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Three desperate women land in shelter home

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

HYDERABAD: While Sumera Khan, who has taken refuge in Karachi and facing serious problems, another young woman, her younger sister and a cousin from upper Sindh took shelter on Sunday morning in the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women Centre here.

Twenty-six -year-old Farzana Solangi, daughter of Mohammad Yaqoob, left her house after her parents decided to marry her to a man without her consent. Her 16-year-old sister Rehana and cousin Saima, daughter of Arbab Ali, also supported her plan to leave the house.

Farzana, a graduate, believes that she will be killed by her family as she first refused to marry the man choosen by her family and secondly she has stepped out of her home — considered to be a crime that cannot go unpunished in a traditionally conservative society.

Her ordeal, she said, began on June 6 when she left the house. “I had been asking my parents to at least show me the man I have to marry. I just said he should be an educated man,” she told Dawn in Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women Centre in the presence of its in-charge Fauzia Ashraf.

She said her family members were insisting that she should not ask anything and just prepare herself for the marriage.

“So I left with my sister and a cousin and stayed for one night at my friend’s house and then headed for another place,” she said.

Farzana is a resident of taluka Warah, district Qambar-Shahdadkot. She is a native of village Warran Machi.

She said she had travelled to Sukkur, Moro and Dadu before arriving at Dargah Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.

“It was Dargah Lal Shahbaz Qalandar where we stayed before reaching this centre,” she said.

She carried around Rs,6,000 she had saved by taking private teaching classes, but she lost some of the money.

The girls were lucky that they did not land in any bigger crisis despite remaining out of their house for over one and half months and staying at a dargah visited by people of all types.

The three girls used to pass their time on a footpath and inside the shrine to avoid any mishap.

Centre’s in-charge Fauzia Ashraf said that as per their written statement, submitted to her with thumb impressions, men had tried to make advances. Ms Fauzia gave them a patient hearing after they arrived there in haggard condition.

“A family which visited the Dargah advised us to approach this centre if we really needed any help so we arrive here at 6am today,” she said.

Fauzia said her return to home was fraught with danger.She noted it with pain that even her younger brother, Rahib Ali, whom she had taught to be a graduate, had not offered any help to her.

“Even he told me that if I refused to marry the way family wanted, I will be killed. My mother also told me that she will not look towards me if I am murdered for going against the family’s proposal,” she said.

She passed her intermediate examination as a regular student and did her graduation privately.

According to Farzana, her father, who is a labourer, had been quite supportive to her education but other family members had misguided him.

Her father had often supported her, but on the issue of marriage, he had given in because of family pressure perhaps, she said.

She did have a second thought to return home, but at this stage, she feels unsafe.

“When I contacted, a relative in my village told me that they had been told that Saima and Rehana have been murdered. It is more than sufficient to understand what fate has in store for me,” she said.

She said even head of the Solangi community would not hesitate in ordering her killing because they strongly believed in their customs and could not bear a woman going against her parents’ wishes.

Farzana gave the cell number of her brother, but when this correspondent contacted him, the phone was switched off.
Source: Dawn