“My parents gave us a lot of love. It was really a wonderful relationship. We often had parties at home. We played music, we sang, we danced. Even when there was no wedding, because with seven brothers and sisters it’s already a party (laughs)! And at home there was an equality between girls and boys. Our father was working in France and he always brought us beautiful dresses, even little skirts above the knees! Everyone was always complimenting us. We were so spoiled, it was really a happy life. Then I got married, and the problems started.
I was told that he was kind and religious. We talked on the phone for a few months and I liked him. After the wedding, I came to Geneva, and things were not as he had told me. In fact, he is mentally retarded. It’s not at all obvious, I hadn’t noticed anything. And here, it was his older sister who decided everything. After giving birth to my first child, she wanted to take him away and for me to go back to Algeria. I refused and she started yelling at me. During consultations with the paediatricians, she would translate and tell me lies. She told me that there was a hole in my child’s heart and that she had to take him to look after him.
When my son was six months old, we went to Algeria. There, she stole his identity papers. I had to leave him with my parents and return to Geneva. We went all the way to court, and I had to pass before many judges. It was very long and difficult to get him back. And she continued to cause me a lot of problems. She insulted me in the street, complained to the police about me. After my second child, she would ring the doorbell at 2am to wake me and the baby up. My husband asked her to stop, but in the end he did everything she said. Once, at the migration office, they told me that I was his fifth wife. I was really shocked!
Last June, we ended up getting divorced. I was very happy. I don’t hate him at all, I’m just sad for him. Now I’m doing my best to try to change flats. I’ve suffered so much in this one that I don’t want to stay here anymore. Since I got married everything has been negative. But Allah gave me a boy and a girl, and when I spend time with them, I forget all my misfortunes and find again that joy of when I was little. Fortunately, I never let these problems get into my head and heart. I kept my joy, I enjoy life. And now I know that I don’t need a man to be happy.”
Published as part of the mini-series “Of frontiers and women”, produced in partnership with APDH. | Translated from Arabic