WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: An Australian girl sent to the Middle East to become a child bride now plans to campaign to bring an end to the practice here.
Melbourne-born Tasneem Fakhoury, 20, was told she was going on holiday for a month at the age of 14.
But she was trapped for nearly four years in an abusive marriage.
After her parents split, Ms Fakhoury was sent from her Meadow Heights home in Melbourne to a remote village near Tripoli in Lebanon where she was told she would visit her grandparents for a month.
There she was married to a 24-year-old man with a violent, criminal history.
“I was 14, all I was thinking of was the beautiful white dress and that amazing wedding I’m going to get,” Ms Fakhoury told 7News.
Yet her dreams of a perfect wedding quickly turned into a living nightmare.
Ms Fakhoury revealed her partner had a drug addiction and was abusive.
“‘You know I only hurt you because I love you and I want the best for you’, that line is every violent man’s line,” she said.
“That’s when I started packing my bag, and I’m like, ‘That’s it, I’m leaving.’
“I heard this woman laughing, she was our other neighbour. She’s like to me, ‘Love, there’s no way out of here, they either kill you or break you.’
“I would be sometimes cooking and I would the grab the knife I would stand there for five minutes.
“All I could see on the knife was my reflection and a lot was going through my mind is how pathetic I was.”
Finally Ms Fakhoury’s father helped her leave the country and last August she severed all ties with her husband.
Documents obtained by Seven News reveal Federal Police investigated 70 cases of forced marriage between January 2017 and September 2018.
They include six children aged 10 or younger, three of them just six years old.
“Just the six months for the financial year 2018-19 we’ve already received 45 referrals to the AFP,” the agency’s National Response Operations’ Joanne Cameron revealed.
Many underage marriages are posted online with brides much younger than Ms Fakhoury.
“That’s absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. A 10-year-old with like a 70-year old. Did they run out of women?” she asked.
Ms Fakhoury plans to write a book about her experience to raise awareness in the hope of saving other girls.
“He said ‘I do’ before I did. Then I said ‘I do’ and I wish I did not.”