She was beaten, silenced and disowned from her own family. Yet, she believed in herself and persevered. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, originally born in Somalia into a traditional Muslim family, has written a tear-jerking, heart-softening account of the terrors that she endured, what she did to remove herself from the horror and what we can do to help others not succumb to the abuse that she endured.
Ayaan was born into a very strict Muslim family. The beliefs that a girl was not to speak to men, not to hold down a job nor be seen in public without a man were common values bestowed upon her. The beliefs of the Koran and words of Allah were the very essence of her people and to go against these ideals was reason to be killed or shunned by family. And in the beginning Ayaan did and believed what she was told.
Following the rituals and ideologies that were rampant in her culture she was beaten daily by her mother and not allowed to speak her mind. She was forced to be the servant to the family; making meals, cleaning the family residence and taking care of her siblings. Her older brother was not a source of protection for her, nor her younger sister, and she found herself to be alone in a world seemingly against the female. At the age of five she was forced, without the aid of drugs, to have her young sex sewn shut so that she would remain a virgin. Despite daily beatings from her mother and some of her teachers, she continued to be a devout follower of the Muslim religion. After a small romance with a friend of her brothers, she found herself distraught with guilt and became even more devoted to the religion. That is, until the day that her father forced her to marry a man that she did not know.
And that is when Ayaan's life began to change. Despite believing completely in the Koran she still had a small belief that she should love the man that she was to spend the rest of her life with. With the forced marriage, she stood up for herself for the first time. Against all beliefs that were forced upon her as a child, she fled. Fleeing to Europe, she saw, for the first time, how a woman can be independent and loved at the same time. She came to understand that women should not be beaten and have the right for a happy life.
She became a refuge in the Netherlands, despite not being completely truthful on her entrance papers. With her new life, she enrolled in college, received a degree in political science and became involved in the political system. Her main focus was to bring clarity and understanding about the treatment of women in the Muslim religion. Her voice was heard and empathized throughout the Western world, yet her fellow Muslims were angered by her speaking out. Her words provoked death threats. When the threats became a reality, and a good friend and fellow advocate of her plight was violently killed on the streets of Amsterdam, the gravity of her situation was realized.
Despite the true danger to her life, Ayaan has continued to speak outwardly against the oppression of women. Her courage and strength should be an example to us all. The belief in herself and human rights is of significant importance in todays world of war and killing. May her words open up compassion and understanding of her culture and what we as a worldly society need to do to stop the cruelty.