“One blazing afternoon, I took my two kids and ran away”

A number of those women who went through forced marriage has faced violence after marriage

Zhino Khalil

 When Azhin was 12 years, she was forced to marry a man with mental problems. She says that she has been through a tough life with him and that he always beat and oppressed her. “I was 9 months when my parents separated, and both had new spouses. I was living with my dad and stepmother, which was treating me so badly. She prevented me from going to school and this is why I am now illiterate. Under the pressure of my stepmother, my father forced me to marry an old man” she said.

Azhin was not aware that her father had arranged all marriage procedures with a clergyman. After four months, her civil ID card was changed and her age was turned bigger to legalize the marriage. Eventually, she became the wife of a person with a mental illness, as she says.

“My husband has a mental illness and used to tell me that my father had forced him to marry me. Every day, he was locking me up and torturing me with a knife and electric shock. The scars of the chains in my back are still evident and still hurting me” she continued.    

The signs of torture are quite clear on her back and speaks about how she was abused. She was not only offended by her husband; her in-laws also victimized her. Her in-laws continuously beat and humiliate her.

“My brother-in-law had attempted several times to sexually abuse me, but I resisted his ill desires. I have been threatening him and telling him that I will shout and let all people know what you are planning to do. One day, I told my father and mother-in-law about such harassment, but they discredited me and alleged that I wanted to harm their son’s reputation. When my husband heard about that, he beat me so hard”, she continued.

When my husband heard about that, he beat me so hard

Later, Azhin became a mother of two children but her husband did not work and could not provide for his wife and kids, furthermore he did not allow her to work. She often complained from the bad treatment of her husband, her father and relatives and asked them to help her separate from him, but they did not agree. “They believed that if I get divorced, my family will be stigmatized, and they will feel ashamed” she says. Therefore, she always tried to run a way.

In a late night, she tried to escape, but she was scared fear from the dark compelled her to return home. One blazing afternoon, after being beaten by her husband, she took her two kids, went to the Directorate of Human Rights, and appealed to the officials there to protect her life. On the same day, she filed a complaint against her husband. “I stayed a couple of days in a Garmian shelter and my husband was arrested the next day after filing the complaint, then he was released”, she said.

Regarding this case, Khabat Rasheed Ahmed, Director of Human Rights Office in the Garmian Area, referred to Act 4 (issued in 2010) that can be relied upon for filing any complaint about any violations committed against women and it ensures that all necessary measures are taken. “We have our own mechanisms to restore the rights of separated women. Our volunteer lawyers work to regain all their legal rights” director added.  

The Director indicated that there are similar cases in Garmian area, and they are referred to the Directorate of Combating Violence against Women where their issues are either resolved or referred to protection shelter in Sulaymaniyah. “This is the first case, in which a woman fled from her area for a long time” Azhin said. She stressed that the 72 hours of protection in Garmian Shelter must be increased without requiring the approval of governmental departments in Sulaymaniyah, so that they can resolve their problems during this period prior to referring them to Sulaymaniyah.  

Since Azhin had no place to go, she took their two kids to her mother and then she ran away to Sulaymaniyah because she was afraid of being returned by her in-laws. In Sulaymaniyah, she started working in a Café which was run by a lady who assisted her. She accommodated Azhin in her house. When her in-laws knew her place, they paid to someone to kill her, but the hired man came to her and told her about the murder plan.

Azhin has not seen her kids for 6 years, she is suffering from memorizing problems, and she repeatedly cries for them. “Sometimes, I secretly go close to the house of my husband and my grandfather to see my kids even from distance. I was lucky and saw them only once, but I saw only my daughter. Other times, I returned hopelessly without seeing them” She said.

Sometimes, I secretly go close to the house of my husband and my grandfather to see my kids even from distance. I was lucky and saw them only once, but I saw only my daughter. Other times, I returned hopelessly without seeing them

In this regard, a women rights activist pointed out that the main reason of women to run away after separation is that these women are humiliated and even victimized by their families and communities. Vian Sabir says that “women are no more accepted in their families and communities when they defy the customs and traditions. Thus, the government must protect and accommodate them in shelters, and they should be supported to have their independent income source”.

Vian Sabri also indicated that a legislation should be enacted to support the independence of separated women. She also believes that women organizations have been unable to provide shelter for women who are rejected by their families, and the only thing that these organizations managed to do is raising people’s awareness about women’s rights through holding seminars and symposiums.

Azhin and other women who escaped violence or separated are often vulnerable to sexual harassment at the work place, which prompted her to leave her job and travel to meet one of her female friends in another city in Kurdistan, where she rented a house and started working as a tailor and hairdresser to maintain her living. She calls upon authorities to help her get separation letter and defend her right to reclaim her kids.

In this regard, Firyad Hidayet, spokesman to the Directorate of Combating Violence against Women in Garmian said, “A case is opened for any woman filing a complaint. According to the judgment of the court, if a woman’s life was under threat, she will be kept in a shelter until her case is resolved. Otherwise, she can stay outside the shelter”.

There are some restrictions on women freedom inside shelters including restrictions on mobile phone usage and outside visits. Therefore, some women do not like to stay there.

Firyad Hidayet said “No place can be safe like your home. It is true that women in shelters do not enjoy full freedom, but these restrictions are for their own protection. Such threats may consequently jeopardize the lives of other sheltered women and the staff working there, and this may create a negative impression about shelters if they were unable to protect the lives of their occupants”.

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