In the middle of 2017 Maarib Al Hishmawi’s parents told her that they had found a man that she would marry.
She was only 15-years-old at the time, and her parents said the man was going to pay the family $20,000. After marrying him, Maarib would move away from her home in San Antonio, Texas to be his wife.
But when Maarib refused, her parents turned violent. They beat her with broomsticks and choked her until she was almost unconscious. They even threw hot oil on her, said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.
Desperate for the violence to stop, Maarib finally told her parents she would marry the man. But as the wedding date approached, Maarib came up with her own plan to escape.
On January 30, Maarib walked out of Taft High School in San Antonio and disappeared.
Local authorities and the FBI issued a missing persons report, eventually leading to Maarib being found.
The Washington Post reports that her parents have now been arrested:
“This young lady … was subjected to some pretty bad abuse because she didn’t want to be married to this person,” Salazar said.
On Friday, authorities announced that her parents — Abdulah Fahmi Al Hishmawi, 34, and Hamdiyah Sabah Al Hishmawi, 33 — were arrested and charged with continuous abuse of a family member.
Maarib, now 16, has been placed in the custody of child protective services along with her five siblings, ages 5 to 15. Police have not said whether they suspect those children were also abused, Salazar said, and they won’t say where Maarib fled for help.
Notably, some women’s rights organizations caution calling Maarib’s situation a case of “arranged marriage” as “marriage is an agreement between two people, and, in some cultures, an arranged marriage can include significant input from family members.”
In contrast, as the Canada-based South Asian Women’s Centre (SAWC) explains, any case that is “characterized by coercion, where individuals are forced to marry against their will, under duress and/or without full, free and informed consent from both parties,” is not arranged marriage — it’s forced marriage.
Authorities say they are still deciding what to do with the man who was going to marry Maarib, though Salazar said “it’s highly likely that he’ll be facing charges as well.”