Norway: A story of a forced marriage

VG Nett met 'Naima' in a secret place.  She doesn't want to publish her full name or picture, in consideration of her family.  She wants to tell her story because she knows that many out there suffer and have suffered similarly to her.

"I think of my father and ask: why is it that you've left me," says the women, who's in her thirties.

Naima was 18 when she was told that she'll join her family on holiday in Pakistan.  She had finished secondary school and was looking forward to a well-earned vacation.

In her homeland she was notified she would be married.

"I was in shock, i was just a child.  To refuse my father didn't help.  I was beaten until I said yes.  I didn't understand why my father wanted to force me, I wasn't rebellious or disobedient," she says.

SEIF (self-help for immigrants and refugees) and the Red Cross hotline for forced marriage, report a steady increase in the number of appeals from youth who fear of being coerced to marry.  They notice an especially large influx during the summer time.

Naima's husband was a relative, and he was 15 years older than her.

"I thought I would live my life with him, I would sacrifice myself for my father.  Didn't want that he would be looked down upon by others in the community.  I didn't think of my own happiness."

In Norway her ex-husband started threatening and being violent against his young wife, he locked her in the house several times.

"He came with complaints that i was unfaithful to him, and that I deserved to be locked in," she tells VG Nett.

Naima told her father of the situation but didn't get any sympathy.  Her father didn't want to hear of a divorce.  He thought that she should continue living with her husband.  She was a married woman and not the family's responsibility any longer.

"I lived with a violent husband for five years.  Every day felt like eternity.  I also had a child with him.  I considered abortion, but Islam doesn't allow it.  I decided that I will fight and change my situation," says Naima.

The shelter was the solution for Naima.  She went through the divorce on her own since her family didn't support her decision.

"It was difficult, I was completely alone in the world.  I lived isolated from the world, felt nothing any longer.  I often sat and thought why my father was nasty towards me.  I had never done anything to put in a bad light.  Why was he like that to me?"

Gradually Naima got in contact with her family again, and she was very happy.  She began to have a better relationship with her father, and went along on a trip to Pakistan for a brother's wedding.

"I was happy for the time, felt that my life began to go in the right direction.  After the wedding I heard that my father wanted me also to get married again.  I thought he had learned the first time.  I was completely crushed," says Naima.

They took her passport away and she could get it back if she would get married.

"I didn't want to go through that again, since I didn't have the powers for it.  I wanted to give up several time.  My brothers began to support me, it meant a lot to me.  They said they were willing to help me, but they didn't want to contradict our father directly."

"I agreed to marry because I was afraid I would also be separated from my son, and escaped several days after the wedding to the Norwegian embassy with the help of my brothers."

Naima hadn't seen her father since she came back to Norway.

"I don't hate anybody, I want everything good.  If my father wouldn't have forced me to marry, I would certainly have married through an arranged marriage.  There's a big difference between religion and culture.  Islam doesn't allow forced marriage.  I think that the older generation of Muslim immigrants are a victim of their own culture: they don't know how they should adapt to Norwedian society," she says.

Naima says she that unhappy because she knows that that there are many of suffer and are in danger of suffering what she'd gone through.  Her parents come from a rural area in Pakistan and are not educated.

"It's a rural culture that has taken root in Norway.  There are independent and modern people in Pakistan, but they live in the cities.  In the rural areas people follow a very old patriarchal system where women have no say."

Naima also emphasizes the importance of education.

"Education gives knowledge and knowledge gives power.  It's the key to reform.  Norwegian law must be followed, it's not good that people force their children to do something they don't want to do.  It's very good in the Muslim culture but we must change the negative things, we can't continue with this un-culture," she says to VG Nett.

Source: VG (Norwegian)

See also: UK: Muslim peer says cultural issues can be criticized, Norway: Fighting the "un-culture"

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