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.”
“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.