Meena was treated as a servant for as long as she can remember, always taught that her purpose was to serve men. When at 15 she was promised to a man for marriage, the prospect of being ‘transferred’ from a childhood serving her father to a lifetime serving a husband was too much. She escaped, and dedicated her life to service of a different kind.
I just received a full scholarship to go to college. Never in my life would I have imagined writing these words except in a dream. It’s all possible because of people like you.
You see, I grew up in a very conservative community in southwest Iran. For as long as I can remember, my father treated me and my mother like servants in our own home. No matter how hard we tried to please him, he found a reason to threaten and harm us. I’ll never forget the time he hurled a butcher knife at my head when I was 10 because I didn’t acknowledge my uncle when he entered our home. I threw my hands up to protect my face, and the knife went through my right hand, causing severe bleeding. I was not allowed to see a doctor.
My father got away with this because women were treated as property or worse in my family — my paternal relatives killed their wives and daughters for disobeying orders and fleeing arranged marriages.
Despite my persistence to get out of the house and go to school, my father told me I would never be a source of pride because I am a girl. He said being obedient to men was my destiny as a woman.
When I turned 15, my father arranged for me to marry my cousin. I dreaded a life of never-ending misery. My mother, a brave and strong-willed woman, decided it was time to save us both. In the middle of the night, with only a few clothes and a blanket, we ran away. We spent the next seven years in hiding.
During my travels abroad with relatives, I befriended an American man. I fell in love, and when he proposed, my mother and I agreed I should accept his offer. My fiancé helped me obtain a visitor’s visa and I followed him to America, but he soon revealed he was already married and left me stranded. I felt so alone, with no home, no family, and no resources.
Getting connected to Tahirih’s resources changed everything. My attorneys and social service aides helped me access the food, shelter, and support services I needed to survive. Their unwavering support gave me the courage to move forward and share my story with an asylum officer. After several difficult months, I was granted asylum. I felt like I had a second chance at life.
After getting asylum, I found work as a translator for the U.S. military and have been doing so for the past three years. Today, I am determined to earn a degree in criminal justice because I want to have a career protecting others like Tahirih protected me.