Sixteen days. Sixteen stories about Her from my diary. 

Day 2: Zerin

Zerin, was a young girl, around the age of nine when I first met her. Today she is in her very late teenage years, and nothing in her story has changed. We all knew Zerin loved being hugged and gave lots of cheek kisses. Whenever she met you, she would squeeze you, and give you a long hug; unless you let go, she wouldn’t let go. Zerin liked to sit next to you and place her head on your shoulders for absolutely no reason. That was the nine-year-old Zerin I first met in my university days when I was volunteering at a particular place (will remain unnamed), today she is not too different.

The first day I met Zerin we were told her mother had burned herself and committed suicide. As the years progressed, I learned exactly why. It was at the hands of a careless, drug-addict father. The mother of five preferred burning to death more than living with her so called husband.

Art work by the talented Raz Xaidan, you can find Raz here and here

Having a living father, it was only natural for the staff at the place Zerin and her siblings were staying at to want the children to return to their father (who lived in a rural area). Of course, the father had now remarried a wife who was not willing to look after five step children.

The children grew, Zerin became a teenager, and they all chose to return ‘home’. My friend Saza Mohammad visited them on a monthly basis. One day Saza said she had received a phone call from Zerin, the next day she travelled three hours to see her. On her way back, Saza called me to say Zerin had explained the exact event of rape. Rape in her own house, by her father’s friend. Saza contacted various organisations and people. The father was now aware and his solution was for Zerin to marry the rapist, his friend.

Zerin had explained the exact event of rape

Of course, this did not happen. With Saza behind you, this will not happen. I still remember my phone conversation with Saza on a specific evening. She had direct contact with Zerin, and I offered to speak to her too. I dialled her number and we spoke. She tried to explain to me what had happened without me even questioning. It was as if the young 13-year-old was replaying the event in her head every moment of everyday.

Of course, she did not attend school. The neighbours said Zerin and her younger siblings were neglected, and often spent their entire days in the neighbourhood streets. Saza had agreed with a neighbour to cook for them and feed them, whenever the neighbour felt they were left hungry.

in the hope that her future husband won’t abuse her when he doesn’t see ‘blood’

During this time, I had a newborn. In my diary I had written that parenting is not for every person. Some of us are just not supposed to be parents. Then again, what if Zerin’s mother was educated about contraception, what if she reached out for help from an organisation to get a divorce? What if there was financial aid for her as a single mother of five children, would she have burned herself alive and left five children with a careless man? What if it was socially accepted to be divorced and living alone with your kids without your family intervening. What was her story anyway? That question kept me up for many nights.

Did Zerin’s mother choose to marry her husband? Was it a choice for the step mother?

Today, Zerin has a doctor’s note to say she is not virgin because she was raped. Perhaps in the hope that her future husband won’t abuse her when he doesn’t see ‘blood’.

#16Days #ViolenceAgainstWomen #16DaysOfActivism

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