Shama Zulqurnain was born on 11 August 1977 at Boundary Park Hospital Oldham.
Raised in a traditional cultural Muslim family, faith was an important factor whilst growing up as her ancestors were from the Dina District of Jhelum, Pakistan. Her father was from Dina and her mother was from Jhelum when they arrived in England as teenagers and eventually married in Oldham. Shama has a unique story. A story of love, hate, betrayal, cultural differences and religious interpretations. This is Shama’s story… (Part 3).
My relationship with my family and parents gradually improved. As I was now a family woman myself, I got financial help from my parents to help with the girls. I was in my parents good books but it wasn’t easy. It was hard being a house wife, a daughter in law and a mother at the same time.
I wished that I went on to do further higher education and tried to do courses at home but my family did not allow me to pursue it. It felt as though I was married to an entire clan instead of one man. I was constantly told of what to wear and how to raise my daughters. I was told to be a ‘good cultural’ women. I was stuck at home all day and whenever guests came to visit on a regular basis, I was stuck in the kitchen preparing food whilst at the same time looking after my children. At this point, my marriage was going downhill fast. My husband never supported me and his family were becoming more and more unpleasant towards me. I remember running away to my parent’s home when it got difficult, but my parents would always send me back saying there is nothing they could do. I was sent back several times by my parents as the family issues deteriorated quickly. When my husband became violent towards me, I finally gave up and ran away to Oldham.
I got a council house but my parents still disagreed with me knowing very well that my marriage was not healthy. I took a stand and went to college when the girls were at full time nursery. For the first time after a very long time, I felt happy and I had a regular routine where I finished college, picked the girls up, and then went home. I was now making new friends but it felt strange as I was doing my GCSE’s at the age of 23. I was thinking of becoming a teacher as it would fit in with my girl’s school times. Hence, I made my mind up to study and become a teacher.
I was so happy during my time at college until my parents came to me demanding that I go back to my husband. I didn’t want to go as I wanted to carry on at college and take my GCSE’s, A-levels and eventually go to university. But they managed to emotionally blackmail me and they got me back with my husband. All my dreams were crushed… again. My father went down on his knees begging me to get back with my husband. What was I supposed to do seeing my father in this position? After thinking long and hard and realising the shame I had brought upon my parents, I agreed to give my husband another chance. My husband came straight away and moved in with me and girls. I asked if I could carry on with studies, but as expected, no one agreed.
I was back to square one and realised that I will never get an opportunity to complete my studies. I was just a house wife and I was getting pressured by my in-laws and husband to have another baby. They wanted a son and started to come out with comments like ‘I can only give birth to girls.’ I soon began to feel like it was true and it made me feel as though I was worthless. Eventually, I planned to have my third child just to shut them up.
I was praying for my unborn child to be a son to secure me in this family as there was no other way out. Throughout the nine months of my pregnancy, my mother-in-law used to say ‘Oh ALLAH, please give her something good.’ I felt bad because if I give birth to another girl, I would be letting everyone down. As it happened, finally I had given birth to a baby boy. The family suddenly changed and I was treated like a princess, as though I had given birth to a lump of gold. (Part 4 continues next month).