EDINBURGH: Scottish national Asian teen explained that she was forced to marry her cousin in Pakistan at the age of 17 after her parents feared she was becoming “too Western”.
Nyla Khan, who is now 30 years old, said she had a “really strict upbringing” in a religious family.
She admitted: “I knew from a very young age that I was promised to my cousin and I always felt very uncomfortable about that.”
She said she thought it was “morally wrong”.
“My parents were very paranoid about me becoming Western. They think they are protecting you. To them, out of control is becoming Western.
“Having a voice, expressing yourself, dressing differently, wanting more from life, not wanting to marry your cousin.
“It was seen as being too Western.”
When she was 17, Nyla went to Pakistan with her parents on what she thought was a family holiday.
However, one day she woke to find her whole family in the room and she immediately knew that something was not right.
“They started saying ‘you have sinned’, ‘you need to marry your cousin now’.
Nyla refused but after hours of pressure, she felt forced to give in.
She recalled: “I just wanted them to shut up. I just wanted them to be quiet.
“From there on it is like your soul leaves your body because you become so numb because you have absolutely no power of control over what is happening.”
Nyla was in Pakistan for five weeks where she got married. She and her family soon returned to Scotland. Her new husband was to travel there later.
But a few months later, Nyla ran away and stayed with a friend.
Nyla stated: “I packed my bags and ran.
“I did it for a year. I got a lot of abuse from family members, from extended family members, friends and community members.
“I would walk down the road and they would call you ‘sl*t’ or something.”
Nyla said she was told that she would never see her brother and sister again.
She told: “It is like everyone that was your world says ‘we don’t want anything to do with you’.”
A year later, Nyla went back home “completely broken” and in tears. However, her parents took her back.
She said: “It was hard but we worked through it. We put love before religion.”
The young woman got a divorce a few years later and she moved out to study social work at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
Nyla, who now lives in Edinburgh, said: “I have been an independent Muslim woman ever since.”
Nyla’s ordeal of being forced to marry is just one case within an ongoing problem.
The figures from the UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) highlighted that they gave advice or support to a possible forced marriage in 1,764 cases in 2018, which is a 47% rise.