CATRIONA STEWART met the woman who was abused and betrayed by her family, who she says used her as a domestic slave before tricking
her into a forced marriage.
WHEN she was just 13 Sameem Ali was married off to a stranger, pregnant and completely isolated from her peers.
But the mother-of-two has completely turned her life around and is backing a new initiative to help stop forced marriage in Scotland.
She said: "I was raised in a children's home until I was seven and it was a fabulous place. But then I was suddenly taken home.
"I was used as a domestic slave and beaten if I didn't do what I was told.
"The children's home had raised me to be an individual and think for myself but that part of my personality was soon beaten out of me."
Sameem, whose family lived in Birmingham, told her school what was happening and a social worker was sent to her home.
But a family member, who beat her nearly unconscious for alerting the authorities, brought the family to Glasgow in a bid to escape suspicion.
Sameem's family settled in Pollokshields and, although her brothers went to school, she was kept at home and forced to cook and clean.
When she was 13 Sameem was told she and a family member were going on holiday to Pakistan.
The 44-year-old said: "I was told I was going on holiday and I was really excited– at the children's home we used to go the beach and it was great fun, so I assumed the holiday would be like that.
"But when we got to Pakistan I was introduced to two guys and told, 'Of these two guys, which one do you like best?'
"One was chosen – he was much older than me, in his late 20s – and I was married to him in a very quick ceremony."
Sameem says she had no idea what was happening and she was told she would be allowed to return to Scotland only if she was pregnant.
She said: "I didn't know how to get pregnant so I prayed to God that I would. I was told me to let my husband do whatever he wanted to me.
"Eventually I became pregnant and, at two months gone, we came back to Glasgow."
Sameem's new husband wanted to move to the UK and it was thought having a British-born child would help his visa application.
Back in Glasgow the teenager attended GP visits and saw a midwife throughout her pregnancy, but medical staff had no suspcions that anything was wrong.
She said: "I made all my GP visits, I saw a midwife. If one person had asked me if I was okay then I would have told everything, but my family constantly told me to be quiet and I was slapped if I spoke up so there was no way I could tell anyone without being asked first."
Completely alone, she felt there was nowhere to turn and no way to escape. But her life changed when a family friend from Pakistan visited.
She said: "The friend was interested in women's rights and he could see how badly I was being treated.
"One day I was taken to a solicitor to sign papers to have my husband in Pakistan come to Scotland.
"I was terrified. I didn't want to see him again and I didn't want him to come here.
"It was a tipping point and the family friend said he was leaving – and would I come with him?
"So we left and I moved into a homeless hostel in Manchester."
Her brother was furious that she had, in his eyes, disgraced the family, and hired four hit men to find her.
He paid them £50 each to carry out the job.
Sameem said: "That's what my life was worth. £50. I was terrified because I knew what my brother was capable of.
"I had disgraced the family honour and it is the culture that honour must be restored by the head of the family."
The first Sameem knew of the attempt on her life was when police arrived at her house.
Officers had been tipped off and arrested the men, who were found to have baseball bats and nunchucks in the boot of their car.
They, and her brother, were imprisoned.
The family friend who rescued Sameem is now her husband.
When they arrived in Manchester, Asghar proposed and they married in a quiet register office ceremony, with no fuss, and returned to work afterwards.
She said: "We both worked in the same factory – we had taken any jobs we could get as we didn't want to go on benefits.
"We married and returned to work afterwards. And now we've been together for 26 years."
Sameem has nothing to do with her family in Glasgow.
When her brother and then her father died she returned for their funerals but said her family members were distant.
Sameem has managed to completely turn her life around and decided to go into politics as a way of bringing the issue of forced marriage into the public eye.
But it took her a long time before she could talk about her story – and it was her son who prompted the turn around.
She said: "My son came home from college one day and said, 'Are you ashamed of me?'
"I asked him what he meant and he said he worried I was ashamed of him because I had never spoken about what happened to me.
"He said I should speak up to help other young women and so that's what I decided to do."
Sameem works in Manchester to highlight forced marriage and she is now supporting a new learning resource developed by Glasgow Life that will be rolled out to teachers, youth workers and charity staff.
It aims to help professionals spot the signs of forced marriage in young people.
The pack is backed by the Scottish Government and forms part of a country-wide campaign to help those at risk of forced marriage.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "Forced marriage has no place in 21st century Scotland and we need to make sure that those affected by forced marriage receive the help and support they need.
"We know people can be subjected to threats, assault, captivity or worse at the hands of their own family, and we need to make sure that those affected by forced marriage receive help and support"
Glasgow Life Board Member, Councillor Soryia Syddique, added: "Sameem's story shows the true horrors of forced marriage and why we must all do whatever we can to ensure no-one else has to endure such appalling abuse.
"However, Sameem is living proof that with the right support, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"Glasgow Life has created the tools which will help youth workers, teachers and others to spot the signs of forced marriage and offer support to those at risk."
l FOR advice, support and protection visit yourright scotland.org or call the women's helpline on 0800 027 1234 or the men's helpline on 0808 801 0327.
l Latest figures reveal that 83 calls were made to the Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline last year, of which a third were from men.
l Three Forced Marriage Protection Orders have been taken out since the forced marriage legislation came into force in 2011 giving Scottish courts the power to issue orders, offering protection to those affected by forced marriage.
l The Forced Marriage Learning Resource is available to download at yourightscotland.org and will also be distributed to schools and to youth workers through the Youth Scotland network.