One summer day as I came home from school, I noticed that my parents had company. My mother frantically dragged me into the kitchen and told me that I need to get dressed quickly and come downstairs because this family is here from Canada to give a rishta (marriage proposal) for their son.
My throat felt like it was closing and trickles of sweat started pouring down my forehead. I quickly changed into the most wrinkled shalwar Kameez I could find and wiped off my makeup – I was praying to Allah that this family just thinks I am ugly and move on to their next pursuit. Unfortunately, my plan to repel them didn’t work.
A year and five months later, I became Mrs. Kazimi; married to a man twice my age.
I was welcomed by my husband and his family in Calgary. As I settled in to their home, that is when the abuse started. The very first time he hit me, I ran to my mother in law thinking she would make it stop. Instead, she told me to be patient because he was under a lot of pressure at work and was emotionally distressed due to the death of a close family member. I felt sorry for him and took the abuse hoping that he will get better. After an intense argument one day, he wrapped me in a blanket, to leave no evidence, and beat me unconscious. That’s the day I decided his emotional distress was nothing but an excuse.
This is the day I started to plan my escape.
One day, during one of his usual episodes of rage, he hit me on my face and neck. Badly bruised and scared for my life, I ran downstairs to our basement tenants. My bruises and regular screams, which travelled through the vents, required no explanation. They sheltered me for a few days and contacted Nisa Homes. A police officer escorted me to my room to collect my belongings, I was then taken to a local women’s shelter and took the next morning’s flight to Vancouver.
As the plane touched down in Vancouver, I felt I could finally breathe again. I was thrilled that I could put the abuse behind me and go somewhere far away where I would be safe and could restart my life.
Then I found out I was pregnant.
I didn’t know what to do. I called my parents in Pakistan to deliver the news that they are about to become grandparents. I was horrified and shocked when they immediately told me to get an abortion, and come back to Pakistan so I can get remarried. They wanted nothing to do with their unborn grandchild. How could I even think of trying to remarry or get my life together if I had a child? It would be the end of my life. Divorced and with a child. Who wants that? As long as I had the child, they would have nothing to do with us.
I was crushed but I knew there was no way I could consider getting an abortion. I made my decision and my family made theirs. They abandoned me from that moment. They didn’t ask about me, send me money, or even answer my calls.
I stayed at Nisa Homes until I gave birth, and it was no easy pregnancy – everything made me sick and dizzy and I could barely eat. During this time, the Nisa Homes team not only helped me receive welfare, as I was unable to work, they also found me an apartment and furnished it primarily through donations.
When my daughter Ayah came into this world, I knew I made the right decision. I could never love someone more than I loved her.
My dream is to help other victims of domestic abuse and make this World a safe place for my Ayah to live in.