A Middle-East love story seeks a happy ending with NCW help

FP

Hashna Kareem left her home in Muscat on December 9 last year for love. Now, sitting alone and pregnant in a women's shelter run by the National Commission for Women (NCW) in Delhi, on the eve of the day the world celebrates love, she has little to look forward to in the near future.

"Valentine's Day is just another day in the countdown," says the 23-year-old, who has sought asylum from the NCW against what she fears could be an "honour killing" by her family. The man she wants to get married to, Joney Joseph, is on the run in India, and her family has pulled out all the stops to break them, including accusing her of having stolen money and jewellery, and levelling kidnapping charges against Joney and his family.

Hashna has to appear in a Kerala court on Friday in response to a habeas corpus petition filed by her parents, but the chartered accountancy student has no money to travel.

Two days ago, Joney left her in the NCW's custody after the couple ran out of all options. They haven't been in touch since then, as neither uses a mobile for fear of leaving a trail that their families might pick up.

Hashna met Joney (29) on Facebook. He was then employed at a spa in Kuwait. Within months, she was ready to leave home, she says, as much to be with Joney as to get away from the stifling atmosphere at her home.

"My parents had forced me to take up a job but I had no control over the money I earned because all of that went into buying gold for my dowry. My parents are rich, but in Muslim families like ours, the value of the dowry is linked to family prestige. But the last straw was when they tried to marry me off to a man I did not like," says Kareem.

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