The story of Shahed

written by Fred Rietkerk, Programme Officer, World Vision Netherlands

Shahed was 16 years old when she fled Syria. Upon arrival in Mersin, Turkey, her family decided to have Shahed marry in order for her to be taken care for. Shahed married a Syrian man. After about six months she was pregnant. Her husband did not accept the baby and he started to mistreat Shahed. The marriage of Shahed was over after a year. She moved away from her husband and back to her family. The baby was born, about a year ago. The baby was born with an open back.

When the husband heard that Shahed delivered the baby, his sister came for a visit and attempted to kidnap the child in order to avoid the divorce. After a search action the Turkish police returned the baby to Shahed. The child now lives with Shahed and her family and is well looked after. The baby receives exactly the love that a baby needs from all family members. Shahed’s mother takes care of her like it is her own child and also Shahed’s younger sister Tabarak loves the baby.

The family is not released yet though. Rumors go around that Shahed’s ex-husband is marrying again and that he intends to claim the child back. They are also afraid for another abduction attempt.

When I hear this case from Shahed and her mother, I explain that I usually collect stories for communications purposes. I also make clear that this is an impressive story that I can use to inform my colleagues in the Netherlands about this work, but that I will not publicize it. But then Shahed speaks up. She says:

“Please share my story with other girls and their families. I want people to be aware of the risks of marrying at young age.”

Her mother adds:

“We thought we did the right thing, providing Shahed with someone who would take care of her. We never thought of the risks, otherwise we would have never done this. Please raise awareness of the risks of giving your daughter away for early marriage.”

The situation with the baby of Shahed put this family on the radar of the protection programme for refugees that IMPR implements in four cities in Turkey. The European Union partners with World Vision and IMPR to provide protection services to the Syrian refugees.

Shahed’s brother (16) and father are working. Simply to pay the rent and the bills. There is no excess money in the household, the family cannot afford all expensive baby articles that are required for the care of the baby.


The family feels that IMPR has their backs covered: “Every time that I call, they are there and they listen to me.” Shahed receives psycho-social support from the psychologist. And when the family has to go to the hospital for the care of the baby, then IMPR arranges a translator to accompany them.