When my family said we were going away for the summer, I thought we were going overseas for a holiday. I was looking forward to some time away after three years of hard work at university. When we reached my parents’ home town, however, I was told I was going to marry a cousin who I had never met.

I was locked in the house and when I refused to go ahead with the marriage, uncles and aunts came over every day to try and convince me otherwise. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had agreed or not anyway – I could tell from the way they spoke, they were going to get me married either way.

My phone was taken away from me, and there was no computer in the house. I couldn’t contact anyone. I was terrified and I didn’t know who to ask for help, everyone seemed to be angry with me. Luckily my family didn’t know that my sister still had her phone and it was she who called the UK police.

On the day of the wedding, some men came to the house. My family must have assumed that they were wedding guests but they were representatives from the UK embassy. They helped me gather my things and took me and my sister back to the embassy. I felt so ashamed, but the workers all understood, they had seen lots of people in my situation before. 

When we returned to the UK, everything had changed. Our home was not our home anymore. The Forced Marriage Unit helped us get our things and find us somewhere to stay. Three months on, things are far from perfect. My parents are desperate to find us and get us married, despite everything that’s happened. I worry that I will bump into a family member and that this whole nightmare will start all over again. Even so, I know that I had a really lucky escape from a life I cannot even imagine living.

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