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“It Felt Weird Being Married at 17”

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. Urban Echo will tell her story over the few months. This is Shama’s story… (Part 2).

image3 (2)“Eventually, I managed to get a job in a factory situated in Oldham. The only reason why my parents agreed was because my uncle, aunties and cousins worked there. I still wished that I had gone to school to complete my GCSE’s as my brothers carried on with their education by achieving A-levels and going on to universities.

As I was busy working collecting wage slips for a potential fiancé from Pakistan, my parents eventually chose a guy who was 6 years older than me from the Mirpur region of Pakistan.

Everything happened so quickly. I soon realised that all my dreams and ambitions were not going to happen. In saying that, everyone was so happy and seeing them happy, made me feel good. They were smiling because of me… and that was a rare occurrence.

By this time, my brothers were at university and I used to wait for my older brother to come home on weekends to tell me what it is like. I wanted know what lectures he goes to and how much he loved the whole University experience. He told me of all the new friends he had made. I wished that I had the same opportunity as him.

image2 (3)Meanwhile, my wedding was getting planned. I tried to convince myself that my life will be better once I got married so that I could escape my family constantly controlling me and having authority over me. I never had choice of who to marry really, but my auntie who I was close to one day asked me how I felt about getting married. I told her that my parents will know the best for me and that I’m ok with their choice.

I used to hear about young girls running away but I couldn’t do that. I had too much love and respect for my father. My mother always warned me about never doing anything that will affect my dad’s pride and honour within the family and the community.

It all went so fast. The next thing I remember is that all shopping was almost done and the tickets were being booked. I made sure my auntie also travelled with me as I didn’t think I could go ahead with it without her. We all went including my brothers. And after four weeks of shopping, a date for my wedding was fixed for 6 April, 1995.

The first time I saw a glimpse of my future husband, I knew that he wasn’t my type. I wanted an educated man from the UK who would understand me and my British values. Not a man from Pakistan who could hardly speak English and donned a huge moustache. There are many things I wanted in life, but I guess it was my destiny to marry this individual.

The wedding day arrived. It felt weird as a girl who was only 17 years of age, having a husband and in-laws. I had to please everyone and it was hard to do so. He wasn’t what I wanted and I tried to like or even grow to like him. I tried to focus on his good points and that made me carry on.

I became pregnant after 6 months and I went back to England. I give birth to a baby girl at 18 and it soon became clear that my in-laws from Mirpur were more controlling than my mother and father.

Ultimately, my husband got his visa and soon after his arrival in England, I became pregnant again. At 19 years of age, I had another baby girl. Busy with two babies, I missed out on my teenage life. I was a mother of two and I devoted my life to these girls. They were everything to me.” (Part 3 continued next month).

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