.  And now I’m a widow.”

“It’s not too late for you to do something with your life.”

Ife shrugged.  “I’m so used to working at the hotel.   I don’t want to make any changes right now.”  She knew the real reason for not wanting to leave her job at the hotel was because of Mr. Kobayashi.  In her mind she called him, Toshiro but whenever she addressed him, she called him, Mr. Kobayashi.  In spite of everything, she had fallen hopelessly in love with him.

“Did you call the company I told you about a couple of weeks ago?”

“What company?”

“Paper Craft Africa.  They are the company whose products are sold in local married African manhotels and gift shops.  Many of the people they employ are young, single mothers like yourself.  It’s right here in Kampala, Ife.  Why don’t you check them out during your lunch break?”

“I can’t.  I only have a half-hour lunch break.”

“Then go after work.  Don’t you work until 4:30?  The company is open until 5, I believe.  Call them and find out.”

“All right, I will call,” Ife promised.  “How are Nasiche and the girls?”

“They are doing well.  They were sorry to hear about Damba.  Nasiche said that if you need her for anything, call.  If you like Miremba could stay with us for a while.”

“I’ll ask Miremba.  I’m really sorry that Damba’s dead.  He was a good father to Miremba and a good husband to me in the beginning.  I think things changed between us when he realized that I didn’t love him.  I guess I was hoping that one of these days, he would find a woman who would love him the way he wanted me to love him.  I guess that isn’t likely to happen now.”

Irumba hugged her.  “Don’t beat yourself up about it.  Sometimes people end up marrying the wrong person through no fault of their own.  Besides, something beautiful came from your marriage.”

Ife smiled.  “Yes, Miremba.  She was a gift straight from God.”

Irumba drew back to look down at her.  “Speaking of God, you haven’t been to church in a while.  Miremba comes by herself.  What’s going on?”

“I’m too tired.”

“Ife, you should never be too tired to come to church on the Sabbath.”

“I still pray and read my Bible even though I don’t attend church.”

“I’m happy that you’re doing those things and but it’s very important for God’s people to attend church regularly.  It’s the time when we come together worship, are encouraged and learn from God’s Word for our spiritual growth.  The apostle Paul advises us not neglect our weekly gathering, as some people do, but to encourage one another, especially now that the day of the Lord’s return is drawing near.”

“I know that going to church is important.  Mama and Papa always told us that God expected us to be in His house every Saturday.”

“You know that if they were alive now, they would be telling you the very same thing.  Why don’t you come with Miremba this Saturday?  Afterwards, both of you will come home with us and have a delicious lunch which Nasiche will prepare on Friday before sunset, for us to enjoy and then we spend the rest of the afternoon together.”

Ife hesitated.  She wanted to go to church.  She missed going to church but how could she show her face there knowing what she was doing behind closed doors?  It would be uncomfortable sitting there among the church members, knowing what she was doing behind their backs.  The thought petrified her.

Irumba squeezed her shoulder.  “Think about it,” he said quietly.

She nodded.  “I will,” she promised.  “Thanks for coming over.”

“On Friday, the family and I will take Miremba and you to the church for the funeral service.”

“All right.  We’ll see you then.  Please give my love to Nasiche and the girls.”

“I will.  Give Miremba a hug for me and let her know how sorry we are to hear about her Dad.”

They hugged again and then he left.  After he was gone, Ife sat down on the sofa and cried.

Next Up, Toshiro Consoles Ife

Sources:  XinhuanetBible Gateway; Bible Study ToolsTechnoServe

We Are All Slaves

“We are all slaves,” Todd declared and Marsha stared at him.

black girl in white blouse“What do you mean by that?”  she wondered.

“It’s what my pastor said last week.”

“Where did he get that information from?”

“The Bible, of course.  It’s in chapter six of Romans, verses twenty to twenty-two.  We are either slaves of sin or slaves of God.  We serve one or other other.  We serve sin when we allow it to control our bodies, making us commit immoral acts.”

What sort of immoral acts?”

“Adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and fornication.”

“What’s fornication?”

“It’s sex outside of marriage.  It can be between two people who aren’t married to each other or between two unmarried people.”

“Oh.”  She turned away so that he wouldn’t see the expression on her face.

“But, sin isn’t just about sexual immorality.  There’s spiritual immorality as well.”

“What happens to a person who is a slave to sin?”

“Romans 6:16 says that obeying sin leads to death.  Doesn’t your church teach you these things?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Why don’t you leave that church and come to mine?”

She turned to face him.  “Leave the Catholic Church?” she exclaimed.  “How could I?  I was born and raised a Catholic.  Why should I leave the church just because Father Montgomery hasn’t taught us what’s in Romans 6?  He might one of these days, you know.”

