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I am a 21 year old female living in Egypt and I am beyond terrified of my own father...at least i think he is my father. To say it shortly i think i might be adopted at a young age and no one told me about it.

In Egypt, daughters must carry the same name as the father my name is different than my father's hence the conclusion of being adopted.

On to the actual topic; I have been living in fear of my father since I was 6 years old. He left my mother and I since I was five and married another woman behind our backs. I have despised him ever since but my mother would have me spend every Friday with him and his family even though she hates it.

My father would hit me and yell at me since I was three and still is until now. His yells send cold chills down my spine and once I actually peed myself from fear when I was 20!

I don't think this is healthy, living in fear all my life to the extent that I have to motivate myself a couple of times before walking out of the house.

My mother died when I was 12 and I was forced to live with my father and his family which brought on more fear and anxiety because his wife hated my guts along with her oldest daughter.

My health is starting to deteriorate due to the constant fear and anxiety I have. I cant move out because my father won't allow it. I don't have any friends willing to take me in for a few weeks and my father wont allow it either, and I seem to have no other option than to just wait for my death.

Yeah... I have been constantly thinking that death is the only way out from this misery... I wont lie and say that I haven't thought of suicide... because I have... A LOT! If it weren't forbidden in my religion I think i would have done it a long time ago.

I just want help as to what I should do? Talking is not an option because my father is not the type to talk to... he is like a ticking time bomb; a grenade with the pin out.

What should I do to stop this constant feeling of anxiety and terror from my father? How could I escape this life I call my prison?

I know it's not much of a parenting question, but I thought since you are parents you would have some helpful advice. Maybe I am not seeing the whole picture clearly.

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First step: familiarize yourself with deleting your browser history. You do not want any family member stumble over your internet activities. – Stephie Feb 28 at 14:46
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I think the first thing you should find is someone to talk to about your situation. Do you attend Mosque/Church or University? Any chance your father would allow you to volunteer for any religious or community service efforts? Most of all, hang in there, you never know what beautiful experience lies on the other side of your current struggle. The courage and strength to endure is possible for you to attain and will certainly serve you well in the future. You aren't the only one to go through this, and I pray someday you have the means to meet with others who have. – Adam Starrh Feb 28 at 16:46
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What kind of support does Egypt have for women of abuse or homeless people? Is an option to run away and seek a shelter viable here, I don't know Egypt's welfare services well. Do you work / earn money? Money gives a lot of options here. If you're at a point of thinking of suicide, the option of running from home will be a better option assuming you can find a support shelter. – Dave Feb 28 at 22:05
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If you spend a lot of time alone at home, you can use the time to get physically stronger and fitter. There are a lot of simple exercises to build up some physical strength, which will increase your self confidence and teach your body you can do things, instead of just accepting things. Whatever solution of the answers you follow, you should try to build your self confidence so you can believe in yourself, you have to believe you can do it. And setting yourself goals in personal strength can help to build that mindset. – Falco Feb 29 at 14:50
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You write like a native speaker, you can find work outside Egypt as a translator or interpretor. Organise your escape, learn to drive in secret, find someone you can trust who has a car and can teach you how to drive, set aside any money you can come across. Do you work? Can you find a part-time job? If all these options are impossible because you are an Egyptian woman, and you have no friends or relatives whom you can trust then write to Amnesty International: amnesty.org/en/about-us/contact – Mari-Lou A Mar 3 at 22:00

11 Answers 11

up vote 118 down vote
+100

You are 21. You are an adult under Egyptian law. If you need missing papers, you can apply for them without having a guardian. You only need someone to vouch that you live with them, which brings us to:

  • Do you have any person you trust you can talk to? Can this person shelter you or provide you with shelter elsewhere?

  • Don't go to Churches: You surely know about the problems caused by convert girls in the past. A church might very well send you back to avoid the dilemma (and the angry mob that your father will have no problem in mobilising).

  • Which brings us to, Don't go to Mosques: Unless you know the people personally, which given Islamic tradition is not the case for you as a woman, don't trust them. They might be good people, but they might consider what you do disobedience to the parent. You don't want to take that risk.

  • Instead, check out nearby organisations that are involved with women's rights. A friend active in that regard suggested http://etijah.org/arabic/ to me. It concerns itself with forced marriages and combatting prevention of girls to study. Could you contact them?

