My Innocence was Snatched Away from Me in the Holiest of Cities at the Holiest of Times

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.

I came from a very traditional family, where girls were protected and even mixing with cousins was supervised. I was the only daughter of my parents and coupled with being the youngest, I was always kept in a little bubble and mollycoddled, rightfully so as 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.

I got to the hotel and the manager was there at the front desk. I got into the lift and he followed me. I started to cry out. He had blocked the lift and continued on violating me and my little 9-year-old child’s body. I was hysterical and tried to fight him off. But he was a grown man and I was a little girl. I don’t remember what happened after, what made him stop or how I got back to my mum. I told her what had happened, how coherent I was I don’t know.

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.

Sick, depraved people are everywhere, in all scions of society, in all walks of life. They’re found in the holiest of cities at the holiest of times. Whilst we can’t eradicate them, being extra vigilant, teaching our children between right and wrong and being cautious could help this not happening to others.


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