One afternoon after Fershta and her sisters returned home from school, their father told them he had decided to sell them, one by one, by having them engaged to be married.
The family’s economic situation was very bad so the father, an uneducated man without a job, determined the way to get money was to find husbands for each of his eight daughters. No longer would they be allowed to attend school. No longer would they get an education.
Fershta, the oldest, was engaged first at age fifteen. The father never spoke to Fershta or her mother about this. And so it came to be that Fershta was married to Maroof, who had no education or job, just like her father.
After the wedding, life became very bad for Fershta. Her husband hit her every day. Her mother-in-law also beat her, telling Fershta they had paid for her and now she was the family servant. From morning til night every day, Fershta washed clothing and dishes and did much work around the house. At night her husband came home and hit her. This continued after Fershta became pregnant. Fershta lost the pregnancy due to the beatings.
Because things had gotten so bad, Fershta’s mother, who accused Maroof of killing his own baby, brought her daughter home to take care of her, telling Maroof that Fershta would return to him when she recovered. The family could not say anything else to Maroof because they were so poor.
But about a week later, Maroof appeared at the house during lunch, saying he’d come to bring Fershta home. He was offered lunch. This is when life changed forever for Fershta and her family.
Maroof became angry, took out his knife, and tried to kill Fershta. She ran away. Then Maroof went after Fershta’s father and mother, attacking them both with the knife. The mother called to Fershta’s seven-year-old brother Reza, warning him to run from the house. Maroof chased the little boy, stabbing him with the knife. It was a tragic scene for Fershta’s mother, who was injured and couldn’t help as Reza called for her and then died.
Fershta’s parents were taken to the hospital for surgery. Her mother was badly injured and the sisters had to collect money to pay for blood transfusions. They were able to save their mother, but she was filled with sadness afterwards. The mother’s heart burned with sorrow as she looked at Reza’s clothes and thought about her innocent little son, killed in front of her, while the man who did this crime was safe and not even being searched for. Fershta’s mother could hardly bear the pain of losing her little boy, especially knowing the murderer was free and not even punished.
Now, Fershta says her family blames her for Reza’s death. She can’t face them and she worries about her husband returning to harm them. She believes she has suffered because she is uneducated. She is seventeen now, and she lost her childhood due to her father’s bad behavior. She lost her marriage because of her in-laws. And she lost her motherhood because of her terrible husband.
What will happen to Fershta, this young girl who has lost so much?
AWWP’s writing on child marriage is being shared with Breakthrough’s campaign, “Nation Against Early Marriage.” Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images.