One Sunday morning I was driving my children back from their regular soccer game. It was a warm summer day, sun shining ever so brightly, making the uneven town picturesque. As I drove along in my Holden with rigid brown seats and the windscreen wipers that didn’t work, I looked over to my sixteen year old daughter sitting next to menodding and shaking her head rhythmically to, in her words, ‘legendary’ music band One Direction. An image of Asreen flashed through my mind…
…“Kiran?” the voice on my mobile phone was barely more than a whisper. “Kiran? Is that you?” .The train ride back home was a typical for Friday eveningIt was very busy Friday evening train ride back from work, “Are you able to speak up a little?” I asked, raising my own voice overagainst loud chatterschatters from fellow passengers and rattling noise from the train.
“I found your number in Indus Age, My - ” the line went suddenly went dead. Indus Age is a local monthly newspaper. iIt has largest circulation to Indian and South East Asian community in the country. I was interviewed a week ago concerning about my plight with honour based violence. After two years of lengthy legal proceeding over evidence of injury which included tampered medical records I managed to get a divorce. I was sure that such crimeshonour based violence against women was prevalent and practiced behind closed doors, after my divorce I wanted to assist other women in similar situation and have my phone number published in the newspaper.
I thought I lost her but then, few minutes later, she was back. “Sorry I had to hang up I thought someone was coming. My parents are forcing me to marry a 35 year old man who I don’t even know. I am a prisoner in my own house. I can’t take it any longer. I need help.” She stopped for breath. “Please help me,” she said in a trembling voice. She sounded frantic; it seemed that she was at the mercy of her family.
I didn’t know who I was talking to but I knew I had to help. I spoke quickly, “Can you get out? There are all sorts of help available if you can get out.” I knew from my own experience that if a girl has made up her mind to run she usually finds a way to do it. This woman could be anywhere in the country but she was desperate and I had to reassure her. “There is help for you,.” I said. “There are women refuge houses, people to support. I would support you. You’ll be okay.”
“But how…Wait, that’s Dad. He’s coming. I have to go” Her phone went dead.
I felt anxiousiety, my pulse shot up as I tried as best I could to get on with my daily household choresroutine and parental responsibilities. Later in thethat evening while I was preparing dinner my phone rang again. I tried hard to understand but couldn’t make out anything except the gasping sound panting. I turned off my range-hood and enquired, “Hello?”
“It’s me, Asreen,” she spoke, her voice penetrating as if she was right next to me. “I did it, I ran away”
“Where are you?”
“Asreen, you have to call the police. DailDial 000” I had put my phone on speaker as I washed my hands.
“No, I don’t want police. My family will never see me again. My community will disown me,” she said claimed almost hysterical.
I could imagine why Asreen didn’t want police to be involved. She was in a state of fear and frustration. Her parents who loved her dearly until very recently changed overnight and now consider family’s honour more important than that of their daughter’s well-being and happiness.
“Meet me at Redfern railway station in 45 minutes,.” I said cleaning up my kitchen.
“Please don’t be late,.” she hung up.
I called on my children and explained them that I need to go out on an emergency. I drove as fast as I could past the motorway speeding up to maximum limit. I reached Redfern at 8 p.m. it was crowded, people pushing one another to get ahead in line. Few country trains hurried past while the intercity trains stopped at the platform for passengerss dark...
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