Well here’s a gut-wrenching story. A father forces his daughter into an unwanted marriage, then rescues her from that marriage when he realizes how horrible it is.
The parents are from Turkey. The father had lived in London for 25 years but still thought that his daughter’s having a boyfriend at 17 meant she was falling victim to “the ways of the western world” and had to be married off to a stranger in Turkey, no matter how much she didn’t want to.
He and my mother tricked me into thinking we were going to Turkey just for a holiday, something we had done every summer throughout my life. On the final day, Dad took me to one side and firmly explained that I wasn’t going back with them. “You’re staying here with your uncle and he’s going to find you someone to marry. You want to get married, then it will be to someone we choose rather than a stranger you bring home.”
Terrified, I pleaded with my father to take me back. I was a good girl. I didn’t drink alcohol or go clubbing and had mutely accepted all the restrictions he had put on my life that saw me spend most of my time outside college helping run the family home. Taking my first boyfriend at 17 didn’t mean I wanted marriage. Dad was unmoved, and drove away with my younger brother and sister sobbing in the car just as hysterically as I was. My mother swallowed any upset she must have felt through total loyalty to my father, which compounded my sense of betrayal.
My passport and notebook with all my friends’ contact details were locked away and, within weeks, a match had been hurriedly made and the wedding arranged. I lived with my uncle and his wife, who weren’t happy with the arrangement but wouldn’t go against my father’s wishes. I didn’t see my parents or siblings again until they returned for the ceremony. Again, my desperate pleas for them to take me home were blankly ignored.
On the day, as custom dictated, my soon-to-be in-laws arrived to collect me from the family home. I was led, sobbing, away from the house. When I saw tears fill my father’s eyes, I dared to hope he was about to change his mind. That he suddenly had become as fearful as I was about the kind of life I would have married to a man seven years older than me who I didn’t even know. But there was no reprieve.
Throughout the ceremony, I wept and shook with shock and fear. The so-called celebrations afterwards were sober. People were subdued, having witnessed my distress. Many were clearly uncomfortable with what had happened.
And then her husband and his family treated her like dirt, and she was trapped.
In the end he worked out a way to trick her in-laws and get her safely out. But…
I spent the flight home in stunned silence, as I listened to Dad explain how the British embassy in Istanbul and local police had been on standby, ready to step in if things had turned nasty. When we finally walked through arrivals at Heathrow I collapsed on the floor, overwhelmed with relief that I was safe and frustrated anger that my rescuer was the person who had put me in that terrible situation in the first place. Dad got on the floor with me and held Ali and me close. He’s been doing the same ever since.
I’m sure Dad’s guilt at what I went through has shaken his belief in himself as a man and a father. However much bringing me home again might have assuaged his guilt, I know he looks at my son and finds it very difficult to live with the feelings that get stirred up.
He has apologised to me repeatedly – my mum, too. Of course, Dad could never have known when he first set the wheels in motion for my forced marriage that it would cause me the suffering it did. But the idea that the very man who had provided me with a loving and secure childhood could abandon me to the vagaries of a culture that I’d only previously experienced through holidays and family weddings still hurts.
Dad certainly could have known that forcing a completely unwilling daughter to marry a stranger would cause her suffering, even if the stranger turned out to be a decent guy (and how decent could he be, really, when he accepted such an arrangement?). He could have and should have.