“This story is a microcosm of a world of injustice and wrong that is perpetrated against the girls and women of my nation.” As we mark one year since the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in Iran, SAT-7 presents the true story of an Iranian woman that highlights the mistreatment and suffering of women and girls in the country.
**This true story contains references that some readers may find distressing.**
I had only just set aside my favourite doll when I said “yes” at my wedding ceremony. My new husband, who was my older cousin, no longer permitted me to go to school and I was banned from visiting my parents’ home. Soon, I found out I was pregnant.
I was so young that I still craved the warmth of my mother’s embrace, and no one knew how afraid I was.
My sister visited me and reported my situation to my parents. The resulting fight between my father and his brother led to the break-up of the marriage. My marriage, motherhood and divorce all took place within a single year. The care of my daughter was assigned to her father due to my young age.
I missed my school friends but I was not allowed to go back to school. I had to register for night classes. My fellow students were the same age as my friends’ mums. I completed my studies, which included a university degree, and I went on to find employment in a large company.
Story upon story of pain
I managed to reconnect with some old friends as well as making new ones. Each one of them had their own story to tell.
One had been forced to marry a rich old man because of her father’s debts. Another friend was raped by her boss at work. Fearing her father and brother, and the loss of honour and reputation, she took her own life, and all her hopes and dreams were buried along with her.
My own daughter left the country. I really missed her; I had not seen her for years, but at least she was far away from all the problems that girls face in our country.
A second marriage
I married again but it soon became clear that I had made a mistake. Despite finding out early in our marriage that my husband was addicted to drugs, it was too late, as I was pregnant. I did all I could to help him quit and as a result I found it challenging to make ends meet.
I gave birth to a daughter who became the world to me and a part of me even hoped that her arrival would transform her father, but it was not to be.
I decided to continue the marriage for a time. I had just given birth to our son when I found out that, in my absence, he was bringing other women into our home. I placed the [divorce] papers in front of him. He had two days to leave our home.
The next day, I came back from work, and my husband tried to kill me. All of a sudden, he came to himself and hurriedly tied tape over the wounds to stem the bleeding and rushed me to the hospital. I could see he was filled with regret and I could see the fear in his eyes.
The only thing I feared was losing my children. I wanted to be there for them and to look after them until I found a solution.
Two or three years passed. I forgave my husband again and tried to show him more kindness than ever before. Seeing that my efforts were in vain I became despondent. One day he came to my place of work where, in front of my colleagues, he tried to throw me out of the 10th floor. They saved me from him.
I reported him and we were divorced. The judge ordered him to leave me and the children alone. May God help him and save him from his slavery to drugs. I still pray for him.
Protests and imprisonment
One day as I was returning home from work, I saw that the streets were full of people demonstrating and chanting slogans against the government [in the 2019 protests sparked by soaring fuel prices]. I found myself joining them and within the hour officers arrived and started to arrest people. I saw a woman bundled into a van and the officer gestured to me to get in too. I did as I was told. Before my phone was confiscated, I quickly contacted my sister and told her what had happened and asked her to look after my children. I committed myself to God.
We were taken to a detention centre. Three days later a number of us were taken to Evin prison. It was a crazy world there. There were so many women, young and old, and despite my fear I started to speak to many of them out of curiosity and they trusted me enough to share their stories.
One of them, a beautiful young girl, had been arrested for making a short film about the problems Iranian girls face. She had been raped by her two interrogators and she had seen another girl raped like she had been. So much injustice and evil.
In the end I left Evin prison to re-enter a much larger prison called Iran; a country where children do not have a childhood, young people grow old before their time and the old ones are barely alive.
This story is a microcosm of a world of injustice and wrong that is perpetrated against the girls and women of my nation. All things considered, I see that among all these I am blessed. I have faith that the reign of injustice will not last forever and after every period of darkness there is light.
I remember my mother and how I miss the little doll of my childhood – the childhood so many of us have lost.
This was written by SAT-7 staff member Ghazaleh, who captured the biography of a close female relative in Iran.
To find out more about the current situation in Iran and how SAT-7 is responding to the needs of women, read our latest article here.