“I used to be a Catholic but I left because I realized that they were teaching what wasn’t in the Bible and the sex scandals–”

Marsha glared at him.  “I’m sick and tired of people attacking the church.”

“Why are you getting so upset?” Todd asked.  “I’m not attacking the church.  All I’m saying is that it needs to address the and rid itself of the sex scandals.  I’m sure that if you or someone you knew were a victim, you would feel differently.  You would want justice.  The church is supposed to be a place where people should feel safe.”

“I have to go,” she muttered.  “I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”  She turned and walked away before he could say anything.

As he headed home, he felt impressed to pray for her.

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Father Montgomery finished saying his prayer in the chapel, blessed himself and rose to his feet.  Next he went to the confessional to listen to three people make confessions.  By the time he left the parish, it was almost six o’clock.  He let himself into the abandoned mansion.   When he first visited it, he ventured down into the secret room, called a “priest hole” where Catholic clergy hid from their Protestant hunters.  Anti-Catholicism was rampant when Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558.  He tried to imagine what it would have been like to spend any amount of time there.  It made him think of the Jews who were hidden by well meaning citizens so that they could escape the concentration camps and ultimately, death.

It was in the Master’s bedroom where Marsha waited for him.  It was still furnished.  The furniture was old but still in good condition, natural light streamed through the large windows and the bed was still functional.  She was sitting at the edge of the bed, hands on lap when he walked in.  He knew right away that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” he asked as he sat down beside her.

“I ran into Todd on my way home from church this morning.”

He frowned.  “Who’s Todd?”

“He’s a boy from school.”

“Tell me what happened when you ran into him this morning.”

“He told me that we are all slaves.  Slaves to sin or slaves to God.  His pastor read this in chapter six of Romans.  I don’t want to be a slave to sin because it leads to death.”

“Marsha, you aren’t a slave of sin.  Such talk is foolishness.”

“But what about us?  Aren’t we sinning against God?”

He put his arm around her shoulders.  “It isn’t sin when two people love each other.  I love you and you love me, don’t you?”

“Yes, but–”

“Then, we aren’t sinning.  We are in a monogamous relationship.  We aren’t unequally yoked.  We share the same faith and believe in the same God.”

“Todd said that the church teaches things that aren’t in the Bible.”

“Do you trust me, Marsha?”

“Yes.”

“I would never mislead you or the rest of the flock.  What I teach is sound doctrine approved by God Himself.  Now, let’s not worry any more about what Todd or anyone else who has misguided views about our Church and its teachings.”  He gently pushed her back on to the bed and began to kiss her passionately.

Even as she surrendered to him, at the back of her mind, a small still voice was telling her that this was wrong but, as usual, she let her heart rule her head.

It was love for Eve which made Adam sin against God.  Don’t let love blind you to God’s truth.  It is by the constant obeying of His Word that we are delivered from sin.  Don’t be a slave to sin which leads to death but a slave to God which leads to eternal life.

Sources:  Atlas Obscura; Flickr

In Sanaya’s Memory

Web1It was love at first sight for me when I saw her walking towards me.  It was a blind date.  I don’t usually go on blind dates, mind you, but for some inexplicable reason, I went on this one and man, was I glad I did.

She had to be the most beautiful girl on the entire planet.  Those eyes did things to my heart and those Angelina Jolie lips–my, my, my.  Up to that point, I’ve only dated African American women but this girl was Pakistani.  I could tell from the way she was looking at me that she liked what she saw.

Needless to say, we really hit it off and that first date turned into other dates and before I knew it, I was telling Raj, the friend who set us up, that I wanted to marry this girl.  Raj was blown away and quite pleased with himself.  “I told you that you were going to love her.  If I weren’t already married, and happily married, I would have dated her myself.  I’m thrilled for you, Man.  So, have you popped the question as yet?”

“No, but I’m going to tonight when we’re having dinner at my place.”  And I did.  She was so moved by tears that for several minutes she couldn’t say anything.  After I slipped the ring on her finger, we stood and hugged.  She ended up spending the night.

We got married in an elegant but intimate ceremony.  Raj, of course, was my best man.  My family were all there but none of hers was–only friends and co-workers.  I knew that they didn’t approve of me because I wasn’t Pakistani.  I later found out that they wanted her to marry a friend of the family who was rich but old enough to be her father and she refused.  She moved out of her parents’ house and moved in with a friend.  b2052d4a374f85a4821cc75859f32472--full-lips-beautiful-eyes

When her family found out about me, they were livid.  They tried to get her to end our relationship but she refused.  She told them that she loved me and planned to spend the rest of her life with me.  Her father was especially opposed to this and told her that she was a disgrace to her family. Even there in America, she had respect their family’s caste, religion and customs.  He warned her that if she didn’t stop dating me and agree to the marriage they had arranged for her, she would be very sorry.

