My grandfather came to UK to work in the 1960s. My father followed soon after as his dependant. In those days many females did not join their men in the UK, for the fear of the bad influences of the West. Many years later, my Grandfather arranged my father’s marriage to his niece, my mother. She was a beautiful, intelligent & multi-talented woman, but my father wanted to marry another female. My grandfather refused to call him his son so he ended up marrying my mother & that’s when the domestic abuse started.
His sisters, who despite living with their husbands would come over to make mischief, interfere and provoke my father into taking out his anger on my mother. She went on to have me & when she was pregnant with one of my siblings, my aunts created such situations and hostile atmospheres that any encouragement and provocation lead to my father beating my mother in front of others; who never did anything to stop it. This encouraged him as it showed he had an upper hand and can humiliate her anytime and anywhere. On one occasion, she nearly miscarried. Her parents came back to take my mum back, but my father threatened to divorce my mother and the fear of humiliation of being a divorcee stopped her leaving my father with her parents. Futher, legally my grandparents could not do anything. My aunts convinced my father to ban my grandparents from seeing my mother or us. After the birth of my sisters, my aunts started to say that my mother will keep on having girls.
Only Allah knows why, but some sense come to my father (my mother said it was the love for us). He thought his sisters’ interference will escalate the violence, so he applied to take my mother and us to the UK in secret. In the UK, my mum said my father was occasionally abusive but he was a lot happier. Bills were paid, food was on the table, we went places, missed school a lot and moved to different counties in UK. But our problems started when I turned 13. B then, we had more brothers and sisters. We had moved to a populated Bengali area, in which my father went from his carefree ways to violent ways. Suddenly, what others said about us, or something we did (such as not wearing a scarf, talking to classmates, replying back to him) would cause him to lose his temper. He would hit us and beat our mother in front of us, if she defended us. My father would call us ugly, fat, stupid, blind and good for nothing. We lived in fear of him, hiding in our rooms. He would belt us and we would go to school with physical scars and emotional problems; but in the 80s & 90s everyone turned a blind eye to the problems of the ethnic minority, even the police. It would always be our father’s word against the noisy neighbours, who would hear our cries of help. The Asian families didn’t see my father as a violent man. They perceived him as good father and a good husband, trying to keep he has family together.
Many times I wanted to commit suicide or run way, but the tears of my mother and the fear that my father will kill my mother kept me trapped between the two worlds of life and death. My father, many times, told us he will slit our throat like the Bengali girl in Birmingham that was killed by her father for going to see a church. For a child, the thought alone gave me nightmare for years; where I would dream my father was clawing my heart out of me, while I was awake.
When I turned 17, my aunts started emotionally pressuring my father to give me and my sisters to their uneducated, physically ugly, non-religious sons – with bad characters in marriages. My future mother in law pretended her heart was failing her & convinced my father that before any strangers come forward for our hand marriage or interfere in his business, he should his help his sisters because ,‘blood is thicker than water’. She also stated that he can control his daughters as well, and the son in laws could support him in anything, if the marriages went ahead – plus he would not have to give any dowries. They persistently repeated that our marriages would strengthen family relations and will give their sons the opportunities to come to the UK and support them financially. This means my father will no longer have to support them financially and why help others when your own family needs help.
My mother reminder my father that they cursed her because she give birth to daughters, so why would they want the same daughters? But my father paid no heed and told her if she does not want to live the humiliation of living as a divorced woman, she’d better accept it.
When we arrived to Bangladesh, I took immediate dislike to the country and family members. My cousins and their families literally moved into our village home. My potential husband looked like he had come out of a grave and behaved like a pervert. I attempted suicide, but failed. My father trapped us without our passports.
He left me and my sisters in hell for over a year. I became depressed and ill, but never confided in anyone. I had to force myself mentally to accept my cousin’s advances and had to put up with his dramas, such as him saying he loved me so much he will commit suicide if I left him. He would hold my hand & cry if didn’t show any response to his dramas. My aunt, now my mother in law, always went on about how my mother’s side were bad and how she loved her brother and accepted me, even though my parents did not give anything in dowry. I didn’t let anyone know that I was waiting for the opportunity to return.
Years later, both my aunts and their sons were disappointed that neither I nor my sisters were pregnant, as this would have helped with the spouse visas.
Returning to the UK didn’t exactly change things. My father, on our behalf, applied for our cousins’ visas. He used false documents to show other documents, put money into our accounts and even got a friend to show his house as enough accommodation for them and available employment. We still suffered violence and our mother still got beaten if she didn’t support him.