  • Seek out similar organisations in your vicinity. Speak with them. They surely have experience in that regard.

  • I read the post to my father and here's what he has to say (unaltered): What about your uncles or aunts? Anyone you can confide in, who could find you a suitable husband?

  • I found this facebook page which concerns iteself with freedom of travel for Egyptian women. I contacted them and they seem eager to assist.

That's the most I can suggest with the information you gave. I urge you not to give out too much information. I never been to parenting.SE but this post is in the hot questions bar for all sites on the Stack Exchange network.

I wish you the best. If you are really desperate, create a throw-away email account and message me at the email address in the comments with a proof that shows that the parenting.SE account is yours. If you are fine with disclosing what governorate you are in, I can ask acquaintances what organisations are there (I am egyptian myself although living abroad at the moment) or try to help otherwise.


I know the last suggestion isn't fit for the Q&A format, but neither is the question and I think in this case it's appropriate to offer this.

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I don't know about churches inside Egypt, but a church outside Egypt certainly wouldn't send her back... nor would they have any ability or authority to do so even if they wanted to (which they almost certainly wouldn't, especially in a non-Islamic country.) – reirab Feb 28 at 22:45
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I hope you know that deleted comments are still visible for moderators and stored on servers. Probably not an issue - unless one of the moderators will happen to be Egyptian and side with OP's father? Let's hope not. But I want you to know. – Mołot Feb 28 at 23:47
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+1 for women's rights. – Carsten S Feb 29 at 7:14
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@reirab Sectarian strife over women particularly ("Muslim woman marries copt", "Coptic woman allegedly forced to live as a nun because she converted") is common. Neither the church nor the state want the headache associated with sheltering a woman from something that, in general, most of the population has no issue with (disciplining a "child"). – a3f Feb 29 at 7:35
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Note that you can also use Parenting Chat for things that doesn't really fit the Q&A format (it can be cleaned up similar to comments) – Erica Feb 29 at 16:01

You are the victim of abuse. You do not deserve to live in fear. You do not deserve to be hit, or to be shouted at. You father's behaviour is not acceptable.

You might want to look for organisations in your country that can provide help and advice to women in your situation.

I don't speak Arabic, and so I can't do a search for organisations.

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I do not believe such organisations would exist in Egypt, or if they did, they would be operating outside the law. You are answering as a person who lives in a western country, and perhaps believe the rights we enjoy are universal. They are not. – user1751825 Feb 28 at 11:50
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That is true. Rights in Egypt are far different than in western countries. Our law is a bit...wobbly if i could say. Egyptian organizations are known to be cold and uncaring to some cases especially if the case is not a child. – user21063 Feb 28 at 13:26
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Thise organisations do exist. But usually not "publicly". They disguise as meeting centers, places of education,... Not easy to find, though. – Stephie Feb 28 at 14:48
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I know your answer would probably work in the Western World, and my following suggestion might be found very strange, but in the case of an Islamic country I would guess finding a husband the OP can trust and who can protect her from her father might be the most likely solution to succeed. – vsz Feb 28 at 17:54
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@vsz, sounds like an answer to me. – Stephie Feb 28 at 22:23

sorry to hear about your situation. It is for sure a very difficult situation. The fact you are feeling anxiety is natural and very understandable, so don't be down on yourself for that. The fact you have survived shows your strength.

I think you are seeing the situation with great clarity.

Living with ongoing anxiety is definitely best avoided if at all possible. But you don't want to make a bad situation worse! Again, do not make a bad situation worse. Therefore you need to be very careful about what you do. This is not a time to act rashly - but a time for strategic thinking and planning that may take some time to put into action.

First thing as already stated: make absolutely sure they cannot track your online activity so they can't find this question. TOTALLY CRITICAL !!!! One option is to install a different browser to whatever you usually use and only read this topic on that browser and make sure there is no shortcut to the browser on your desktop or Start Menu etc. You can open it by typing the name into the little search box on the Windows menu assuming you are using Windows 7 or so. And make sure the browsing history is also deleted after you use it. So if you use Firefox then also install Google Chrome and hide any reference to it. Alternatively you could just download CCleaner and run it after using your PC to remove browsing history. How much you need to do depends how PC literate they are.