I didn’t know that she was afraid that something dad would happen to her.  If I had, I would have packed up everything and taken her far away.  It never once occurred to me that my father-in-law, whom I never met, would take my wife’s life.  Even now, I still can’t believe that a father would kill his own daughter because she chose to marry a man she loved instead of the man they wanted her to marry.

It happened a couple of months after she gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Alaya.  She was on her way home from the supermarket when she was struck by a car driven by her father.  She was rushed to the hospital.  Her condition was very critical.  She suffered multiple vertebrae fractures, an ankle fracture, a severe closed head injury and multiple soft tissue injuries from head to toe.  To say that I was devastated would be a gross understatement.  I was beside myself.  I cried and prayed for her to pull through but she slipped into a coma and never woke up.  My family and friends rallied around me, supporting me.  I had lost the love of my life and the mother of our child.  How on earth was I going to get through that?

Her father was charged with murder.  He’s still serving time.  I don’t hate him anymore.  I have channeled the negative feelings into something positive.  I have created a foundation in my wife’s honor.  It’s called Sanaya after her.  The organization is geared towards preventing honor killings in America.  This is America.  It’s supposed to be the land of the free.  What about the message at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty which says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Yet, honor killings are no longer happening in other parts of the world.  They are happening right here in our own backyard.  And it has to stop.  It is an issue that cannot be ignored.  Right now, I am working to expose the issue and help train front line responders, victim service providers, and counselors.  I have to do this for Sanaya, our daughter Ayala and other women.  There is no honor in killing and women are not objects or possessions.  They, like Sanaya, should have the right to marry the men of their choice and not be murdered for it.  It is my hope and prayer that honor killing will be a thing of the past.  Until that time, I will continue to honor Sanaya’s memory by fighting to “end the practice of Honor Killings and shift the mindset of Pakistani society to one of gender equality.” 

This story is fiction but it was written for National Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women which is today, November 25, 2019.  This story was inspired by the true tragic killing of Noor, a young Iraqi woman who was run over by her father in Arizona.  She was killed to preserve the family honor.  In her father’s eyes, she was engaging in behavior that could taint her family’s status.

Noor told a friend that her father disapproved of everything she did — from the way she dressed to her choice of friends. According to Noor’s friend, Pesta, “She had a foot in two worlds. She had one foot in suburban America and one foot in Middle Eastern tradition.  In public she tried to put on a brave face…and tried to live her life and enjoy the freedoms that American offered her. In private, she fought with her father all the time.”

Honor killing has been around for such a long time and was thought to happen only in certain countries but it is happening in North America.  According to Aruna Papp, an internationally recognized educator and a survivor, after being raised in an honour-based family structure in India, honor killings are happening here in Canada.  “It’s an epidemic. We have had 19 honour killings in Canada in the last decade. In all developed countries, the highest rate of suicide is among South Asians—why do they come to developed countries and kill themselves? Because we are trained from birth to be self sacrificing…it’s so much easier to kill yourself then to humiliate the family.” 

The issue of honour killing was thrust into the Canadian spotlight back in 2009, after four female members of the Shafia family were found dead in a canal in Ontario.

Honor killing and violence against women are real issues and we must continue to raise awareness and take action.  Girls and women deserve to live quality lives, free of violence, oppression and free.  It is believed that at least 5,000 honour killings are reported around the world each year, but most likely the actual number is far higher since many go unreported.

If you are interested in learning more about honor killing and/or how you can help in the fight to end it, here is a list of organizations you can check out:

 

Violence against women is not just a problem in countries like Afghanistan and Somalia. It’s happening in the U.S. too

Ayaan Hirsi Ali stated that most Americans refuse to accept that honor violence happens there and this is the biggest obstacle to providing effective assistance.  Her foundation receives requests for help from women and girls in crisis.  She mentioned in her editorial, “There is the young woman, an American citizen, who was taken to her family’s native country in the Middle East to marry a complete stranger against her will because her parents feared she was becoming too “Americanized.” There is the college student who fears for her life should her father discover that she is dating someone outside her family’s faith. There is the teenage girl who discovers she is pregnant and is threatened with murder by her family for bringing shame upon them.” 

Refusing to believe that this type of violence is in our country wouldn’t make it go away.  It exists and women and girls need our help.  We must do something.  No more burying our heads in the sand.  We MUST take action.

Honor killings are not honorable by God. They are driven by ignorance and ego and nothing more. The Creator favors the man who loves over the man who hates. If you think God will punish you or your child for allowing them to marry outside of your tribe or faith, then you do not know God. Love is his religion and the light of love sees no walls. Anybody who unconditionally loves another human being for the goodness of their heart and nothing more is already on the right side of God.
Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

Sources:  Amnesty International; CBS; The Guardian; Global News; Humanity Healing