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Twirling her skirt apprehensively in her hands, it is plain that life for Mashid Rezai, from northern Iran, hasn’t been simple, and that discussing this is harder besides. Aged 11, she submerged herself in petrol and set herself ablaze in an attempt to flee from an orchestrated wedding to a man more than 20 years her elder.

Now 36, she remains horribly scarred and was forced to run away to London to escape her father, a man so barbaric he beat his daughter in the hospital as she recovered from her wounds. She stated that she harbors bitterness to the people who didn’t help her, and she was too embarrassed by her scars to be photographed. She declared that the people who should have cared for her did not protect her. They injured her for life.

Being raised in a remote community, Mashid stated her childhood was a comparatively joyous one even though she, her mother and her three brothers were all frightened of the family patriarch. Her mother was her father’s fourth wife. He didn’t have babies with his other wives. Her mother said to her that all three of his preceding wives ran away because he beat them.

His all too vigorous fists weren’t just directed at his wife. This time he tied Mashid’s hands and feet with cord to a section of wood and he and her mother beat her with a further piece of wood. They were furious with her because she had gone to the gate at the front of their home to see a wedding parade, and they did not like the families holding the wedding.

In spite of the violence, Mashid stated she was a happy girl who delighted in her studies at the community school and adored playing with her brothers.

The neighborhood she grew up in, neighboring the town of Arak, was lovely and she had an abundance of friends with whom to enjoy it. Among them a girl called Zainab. With both of her parents slaving in the fields, Mashid was called upon to take on the magnitude of household chores and shared cooking duties with her mother.

However, the pacification of her childhood was about to come to an end when Zainab, at that point just nine years old, was requested for by a much more patriarchal man. She was extremely attractive and tall recollects Mashid, her speech breaking a little and teardrops welling up in her eyes. ‘People noticed her.’

Desperate to flee the marriage being coerced upon her. Zainab resorted to radical measures.

She burnt herself, and she died, but Zainab’s death would prove to have chilling consequences.

Scarcely a year following her friend’s self-destruction, Mashid’s father declared that she too had been found a husband. In spite of the fact his daughter was barely 11 years old. Her mother came to her at home and explained to her that the following afternoon a man would come and request for her hand in marriage.

She inquired who it was and her mother told her the name of a man who resided in the community, who was married and had two children. Mashid was barely 11 years old and he was 35. Mashid was distraught, she was sobbing, and told her mother that he already had a wife and children.

Mashid explained her mother that she was only 11 years old. She explained she desired to be a teacher. However, her mother maintained that Mashid would get married to this man.

The girl rushed to her teacher, expecting help, nevertheless, was told nothing could be done. Mashid then rushed to shroud herself in the mountains, but nervous of being devoured by a wolf, went back home and hid in an outside building.

Her parents found her and presumed that because she had come back home she was consenting to the wedding.

She still couldn’t actually accept that it was in fact true, that it was about to take place. Nonetheless, when she saw her family making preparations with food and setting out tables, she knew it really was going to take place. Desperate to abstain from marriage, and with her friend Zainab’s example in mind, Mashid rushed into the kitchen, took out a bottle of paraffin, submerged herself in the contents and set herself ablaze.

She was panicking. She wanted to escape so she attempted to kill herself. Her father had lots of weaponry and she had contemplated using them. However, she decided on fire because she was copying what her friend Zainab had done.

She splashed some paraffin on her skirt and she sparked a match. Her skirt caught fire. When she looked at the fire, it was strong and extremely real. She then regretted it, and attempted to put the fire out with her hands. She was trying to get out, however, she had shut the door and it was hard. She was panicking. The blaze was raging and was burning her face.

She could see flames in her hair, but managed to get out into the courtyard. A neighbour was on the flat roof next door, and he saw her and leaped down. She can’t remember what happened after that.

Mashid spent the next three months unconscious in the hospital in Arak, even though that wasn’t enough to save her from the fury of her father who was enraged that his plans had been foiled and fearful for his family’s character.

Mashid was crying continually every day. She had exposed skin when the bandages were changed. On top of that her father beat her for what she had done during the time that she was at the hospital. In addition, once she wet herself and her mother punched her in the face. They felt so angry with her.

When Mashid left hospital, it was to return to her parents’s home, her former fiance had rebuffed her because, he now saw her as soiled and unsightly. At home, things went from bad to worse with her father becoming more and more aggressive and even telling her that he wanted her to be dead.

Her father was extremely aggressive. He said that she had humiliated the family and he was embarrassed because of how she looked. She even heard her father stating he wanted her to be taken to a hospital and killed with an injection.

Unable to sustain the abuse, Mashid, at that time aged 13, filched some cash from her parents and fled to Tehran where she went straight to a hospital. A plastic surgeon there took compassion on the child. Finally assisting her to flee Iran and her violent father for good.

Now residing in London, Mashid remains extremely scarred, however, is really starting to move on with her life, assisted by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation. Her family, nevertheless, remain in Iran and she hasn’t talked to them for exceeding 20 years. It was dangerous for her to remain in Iran.

As a burnt, scarred woman, I was denounced. People assaulted me. They insulted me, pulled at my attire and children flung stones at me. I was perpetually frightened. I had to run away.

In London, at least, she has come upon some volume of recognition and states she would even consider a relationship, even though her view of men remains stained by her father’s conduct.

She was just so astonished when she first came to London because people did not point at her or fling stones at her. It was such a comfort.

Since being here, she has been attempting to come to terms with what took place. She wants to study, which she didn’t have the opportunity to do before.

Then she wants to help girls and women in danger of premature and coerced marriage, so they don’t end up like her. As for her family, Mashid states she will never get in touch with them and never wants to see Iran again. She can never return.

She couldn’t bear to. Everything bad that has taken place, happened there. She would not have a minute of calm there. Even the thought of Iran means she cannot even have peace.

It is comprehended that in diverse breeding, people have a strange thinking of things and customs, however, one does not suppose that comes with death merely because of the disgrace of ones family. Children should be protected from harm at all times, particularly in their family surroundings, and their home life should be a settled one.

It should not be determined when a child should enter the matrimonial state by a parent. It should be that person’s choice when they grown up, and become a grown-up. Children should not have to fret about who they will be betrothed to at such a premature age. They should not have to worry about such things.

Coerced into a marriage at six, they are mothers by 12, and their bodies are destroyed by the time they are 20. It seems to be that by the time they are born, or perhaps even when they are in the uterus, it is settled upon whom they will marry even prior to them being born, and this is not tolerable conduct no matter what ones breeding or customs are.

Fascinating as it is, traditions have the appearance of being remarkably elaborate, however, they are far from it, and that child will feel detached and alone, and nearly all are powerless to do something about it. They are powerless because they are children, and they have no powers, and it is demanded of them to do as their parents tell them to do, because if they don’t, their families will be put to shame inside their community, and they will be ignored.

For any parent to do such a thing to their own flesh and blood is horrifying, and to an outsider, it is shocking to realise that this sort of thing in fact goes on, and is looked upon as admissible conduct inside their culture. Nevertheless, this is their way of life, and they know no better, or do they, but it has become such a habit that they just agree to their destiny.

However, when a child is being beaten and flogged for not consenting to their fate, something is extremely off balance, and as human beings they are not little Frankenstein’s that can be told what to do, they are flesh and blood, and they bleed, and that is not their destiny, that is because they are defenceless in the face of their attackers, which just happen to be their parents.

 

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