From the news desk

CT woman reveals horror of being trapped in Egypt

Marriage, a journey through life that many women aspire to embark upon, in the minds of the romantic is viewed as a testing but wonderful experience. However, for many South African women, who wed non-south Africans, nuptials are accompanied by great difficulties.

For one South African wife and mother, known only as Zohyroh, marriage was anything but a bed of roses. After marrying her Egyptian husband, Muhammad* in 2008, six months into the marriage, she soon realised that her husband was not the man she fell in love with.

Following the birth of the couple’s two children and years of battling to strengthen her marriage, on the 17th May this year, Zohyroh, her children and her husband travelled to Egypt. But, soon after arriving in Egypt, her husband’s treatment of her drastically changed and she was given the ultimatum – remain in Egypt or return home with your children.

The beginning

Zohyroh met her husband when she owned a shop in Delft, an area on the outskirts of the Cape Flats and due to his financial woes and humble personality, she soon took a liking to the man she only knew as a loyal customer.

“I felt sorry for him because he came there with nothing and he had this humbleness inside of him – he was just so soft,” she began.

After agreeing to wed Muhammad in 2008, she assisted him for one year as he began finding his feet in foreign lands.

While they were officially married, Zohyroh says that he did not sleep at her home every night, mostly returning home to eat and bath.

Some six months into the marriage, Zohyroh soon discovered a different side to her husband – a person she did not recognise.

“He just turned out like someone who was freed from a cage and I saw that he did not care about the deen; he was just out and this wildness come out. Money and women was all that he cared about.”

Choosing not to share her experience with her loved ones, Zohyroh suffered in silence, constantly working to strengthen the bond between herself and Muhammad.

After working for six months in Gabon, Zohyroh says that her husband contracted malaria, forcing him to seek her assistance and given the situation she quickly began caring for him and was soon assured that he would change his treatment of her and be a more attentive spouse.

“He was telling me he is changed now and that he will be by me every day – my heart opened for him,” she recalls.

Following Muhammad’s request that the couple travel to Egypt, Zohyroh says she conceded after he promised that she would be provided with her own living quarters. But she also pleaded with him to improve his treatment of her.

Zohyroh, however, soon changed her mind after her mother became ill. Muhammad quickly assured her that he would be taking Zohyroh on umrah where they would “make lots of dua” for her ailing mother.

Upon arrival in Egypt, Zohyroh says Muhammad’s treatment of her soon returned to its formal state – promises forgotten.

She says that her husband’s treatment of her was reflected in the manner in which he treated his wife in Egypt, who fled their marital home after he neglected to care for her needs.

Reality sets in

After realising that her husband’s treatment of her would not alter and that his intentions were misleading, the nature of the situation began to dawn on Zohyroh and she soon requested that she return home, only to realise that Muhammad had not booked return-tickets for her children.

“I hammered him from the first week, because I didn’t feel right anymore. Then he told me he will make the ticket earlier…the agent then said that he only booked [a return-ticket] for me,” she noted.

Muhammad then broke his silence on his intentions, explaining that he planned “it” when their eldest daughter was two years old on the family’s first visit to Egypt and as reality dawned upon her, Zohyroh become acutely aware that she may never return home with her children.

“He told me that he had to make a plan that this children must end up there. But he didn’t know when or what.”

In a bid to seek assistance, Zohyroh informed her family of her situation.

“I then went into two weeks of isolation; I didn’t want to speak to anyone. I realised I can’t get out that place since the agent also said that he must give me a consent letter for the children,” she says.

Zohyroh plans her escape

After mustering up the strength and confidence, Zohyroh removed herself from isolation and began planning her and her children’s escape.

“I don’t know anyone and its farm life –to get out of there you go slowly because its farm road.”

Following lengthy conversations with her family, she was informed that her only means of escape would require that she find a way to the South African Embassy in Egypt.

After being granted permission to collect her daughter from madrasa, Zohyroh successfully escaped in June, 2016, and immediately made her way to the South African Embassy

“I needed to mix to get out – I had to play the same thing. I then pretended to let go of everything, so I pretended for a few days. Then for two days I went to the madrasa,” she explained.

The last haul home

After arriving at the embassy, Zohyroh was informed that she could not return with her children as South African law now requires that children travelling internationally require an unabridged birth certificate, she was then referred to a local shelter.

Following much persuasion, Muhammad conceded and signed the consent letter, however, deciding not to handover her and children’s passports after Zohyroh would not concede to his requests and leave to South Africa from his family home.

“With that I had to go through Egyptian immigration and they kept telling us ‘come next week’ – that was the delay. My family was standing ready and put money together for my ticket.”

Muhammad eventually handed over the passports to the embassy after being informed that he will be barred from entering South Africa or leaving Egypt if he neglected to do so.

Suffering a four-month ordeal, Zohyroh and her children successfully returned to South Africa

Since her return home on 12 September, which coincided with Eid al-Adhah, Zohyroh’s husband has made contact with her on at least two occasions. Fearing for her and her children’s safety she has not entertained his conversations and is the process of filing for divorce.

After requesting comment from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), DIRCO spokesperson, Nelson Kwete, encouraged women who find themselves held against their will in foreign lands to contact the local law enforcement.

As she begins to rebuild her life and support her children, she says that she is currently seeking any form of employment, but hopes to pursue her passion of empowering people.

Anyone who wishes to assist Zohyroh in finding employment, may contact VOC News on (021) 442-3510.

Zohyroh approached VOC News to share her story as a means to create awareness about the dangers of marrying non-South Africans and wishes to thank her family, the South African Embassy in Egypt and the Muslim Judicial Council for their emotional support and assistance.

(To ensure her safety, we have not used Zohyroh’s husband’s actual name and sensitive details have not been disclosed in the article.)


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