Hanan: Southern jail to joy in Los Angeles

This year is my last in college, and my hope is to become an FBI agent. I am so happy where I am — and that’s why I put my story out there. I don’t want people to make the same mistake I did, of going back to an abusive family.

I first began to question Islam at the age of 17. Having grown up in Yemen before moving to the U.S. three years earlier, I was the first Muslim ever to attend my high school, and one of my teachers asked me whether it was true that people who leave Islam must be killed. I had no idea how to answer.

In Yemen, you’re not even allowed to question. It’s haram. After that day, though, I started to research my religion for the first time. I spent three months learning about the darker side of Islam.

But I couldn’t share my thoughts with anyone. My family was incredibly conservative — especially my father. To him, I was the daughter who never listened. He’d have me wear the burqa (face and full-body covering), and we’d fight when he caught me wearing jeans. I was not the perfect Yemeni daughter. Every woman in my family was expected simply to listen to men, to worship them. I didn’t give my father that, and he hated me for it. He forced me into homeschooling my senior year and told me I would never go to college — that I would give up on all the dreams I had and get married like everyone else. He said he didn’t trust me, and this was my punishment.

After I graduated, I discovered some videos from Ex-Muslims of North America online. Ex-Muslims were so new to me, but eventually I became comfortable enough to reach out. With their help, I soon had a plan to leave home. It was a terrifying moment to sneak out of my window, knowing what could happen if I was caught. Only two weeks later, the police found me. My father had told them I’d stolen $10,000 from him.

It was a terrifying moment to sneak out of my window, knowing what could happen if I was caught. Only two weeks later, the police found me. My father had told them I’d stolen $10,000 from him.

I was arrested, but Ex-Muslims of North America hired a lawyer who helped clear me of wrongdoing.

After I got out, I was finally able to find a job and my own place. I was about to start college. But I’d also started talking to my younger sister again. She told me that my mother missed me, that everyone was sorry, that my dad was wrong and he’d changed. It was so naive, but I went back.

It was so naive, but I went back.

I agreed to stay with them for a week before I started college. And for a few days, things were wonderful. My dad was the dad I’d always dreamed of, and I really believed they’d changed. I was so happy. But after that honeymoon, it became obvious something was wrong. They started to cry and beg me to stay. On the final day, my father sat me down and asked me again: “Are you going to stay?”

When I said “no,” he signaled with his hand. Two police officers had been waiting to come in. My father told them this time that not only had I stolen $10,000, but I had also pulled a gun on him. They took my phone, and I spent a month in jail.

EXMNA hired lawyers again, and when the time came for my trial, my father and uncles testified against me. Thankfully, the judge saw through my father’s inconsistent story. When I told him the truth, he was sympathetic and dismissed the charges.

After this, I moved to DC and finally started college. I felt so free — I made new friends, went on dates, and worked hard to get my own place. I started traveling, which was amazing, and this year, I moved to Los Angeles. I’ve taken up art as a hobby, and I do sports now, basketball and boxing. I can do what I want, dress how I want, and go where I want. The smallest things become the biggest — even just figuring out what I like to wear. I’ve also realized I’m bisexual. I’m discovering things about myself I didn’t even know, learning what I like — it’s a whole new experience.”

Since I was released from jail, I have not reached out to my family. I was so attached to them, but after what they did to me, all of those feelings are gone.

Since I was released from jail, I have not reached out to my family. I was so attached to them, but after what they did to me, all of those feelings are gone.

I feel much stronger now. I will never trust them again.

I’ve spent the last few years studying criminal justice. I want to make the system better because of what I saw. This year is my last in college, and my hope is to become an FBI agent. I am so happy where I am — and that’s why I put my story out there. I don’t want people to make the same mistake I did, of going back to an abusive family. No matter how much you love them, even though it hurts knowing what your family is capable of, they are so blinded by their beliefs that they’ll do anything. Anyone who has left: don’t look back. Life is so beautiful. You won’t regret it. I want everyone to know just how happy you can be.

I am everything my dad said I would never be.

 

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on email
Email

Submit your story!

If you'd like to be included in an upcoming Ex-Muslim profile, please fill out the form and we'll be in touch shortly.
  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, gif, png.

Stay Informed

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive emails from Ex-Muslims of North America