Former district councillor a victim of domestic abuse
By Zainab Khar
LAHORE: The story of Noor Baloch is different.
Noor was the district councillor of Khairpur and ran a welfare organisation, Noor Welfare Association for Women and Children, which also runs the Iqra School.
In 2002, Noor was engaged to cousin Sharifuddin despite her protests. When the 19-year-old refused to go ahead with the marriage, Sharifuddin responded by firing several rounds outside her house and threatening to kill her brothers. Some days later, Noor’s father, lawyer Ahmed Din Baloch, drugged her and parcelled her out.
“When I came to,” said Noor, “I was in Sharifuddin’s house and his family told me we had been married.” She never signed any documents and there was no exchange of vows. “All these people talk about Islam, but doesn’t our religion say consent is important? I was never married to this man whose house I was forced to live in,” she said.
Noor tried returning to her home. But the father would not hear of it. “My father told me, ‘Islam does not permit women to marry of their own will’, but later he said this marriage was necessary to protect our family and I had to stay with this man,” she said. “I was my father’s favourite daughter. I looked after him, took care of him...”
When Noor would refuse her cousin’s advances, she would get a beating—from all the men in Sharifuddin’s family, she said. “Three months into my ‘marriage’, my ‘father-in-law’ and ‘brother-in-law’ came into the room one afternoon and beat me blue,” said Noor. “This continued for months, I felt like I was out of my body.”
News of the beatings reached Noor’s father, who took her to hospital. It took some three months before Noor regained her memory. Her health in the clear, Noor was given into the care of Sharifuddin once again. Four months later, she was attacked again.
“It was three in the morning, Sharifuddin, his father and brother came into the room,” recalled Noor. “They said, ‘you are very proud of your beauty, this is the reason for your arrogance’. Sharifuddin took out a bottle of acid from his pocket and threw it on my face,” she said. For two days, Noor was kept from treatment.
Again, Noor’s father came to her aid. “He brought a doctor to the house,” said Noor. “He didn’t want to take me to hospital because it was a question of honour, he didn’t want people talking about what had happened to his daughter.”
Three months after the incident, Noor got permission from Sharifuddin to stay with her parents for a while. Grudgingly, the father acceded to her demand she be allowed to resume an MPhil degree at Shah Latif University. Noor could do this only if she were chaperoned by her younger brother and sister.
“One day, I ditched my siblings and made for the nearest phone. I rang up Magistrate Ayaz Noorani, my father’s friend, who sent me to stay with some people in Sukkur,” said Noor. “In the early hours of the morning, my father showed up at this house. I was horrified, I’d been betrayed by the lawyer.”
The father swore on the Quran that he had come alone and would not send her back to Sharifuddin. Reluctantly, Noor left the Sukkur house. “When I got outside, I saw that my uncle and ‘brother-in-law’ were sitting in the car,” said Noor. “I started screaming and my father slapped me and shoved me into the car. On the way to Khairpur, we passed by a police station and I started banging on the window. I was slapped.”
When Noor arrived at Sharifuddin’s house, she drank a bottle of nail polish remover. The ‘in-laws’ gave her another beating and announced to the village that they would kill Noor after Muharram 10 for she had besmirched the family’s honour by sleeping with another man. “These lies they concocted to rid of me,” said Noor.
Noor rang up a friend and told her about the latest threat. On March 13, 2003, Khairpur nazim Nafisa Shah arrived at Sharifuddin’s doorstep with police. They whisked her away to Karachi, where she stayed for four months at a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. The shelter became unsafe and Noor had to leave for Lahore.
Now in Lahore, Noor is hoping to put the scarred past behind. She has filed for divorce—according to Noor, the signature that appears on the legal papers, showing her as Sharifuddin’s wife, belong to her sister.
“Life has taught me a lot of things,” said Noor. “I’ve realised I can’t trust anyone and I’m scared at every turn. I don’t know what will become of me but things can only improve.”