I Escaped an Arranged Marriage

A few months ago, Amina left home. She was due to marry her father’s friend: a man from Yemen nearly three times her age. The thought of it terrified her. She had expressed deep reservations from the start, but her father – a well-known sheikh in Canada with a large international following – was adamant that she was to be married and had initiated the sponsorship process to bring her prospective husband over from the Middle East.

It took months for Amina to steel herself to leave, until one day last summer she did it. “I just filled in two bags of my papers and stuff, and told my brother, ‘I have to take out the trash,'” she says. “There was a cab waiting for me and I went straight to the shelter.”

Amina spent the first few weeks in a shelter in her home town, Kingston, Ontario. But following the advice of the local police, she left and relocated to a new province in Canada. This is because her father, a religious leader in the community with a history of violence, cannot accept Amina’s leaving home and is trying to find her to bring her back. It is for this reason that I can’t tell you Amina’s real name, and why you can’t see her face.

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