Running away from a forced marriage

From The Times:

Sameem_ali_297334a_2 Sameem Ali’s life is as neat and tidy as the small red-brick terraced house in which she lives in Moss Side, Manchester. She’s a first-time author, a happily married mother of two grown-up sons and, since organising her neighbours to lobby the city council to spend £1 million to clean up their area, renovate houses, plant trees and stop fly-tipping, a busy councillor. “This is my community now,” Sameem says. Even her book is called Belonging, but that is where the neatness ends and something altogether more alarming and brutal takes it place. “To this day I cry when I remember all the things that were done to me,” she says. “My memories are not a comfort to me, a place to retreat to; they are a curse.”

In Belonging, Sameem tells how she was abused by her family, taken to Pakistan at the age of 13 and forced to marry a man who would rape her repeatedly. She was pregnant by the time she was 14, but at the age of 17 she escaped her family and, a few months later, a kidnap attempt by armed men hired to bring her back. Years later she was told that a 5cm tumour had lodged itself in her head. If it were a novel, you would think it far-fetched, but the horror of her forced marriage happened exactly as Sameem tells it and her story is not unique. What is unique is that she has broken a taboo to expose the abuse suffered by many young people in Britain.

“I want to inspire women to have a voice, whatever they are going through,” says the 38-year-old. “It was many years before I raised my voice.”

More here.