An Australian girl who was kidnapped, beaten and married off to her older cousin by her father’s family in Syria at the age of 13 has spoken out about her horrific five-year ordeal for the first time.
Rania Farrah (pictured above) was on what was meant to be a trip of a lifetime to Egypt to visit the pyramids with her older brother but instead ended up being turned into a child bride by her own family. Continue...
Appearing on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Ms Farrah revealed she planned to commit suicide if her escape plan on her 18th birthday didn't work, and said: ‘I was just in a depression the whole time I was there… I just thought of Australia.’
Ms Farrah, who grew up living in Sydney’s southwest and is the daughter of a Syrian Muslim and his Australian convert wife, was married off to her cousin who she had never met and endured terrible beatings after being taken to Syria’s capital Damascus from Egypt.
Her mother, who had previously fled Ms Farrah's father after 20 years of violent marriage, knew about her daughter's kidnapping but told her during phone calls from that she could not afford to bring her home to Australia.
On arrival in Damascus, Ms Farrah was subjected to a virginity test because her father decided she had been under bad influences when in Year 7 at school, when she started smoking cigarettes and talking to boys.
'They wanted to check for my virginity. They said to enroll in a school they needed to check I was a virgin,’ Ms Farrah explained.
She felt 'confusion and fear' as nurses came and held her down. After the virginity test - despite the results showing she was indeed a virgin - her father and brother beat her at her Auntie’s house.
'It’s quite a normal thing to kill your daughter for not being a virgin,' she noted.
On Sunday, Ms Farrah described her father as ‘an evil person, he’s the most evil person you’ll ever meet’.
Opening up to Liz Hayes about the shocking crime of forced marriage that affects hundreds of Australian women every year, she explained that she shut off her emotions and played along with her family’s plan while dreaming of her escape.
Living in a strict Muslim world, she attended an Islamic school and learned Arabic. 'I did all the things they asked me to do… I was taught how to pray and fast for Ramadan,' she said.
Her second cousin, who she was forced to marry, was in his early thirties and Ms Farrah avoided ‘eye contact’ and never spoke to him.
‘We had the engagement party, I got given the gold… I put on the face. But I didn’t feel anything because by that stage I was already planning my escape.’
Ms Farrah hatched an escape plan to return to Australia on her 18th birthday and was helped by the British Embassy to return to Sydney.
A neighbour, who was around the same age as Ms Farrah, had passed her the phone number for the embassy.
But she had to wait until she was 18 before officials were legally allowed to help her.
When she was legally an adult, they told her a woman would wait for her at the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus. Ms Farrah crept out her house and jumped into a taxi while her grandmother was asleep after morning prayer.