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Friday 31 October  
Sarah, of Somali descent but born in the Netherlands, was 16 when she was forced
Saskia Houttuin's picture
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Holiday in Somalia turns into nightmare, part 2

Published on : 18 August 2012 - 7:16am | By Saskia Houttuin (Photo: Nieuwsuur)
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Sarah, of Somali descent but born in the Netherlands, was 16 when she was forced to marry her uncle in Somalia. After several attempts she managed to escape from Mogadishu last month and go back home. She now lives in hiding in a women’s shelter in the Netherlands.

Part 1 of this story was published on Friday 16 August.

Sarah used the London Olympics as a target. “I thought, I have to be in Europe before the Olympics start. If I have to, I’ll walk there.” She started to look on the internet for solutions and got in touch with Shirin Musa, who-co founded the Dutch women’s rights organization Femmes for Freedom.

Musa bought Sarah a plane ticket to Amsterdam. “I went to the travel agency to validate my ticket. There, I met another Dutch-Somali girl who also wanted to escape. We agreed to meet at the airport on the day of our flight. I was nervous, I couldn’t eat. I was so sure [my relatives] knew what I was up to. It had never been that scared before.”

Sarah was forced to marry her uncle.
Sarah was forced to marry her uncle.

Hunted down
“The day I left I told my husband I am going to see a friend, but went to the airport instead. While the other girl and I were sitting there, a policeman approached us. He was carrying a picture, so I was 100 percent sure he was looking for me. But he looked at the girl and told her she had to go with him to the reception desk. She never came back. I think her family gave the policeman money to find her. My family didn’t know I had left, but she had been gone for two weeks, so her family knew she was about to escape.”

Living in hiding
Now, Sarah is living in a women’s shelter in the Netherlands. She is thinking about going to college in February next year. The only thing that matters to her now is to persevere. One day, she wants to marry another man, but that means she has to divorce her husband. “In my religion it’s not a marriage if the girl has been forced into it. I’ll have to consult sheiks and imams, but I heard there is a way. No matter what happened, it doesn’t mean that Islam is wrong.”

She hopes that in the future the Netherlands will be more helpful towards girls in her situation. “People hardly speak about it, which I find disappointing. I was born here, I’m proud to be Dutch, but when they sent me away at the embassy in Ethiopia I felt embarrassed to be Dutch.”

In the meantime, Sarah’s husband and mother have tracked her down and keep on pestering her. “He sends me nasty messages on Facebook, saying that he will ruin my life, that he’s never going to divorce me and that I’ll never find another husband. My mother contacted me as well through other people, saying that I should come back, that everything will be OK. But no, I fell for that once, I won’t do it again.”

Next week we’ll feature a story around Shirin Musa and the organization Femmes for Freedom.


Anonymous 12 April 2013 - 8:57am / london

somali parents have big problems when it comes to children. somali parent are in non-Muslim countries and they expect their children to act and behave 100% muslim.. girls have to wear hijab, some parent ask their children no to mix with white or non Muslim children, it is very hard.. as a somali mother I feel the young girl's pain and what she went through at the same time the mother all she did is what she knows best, what she has learnt from her mother and the somali community.. I took my children to somali but I will never force my girls into marriage. marriage is not the answer, take the children to somali, show them the beauty of the country and introduce them to nice people,take them to beach and the beautiful farms, make them feel they are needed here and they are the future of this country and how they can contribute to their community. there is nothing wrong having two nationalities it is a blessing from allah,it and opportunity to see the world and take with is good in it and use it. I ask each one of my children to donate £5 a month to somali child in somali, I have explained to them that they are blessed to leave here with no worries and there are children like them who need their help. please somali parent teach your children from young age to love themselves, to respect their parent, teach them their religion, show them unconditional love and discipline them when they wrong,but do not just wake up one day when your daughter is 16 years old and decide to marry her, at least find or introduce to her someone in the same country and see how it works, be friends with your children, joke with them, meet their friend and their family, believe me you relationship will be better and you will get respected as a parent and they will understand when you are not happy with their behavior and their way of life and but dont force them into marriage is the rest of their live.

Ismail - london 6 February 2013 - 7:31pm

First of all, you have the right to divorce him, with small amount of money. I hope good for life you, and i believe what ever hard life you went through it test, people go to even more difficult trauma. I really ask allah to help you and to ease your pain, never lose hope on him. One advice, and i hope my words reaches you, In olden days before islam people used to be slaved and use as trade, however, people freed by islam and with all the suffer they went through it been ease because they understood the mean of life and getting closer to allah, and remember that all we would live just 70-80 or even more, but we are all return to him. I am sorry if i said something offensive, i just want to share a thought.

Wally 20 August 2012 - 8:53pm / New Zealand

Somalians belong in Somalia. Dutch people in The Netherlands. The failure to understand this simple fact has led to so much suffering.

Ismail - london 6 February 2013 - 7:32pm

In deed i agree

Bashir 18 August 2012 - 11:49pm / Norway

Bad old traditional, how some one accept some thing like that. Girls are not play they are human so please respect them.

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