“My mom’s expecting again,” stated one of my closest friends as her eyes welled up with tears. If she belonged to any other household, this would’ve been a moment of pure joy, but given her situation, that was not the case.
“Maryam, didn’t your mom say she was going to get her fallopian tubes tied?” I immediately regretted asking her that question because her silent tears had now transitioned into hysterical sobs.
Maryam belongs to a family that practices incredibly fringe beliefs in what it means to practice the Muslim faith. Her father is a severely dominating person. Within the four walls of her house, only his commands were to be abided by.
And it was his command for his wife, Maryam’s mother, to bear for him at least six children as long as she was fertile. He was radical in his beliefs, held only by severe fringe communities within the larger, more moderate Muslim community. Maryam was the eldest of his five (then soon to be six) children. At first glance, she was smart, quirky, and in general a happy soul. But there was a lot more to her story.
Unlike me, she had to struggle to stay in school.
Why? Because her father didn’t think twice before adding his share to the population.
In his eyes, it was fine for his kids to be uneducated, as long as they existed. Maryam had to maintain a GPA above 3.4 to make sure she had a place to acquire knowledge, but still, her father had to pay 20 percent of her school fee. That now seemed impossible because of the new addition to her family.
I still get the chills every time I think about the glares he shot me when one of Maryam’s brothers walked into the room I was in, only because I wasn’t wearing an abaya. And imagining my friend having to go through that sort of scrutiny since birth, is something I seldom engage in because it haunts me.
“I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to be uneducated like Amma and end up marrying a man like Abba, I need to study.”
I didn’t know how to console her.
I mean what am I supposed to say to someone who craves something as quintessential as education? How should I be there for someone who wants to be nothing like the people who raised her?
Sadly, Maryam had to drop out of school as soon as her baby sister breathed her first. But what hurts me, even more, is that there are countless Maryams whose futures crumble down right before their very eyes, as they are allowed nothing but to watch it all unfold.
Such women don’t want to be a part of this lethal cycle, passed down through generations, but are forced to.
Their cries for help are muffled to a point where they lose all sense of self. They are treated as baby-making machines. Even if they don’t want to settle for less, they have to, all because of this plight to produce children. Our generations are being ruined.
Their dreams and aspirations are set on fire, under a misguided supposedly-conservative tag.
I don’t even know where she is now.
I don’t know if she’s escaped or married to someone twice her age. I wonder if she still remembers me after everything that’s happened to her. I hope she still has my number, so she can call me up whenever she gets access to a phone.
I wish things didn’t have to be this way.
I wish Maryam’s father was educated enough to know that raising one kid properly was far better and more fruitful than six illiterate ones.
I wish he valued someone as beautiful as my dear friend, so her dreams wouldn’t have to disappear into thin air.
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