Our husbands came over. We moved to a council house, from one violent home to another. My sisters left their husbands to runaway to women’s refuges, because our father had beaten one sister as her husband had complained to our father that she wasn’t sleeping with him. Our husbands controlled us through our fathers and the fear of dishonour kept me trapped for years. My husband didn’t financially support me. His money went abroad, on cigarettes, cars, gambling and prostitutes. I worked full-time to make ends meet. He put me down all the time. I had lack of self-esteem nor much confidence to change my situation. When I had miscarriages, he cursed me and forced me to have intimate relations even thought I was suffering from depression and he knew I hated his touch. I had no standard of living.
When I had my second daughter, he left in me the delivery room because she was a girl. My mother cared for me and my children when I returned to work. My second child has a disability, so life was harder but I managed without help. He had an affair and left me for a couple of years – it was like being freed from captive. My father blamed me for my husband’s affair and said I didn’t support my husband. He wouldn’t allow us to divorce. My husband returned, he asked for forgiveness and promised a new life. I was under pressure from family & my in laws, who had come to the UK on a visitor’s visa – to sort out our marriage problems. But they went on to make my life hell. Suddenly, even shopping for basic needs and going to hospital appointments was a crime. Life became unbearable.
One night my husband came in the middle of the night with some pervasive sexual idea. I refused and he tried to force himself on me. I was heavily pregnant but I fought him off. He awoke his parents and caused a drama. They took his side and called my father over.
I do not know where the anger came from, but suddenly I went crazy. I went to get knife to kill myself and my unborn child. The police arrived and my father got scared. He told my in laws to leave till the situation cools down.
I used my anger to take action. I did not leave the matrimonial family home but I took legal action. My husband was forced to give me a divorce and my father was forced to accept my divorce, because I wasn’t living in his house. My brothers were grown up and as abusive as him, so he couldn’t hit my mother on my account.
Friends, family members and brothers told me as a single parent with children, I should not remarry, as no man will want me and according to them, being in my late twenties I was too old. But I wasn’t interested in any man till years later, as a working single parent; I was introduced to a divorcee. He was a Muslim man who shared the same experiences – as someone who was forced into a marriage of convenience. That was the first time I met someone I was attracted to, someone who was gentle, intelligent, broadminded – unlike any men I have known.
My ex tried to use my children, through children’s contact, to harass and stalk me. He verbally abused my children and tried to get information out from them. I had no support from my family or friends so I accepted the proposal from the brother that I met. After my marriage, my ex, my father & brothers left me alone with my new circumstances. My husband was a big, strong man and when my ex saw him – he ran like a dog with his tail between his legs. For male cowards and bullies, it is so easy to abuse and hit a woman, but to fight another man is not that easy.
Many years later with daughters and sons, I FOUND peace in my home. My husband was a gentle man, a loving husband a doting dad; and Alhamdulilaah, a good model for my children from my previous marriage. I get very sad when I see friends, sisters and cousins in similar situations, but who are so scared of their spouses that they deny they have a problem. They isolate themselves from others and their pasts, so that their husbands do not use it against them. I feel sad for mothers who hide their children’s faults so they do not get beaten for it.
After many years, a recent incident happened. I went to visit my parents with my children. My mother asked me to sit and eat. My father came from work soon after. During a family conversation, my mother made a general comment & my father threw into a violent rage. In front of us and his grandchildren, he went towards my mum – who is now in her fifties – with a baby’s chair to hit her with it, while screaming the words do you want a divorce? I was completely taken aback because it had been quite a number of years back since he had his violent episodes and I assumed with old age and performing namaz he had changed. I know over the recent years, it was mostly verbal abuse. In shock, I went immediately in middle of them as a barrier, but for the first time my mother reacted back. She egged him on to hit & to divorce her. She said this was final. As a grandmother, as a mother in law; she will not stand for it. My father was taken back & like a bully, he shrunk and left the room.
I was sad because my father had taken me back to the same place I was at as a child – a witness to the violence. But at the same time, I was happy because I knew my mother has learnt to fight her own battles; however, I knew my brothers followed in my father’s example.
I would like to leave you with the following:
Surah 13: Ayahs 9–11
He knows what is hidden and what is open; the Almighty, the Exalted
It is the same whether any of you thinks quietly or speaks aloud and whether he is hidden by the night or is out in the day. With each person there are forces behind him and ahead of him coming in succession: they preserve him at the behest of God.
Verily, God does not change people’s condition unless they change their inner selves.
And when God causes people to suffer misfortune, there is no averting it, and they will not find any protector besides Him.
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