Throughout the ceremony, she wept and shook with shock and fear

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.




  1. Scote says

    “asshole who tries to be some what decent at the last minute…? is still an asshole.”

    …and is still better than someone who doesn’t change his mind and do the right thing in the end.

  2. opposablethumbs says

    How can she, her younger brother and especially her younger sister ever trust him again? Even if he sincerely believed (incredible though that seems) that he was doing the right thing at first (and I feel like I should scrub my keyboard after typing that) and even though he at least brought her back home when he realised what he had done, surely his children will always fear him now. If he could so utterly and devastatingly betray his elder daughter, I can’t imagine any of his children will ever entirely stop fearing, mistrusting and hating him, at least with part of themselves. And that’s part of his betrayal too – to be abused by a parent, to have someone you probably love and rely on to protect you be the person who just rips all that up and throws it away … what that must do to a child or young person just leaves me speechless.

  3. kantalope says

    Betrayal…I think we overuse the word because when it really happens it is the saddest word in the English language.

  4. quixote says

    Wow. What a story. Horrible that the father was capable of doing that. Amazing that he was able to realize he was wrong. Infinitely sad for everyone, and no way back to the time before. Customs can be such a cancer.

  5. zibble says

    He separated her from a person she had actual feelings for, kidnapped her, destroyed her previous life, and, beneath all the layers of tradition and ceremony, conspired to have her raped.

    How could he fucking look at his child sobbing on her wedding day and still go through with it? I feel nauseated just thinking about it, and I wasn’t even there, and she’s not even my daughter.

    I hope his guilt is not one whit relieved.

  6. S Mukherjee says

    The other relatives and wedding guests were feeling awkward at this person’s distress (why did they not say something, anything?) — but her own father could swallow his misgivings and allow it to happen. I understand her torn feelings — I myself appreciate that her dad helped her escape, but I can’t forget that he was responsible for putting her in that situation in the first place.

  7. Jackie teh kitteh cuddler says

    It wasn’t so long ago that marriages like this one happened in the US. I know of at least one from my family’s history. It was two generations back, in small town Indiana. It wasn’t considered abnormal. Then, neither was the KKK meeting at the church and handing out free hot dogs. When conservatives say they want “their” America back, I always remember what that America was really like.

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