I'm not his slave
My husband jumped on me and started beating me up
May 14, 2002
I was violently awakened by the phone. My heart started beating like a drum.
Disoriented, I forced myself up and looked at the clock. It was 2:30 in the morning.
No one calls with good news at such a time. Crazy thoughts rushed through my head.
I ran into pieces of furniture and knocked things over while making my way to the
A woman's voice uttered, "Mr...?"
"Sorry to bother you so late. I'm calling from the women's shelter. We have
a bit of a situation here. I understand you speak Persian?"
"Yes I do; how can I help?"
"We have a lady who was brought to our center a few hours ago. She's pretty
roughed up. Looks like a possible case of domestic violence. Unfortunately, we are
unable to communicate with her. She doesn't speak English. We think she might be
Middle Eastern -- probably from Iran. Would it be too much to ask you to stop by
the shelter tonight and see if you can play translator?"
It was a cold night. Unusual odor filled the air. I was driving half-sleep trying
to find detours to the shelter. I have been working with battered women's shelter
in my spare time as legal volunteer for the last two years. I find it depressing,
to say the least.
The center is a none-profit organization for abused women. It has always been struggling
to make ends meet. It has always been short on money and volunteers but never short
on customers. There is a constant flow of women who are abused, beaten, raped, even
tortured. Some are drug addicts, some prostitutes, but most are just unlucky souls.
I pulled into the parking lot. Two police cars and an
ambulance were parked in front of the main door. I got out of the car, walked to
the building, and was greeted by an old friend. She handed me a cup of coffee.
"What's all that talk about lawyers being cold-blooded? Look at you -- up in
middle of the night trying to help people," She smiled.
I followed her to a room on the first floor. There I saw a motionless body of a young
woman lying down on the bed. She looked horrifying. Her face was bruised and swollen.
There were cuts on her face, teeth broken, and a cast on her left arm.
I asked for the police report. The cop handed me a folder that held pieces of paper
and pictures of her pounded body. I looked at her pictures. There were a number of
bruises and cuts on her back and sides. I read the medical report. There was no internal
The police officer told me that the manager of the apartment she lived in found her
half-dead body near a garbage dump. The cop said neighbors complained about noises
that sounded like domestic violence.
I went back to the room. She was looking away. I sat by her side. She turned her
face, looked at me and said, "Salam."
I asked everyone to leave the room. She looked intimidated by cops and paramedics.
We spoke in Persian. I introduced myself and told her that I was just a fellow Iranian
who helps the center with legal matters. I told her that I was there only to translate;
I didn't work for the police or any other agency. I asked her if she could tell me
She started to cry. "My husband and father-in-law did this to me. I have been
living in the United States for only four months. I met my husband last year while
he was visiting Iran. He came to Iran after many years, looking for a wife. A family
friend introduced us. He seemed nice and polite. He told me he was a successful businessman
here in the U.S. He said he was ready to settle down and have a family of his own.
He treated me nice. I went out with him three times.
"I didn't know him well but my family was pressuring me to get to know him.
My family kept telling me how great of a future I will have marrying him and moving
to the U.S. They kept on insisting. A few days before his departure, he asked me
to marry him. I said yes. There was a quick ceremony and then he left for the U.S.
We kept in touch by mail and phone. Then, few months later, I had a visa waiting
for me at the American embassy in Turkey. I left Iran and came here to start a new
life with my husband."
She was crying uncontrollably. After a few minutes of silence, she continued.
"When I arrived, I sensed there was something wrong. He was cold to me. He ignored
me and spent most of his time away. I found out that I was living with my in-laws
in a two-bedroom apartment. Back in Iran, he told me that he had a big house. He
even showed me pictures. He took away my passport and travel documents. He didn't
let me talk with my family in Iran. He didn't let me leave the house. Soon I became
his servant. I cleaned after my in-laws all day. They smoked opium and yelled at
me. I didn't know how to drive, how to speak English, how to dial the phone.
"Then the beating started. At first it was just slaps in the face. But later
on, it got worse. Then his father participated in the beatings. His father also beats
his wife. The beatings got worse and worse. I was knocked unconscious a few times.
One time I bled for hours. I had no one to turn to. I didn't even know how to dial
for the police. I wanted to run away; but where to?
"Last night my father-in-law was taking a shower.
He came out and yelled at me for not cleaning the shower like he wanted it. I had
enough. I said I wasn't his slave. My husband jumped on me and started beating me
up. My father-in-law joined him while laughing and encouraging my husband. I thought
I was going to die this time. They hit me with a chair and kicked me in the head.
I was left unconscious in the bedroom.
"I gained consciousness and looked around. There was no one in the apartment.
I walked out and tried to run. The pain was awful. I can't remember much after that.
All I wanted was a little love and respect. I just want to go back to Iran."
I have heard similar stories in this dreadful place. Stories that would make a big
man weep. But none had effected me like this one. Maybe, because I never thought
I would hear one in Persian.