An Australian girl who was kidnapped, beaten and married off to her older cousin by her father’s family in Syria at the age of 13 has spoken out about her horrific five-year ordeal for the first time.
Ms Farrah, who grew up living in Sydney’s southwest and is the daughter of a Syrian Muslim and his Australian convert wife, was married off to her cousin who she had never met and endured terrible beatings after being taken to Syria’s capital Damascus from Egypt.
This isn’t a unique story. Western women marry Muslim men and not only expose themselves to abuse, but this children also.
Living in a strict Muslim world, she attended an Islamic school and learned Arabic. ‘I did all the things they asked me to do… I was taught how to pray and fast for Ramadan,’ she said.
Rania’s mother Margaret met Rania’s father in Australia, but the couple moved to Saudi Arabia soon after their marriage. According to Rania, it was a violent relationship, and she remembers that her dad “used to beat my mum. He never beat us… [but] he beat my mum all the time.”
When Rania was eight-years-old, Margaret and her five young children fled to Australia – leaving their father behind. The family’s life changed for the better. They lived with Margaret’s “true blue Aussie” family, as Rania described them in the interview, and for many years they only heard from her father occasionally by telephone.
But when she was 13, Rania’s older brother said he would take her on a trip to Egypt for a holiday. After one week in Egypt, however, Rania was taken to Jordan to see her father.
Almost immediately, her passport was confiscated, and Rania was told she would be living with his family now.
When she arrived at her father’s home, Ms Farrah said she was “interrogated” by him before being subjected to a humiliating medical examination to determine if she was still a virgin.
Despite being a virgin, her father and brother were still not satisfied and began beating Ms Farrah with their belts.
“Afterwards I told them I hadn’t been with a man and my brother said ‘Yes, I know, because if you had your father would’ve killed you’.
Her second cousin, who she was forced to marry, was in his early thirties and Ms Farrah avoided ‘eye contact’ and never spoke to him.
The Immigrant Women’s Health Service in Fairfield, in Sydney’s west, has rescued 62 child brides from Iraqi, Afghani, Pakistani, Indian, Egyptian, Turkish and Sudanese families over the past three years.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Ms Farrah’s father has now returned to Australia with a new wife and more daughters. She has spoken to him once since his arrival and said he remains unrepentant and even threatened to kill her.
“He told me no western pig government is going to tell me how to raise my daughters, and if it comes to it I will slit your mother’s throat, your sister’s throat and your throat,” she said.
As for other women in her situation, Ms Farrah offered this advice: “Run for your life. If you live here in Australia you are in a country that believes in women’s rights. Cut off your family and run – your life will be better for it.”
Until the immigration pipeline is cut off, more women will be abused.
In February this year, it was discovered that an imam had allegedly married a 12-year-old girl to a 26-year-old man. Both the imam and the “husband” were charged, with solemnisation of a marriage by an unauthorised person and multiple counts of having sex with a child respectively.