Fight for Justice
“I may be from a third world country, but I have a heart as you do, emotions like you have and dreams to pursue. On my first Eid as a married girl, I wanted to dress up and celebrate my new beginning instead of being in a hospital bed recovering from the effects of abuse.”
I got married in March 2014 in Chicago with dreams of starting a new life and a future built out on love and trust in my new home. My parents were so assured that they were giving me into the hands of an educated guy; someone who would value their daughter and appreciate her.
The day I got married, not even 24 hours after my parents left Chicago, my in-laws evaluated me on the dowry that my parents gave for me. My in-laws felt that it wasn’t enough – even though my dad had given all that he could. He had fulfilled every demand my in-laws had made and yet it did not satisfy them.
My husband and in-laws felt that all that I had brought in with me was not enough. The iron and ironing board were missing, and there just weren’t enough comforter-sets to keep the entire family warm. They were so disappointed that they began scheming on ways to end my marriage.
My resistance infuriated my husband, and then he became violent. I hid his brutality from my parents because of their health condition. I never spoke of his foul behavior in worry that it would affect their health.
My mother-in-law would summon me and make dowry requests. When I discussed this with my husband, he would say, “Even our Prophet (PBUH)’s daughter got a dowry.” And then he would yell at me and say, “If you do not get anything, you can sleep on the mattress.”
I was shocked and horrified that someone who held the position of a Vice President at a bank, and who could afford a house fixated on asking my father for furniture. As if this wasn’t deplorable enough, he demanded a 50-inch TV saying I was lucky he demanded only that because,
“I want a smart TV, but I will settle for the 50-inch TV.”
Finally, I resorted to asking my sister for help who paid for those things after marriage. I ordered everything my in-laws demanded on my sister’s credit card and went to pick them up with my husband. I was ashamed of being married to a man who was forcing me to take funds from my younger sister.
Despite succumbing to their requests, my husband and in-laws treated me akin to a slave. They would snatch food away from my plate if I did not finish cleaning the house. I would be forced to mow the lawns, while he would sit and watch. My husband overburdened me with domestic chores, and on top of that, my in-laws’ attitude towards me left me emotionally and physically exhausted.
But my husband would brazenly vindicate this abuse by saying, “I am giving you a roof, food, and shelter.”
My health started to deteriorate with each passing day. I had become an emotionally torn person. I grew deprived of my individuality. With each day getting worse than the last, my life turned into a living hell.
My marriage was utterly devoid of any respect; I got none from my husband or his family. They treated me like a servant, confined me to the four walls of our house and advised me to ‘win hearts’ and not mope about my situation. Despite being his wife, I enjoyed no such place or position. There were restrictions laid upon me on going out by myself, cooking for myself or my husband, and even staying in touch with my friends or family.
My husband and in-laws exerted control over every aspect of my life and forbade me from working or socializing and bound me to them in every way. Saying I felt suffocated is a gross understatement. I was imprisoned in my own house and would cry to my sister about my pain if I had the fortunate opportunity of talking to her. I would keep giving in to save my marriage and kept preventing the possibility of being a societal taboo, a divorced woman.
About a week before my six-month visa was expiring, he asked me to sign a postnuptial agreement. At that point, I was not aware of what that was. I was not even allowed to ask questions and was expected to trust my husband blindly. I was shown the document only minutes before reaching the notary office where I had to sign it. I was horrified to read the contents of the agreement. It stated,
‘The wife will not get alimony."
‘The wife will not have the right to contest a divorce."
And the cherry on top of the cake was, ‘The wife must provide transparency to everything."
In my five months of marriage, I had never had any transparency to his assets or his salary because he never considered me his partner. I was a slave from a third world country with parents far away from home.
Finally in Ramazan, one day before Eid in 2014, I was able to escape. I can never forget that day. He physically attacked me and then snatched my phone to stop me from reaching out for help. I thank God that I was able to find a laptop and use it to call my sister on Skype for help. I thought they were going to kill me because when they snatched my phone. I had heard his mom say,
“We have to do something about her.”
I shudder when I recall the day I left their residence, bruised. I was 70 pounds in weight and shaking. On the day of Eid, I lay in a hospital bed traumatized at my state, my health, and my condition.
Since then, I have been going for counseling to bring myself, and my life, back together, and today, after months, I feel I have battled what thousands of women are still suffering. Every day thousands of girls suffer such from abuse in silence and put up with domestic violence. Every day, thousands of parents become victims of threats and feel the urge to save their daughters from divorce.
To them, all I can say is, save your daughter. Educate and empower her, don’t allow anyone to put her life through hell. Her life is as essential as any boy's. It is as important as anyone else’s. Don’t deprive her of the joy of living. I thank God for the support I have gotten from my family and friends, and your daughters will thank you too. Please give them the opportunity to live. Be more vigilant. Now we should stop using the words divorce and taboo synonymously. This generation we let our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and female friends know that they have the right to live their lives as they please as much any man has that power.
If my message and story have had an impact on even one person, I believe I have saved a life. Here is a new year with the hope of a better society that doesn’t oppress anyone’s daughter in any way.