A 16-year-old Texas girl ran away from home in hopes of escaping being forced to marry an older man, San Antonio TV station KSAT reports.
The teenager’s parents, Abdulah Fahmi Al Hishmawi, 34, and Hamdiyah Sabah Al Hishmawi, 33, were reportedly set to receive $20,000 compensation for the arranged marriage. When their daughter Maarib refused, they allegedly began to choke the teen, beating her and pouring hot cooking oil on her. The teenager tried to escape the abuse by running away from home in January.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar says the mother and father were arrested Friday on family violence charges. “This young lady, at various times over that time period was subjected to some pretty bad abuse because she didn’t want to be married to this person,” Salazar said on Friday at a press conference. Maarib had been reported missing in late January and wasn’t found until mid-March. The sheriff said she had been safely in the care of another organization while she was missing.
“Several times it was reported to us that this young lady was abused with hot cooking oil being thrown on her body. She was beat with broomsticks,” Salazar added. “At least at one point, she was choked almost to the point of unconsciousness.”
The teen was found and placed with Child Protective Services alongside her five other siblings, who are between five and 15 years old. The family moved to the U.S. from Iraq two years ago. Police have not confirmed that the other siblings have been subject to abuse, but Salazar believes other charges will be filed in the case.
The sheriff’s office and the FBI announced they were investigating her disappearance in February, after the teen failed to return home from school on Jan. 30. Police said the man who had arranged to be married to the teen may also be charged.
Steps are being taken to protect children from entering these marriages. Earlier this month, a new law was passed in Florida which makes it illegal for anyone under 17 to marry. This was thanks to the efforts of Sherry Johnson, a survivor of rape and child marriage. At the age of nine, Johnson was allegedly raped by a church deacon. After she gave birth at only 10 years old, she was forced to marry him.
“My heart is happy,” Johnson said afterward. “My goal was to protect our children and I feel like my mission has been accomplished. This is not about me. I survived.”
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