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Shahnaz Khari was brought up in a wealthy British Pakistani household where she wanted for nothing. Her problems started when, at the age of 12, she was forced to give up school to become cook and housemaid to her brothers in her parents’ absence.
She never went back to school. For Shahnaz, one nightmare followed another. At 18 she was forced into an arranged marriage with a man whom she quickly discovered to be a violent and abusive drug addict who stole her money and jewellery to buy drugs. No sooner had she begun to recover from that ordeal than her parents made her marry a teenage boy who turned out to be controlling, sadistic and equally violent.
There followed a traumatic pregnancy and stillbirth, violence and abuse from her family and months of imprisonment in her own bedroom before she won her freedom by smuggling a message to the police in her daughter’s schoolbag. Persuaded back home and then tricked into going to Pakistan with her family, where she endured yet another arranged marriage, she managed to escape from the house while everyone was at prayer and fly back to London.
Her family persuaded her to make a brief return to Pakistan by saying her mother was seriously ill, but when she arrived she was beaten up, threatened with shooting and drowning, stripped of her possessions and imprisoned once again, all because she had asked for the freedom to make decisions for herself and her daughter about their lives.
Eventually Shahnaz managed to return to the UK with her third husband, build a new life with him and her daughter and study for a career. She is now a social worker specialising in child care.
Now Shahnaz (she has used a pen-name to avoid embarrassment for her family) has written her extraordinary, compelling story of survival.