I was 9 when my innocence was snatched away from me, in the holiest of cities at the holiest of times. Extended family and I had embarked on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia to do Umrah. It was my first trip and I was in awe of being there and relished the opportunity. I remember my excitement being palpable and feeling completely at ease and so happy to be there. We were to spend 7 nights in Medina and 7 nights in Makkah and then fly back home. I was to be traveling with my parents, my grandparents, my Mamo, my Khala and my cousins. It was like one big holiday. The adults would exclaim that we are in the holiest of cities, we were safe, protected etc. No one had any reason to be concerned.
I was 9 and full of innocence. I had cherubic cheeks and my mother would always get told how cute I was. My cheeks would get pulled and patted by passers-by and hotel staff and no one would give it a second thought. After all, I was a child – only 9.
It had come up to our last morning in Makkah and our flight back home was scheduled for the afternoon. The plan was to read Fajr at Masjid-ul-Haram and then leave for Jeddah.
I left for Fajr with my family, my mother was excused from praying and was staying back at the hotel. Now I was super attached to my mum, and as she hadn’t come I was eager to go back to her. Our hotel was literally a stone throw away, right outside the courtyard of the Haram. You could clearly hear the Duas via the loudspeaker at the hotel, that’s how close it was. Whilst everyone was busy praying and making dua I sneaked off, with all my childhood innocence, to go back to my mum.
What happened after is a blur to me. I was highly traumatized. Everyone was alerted. The culprit ran away, the police were called. He was eventually caught, charged and as per Saudi law was given lashes.
I’m a grown woman now, with children of my own and this incident has haunted me my entire life. It never leaves you. With all the stories that are being brought to light now, whether they be about Zainab or the #metoo movement I thought it was a time I shared and created awareness of something that I have previously kept hidden deep inside me.
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