As I see it, in regards to leaving the major problem is money - in the short term and longer term. You need cash or goods of value to leave and set-up elsewhere and then you need some form of employment to sustain it. You may not have this covered now but you may be able to work towards it over time. (ie. selling things on ebay or at a market and adding to your skills by learning online - eg. learning to touch type, learning marketing, etc....).

If you are employable and jobs are available in a nearby city then that would go a long way towards a successful outcome for you. I don't where you stand on this ??

Is it necessary to leave the country ? Couldn't you just move to another, distant city ? Would you need to change your name ?

The secondary problem as I see it is the papers. First, as suggested by someone else, I would research the situation with regards to obtaining new papers. That's the best option. There must be some procedure for issuing new papers (when they are lost etc). If you can get a post box at a post office and get new papers sent there. If none of this is possible then you are back to trying to obtain the originals.

The locked door - many door locks can be picked. You can make a lock pick or a thing called a "bump key" (see google). If you are lucky and it is a common lock you may be able to get one from somewhere to practice on first. I would actually advise this because it is possible to damage the lock (without opening it) which could make them suspicious. So be careful on that.

Alternatively, depending on the lock, it can be possible to wedge a bit of paper or cardboard into the part where the lock bolt fits into - to stop the bolt from locking in securely. This can work. If done properly if will seem like the door secures properly but it can then be opened if tested. Again, this would require some practice to ensure it doesn't fail - but it may be possible. You could read about it online.

The locked bag - Can you take the whole bag with you ? If not, is it padlocked ? Bolt-cutters from the hardware store will cut-through most padlocks - but again practice first. They may require a bit of strength depending on the padlock size. Alternatively, can you just slash the bag open with a knife or similar, take your papers and leave the rest ?

If none of that seems possible now then you are down to "harm minimization" tactics. You are probably doing all this already but anyway..... - Stay away from him and home as much as possible; try to spend as much time at work or at a friend's house as possible; try to identify what things will set him off and avoid doing them; try to do things you enjoy to take your mind away from it, like reading drawing, etc.

It is important to be very clear in your mind that these are his issues and nothing to do with you as a person.

Also try not to view the situation as "a prison" even if it feels like one. Making it "a prison" builds the psychological impression (in your mind) that it can't be escaped. It is not a prison but rather a very difficult and bad situation that you have survived, but ideally you need to leave.

My left field suggestion would be to try to do nice things for him on the basis that it's harder to be mean to someone if they are being nice to you and doing nice things for you.... It may create some psychological conflict in his mind/emotions if he goes to be mean to you but knows you have been kind to him. This may be hard to do and it may not work but I can't seen any risks in trying it.

I hope something in there helps.

Be strategic. Be careful.

Good luck.

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Jimi, your reply is amazing! thank you soo much. I cant sneak in the room because the way the house is built you can hear a pin drop loud and clear. The door to their room has a distinct squeak and a special lock that only works with a key...not really a tech girl so i dont understand the details of their key but it does look different. I will surely try to be nicer and give him zero chance of being angry with me but like I said when he is off I am usually his favorite target...but I am hopeful and I will still give it a try. – user21063 Feb 28 at 18:11
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@user21063 For more about coping see How to Deal with Abusive Parents#Using Coping Skills – wizzwizz4 Feb 28 at 19:09
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If browser history is the only issue at hand, using the Private Browsing mode built into most modern browsers would be far superior to using addons. – March Ho Feb 28 at 22:41
    
@MarchHo - +1 for avoiding addons, CCleaner in particular is an excellent way to break machines. – James Snell Mar 5 at 16:15

Sounds scary.

I would advise you to join the army. The army in Egypt has a two year term of service which will go by in no time - as a woman, administrative and medical jobs are the only available role. If you join as a volunteer, you will get much better treatment than if you were conscripted and you might even become an officer.

Working in this type of environment may help you lose some of your fear of your father and in any case you will not be around him anyway.

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This is an interesting answer. Victims of abuse, in my opinion, wind up with mental programming which makes it difficult to escape fear and further victimization. I believe military training and service often promotes thinking in terms of abilities rather than limitations. – 2NinerRomeo Mar 2 at 16:40

I'm across the border from you in Israel. I happen to know a Beduin girl who was in a very similar situation to you, and she claimed that it is very very common. I lost touch with her when she did the only thing that she could do to leave her father: marry. She married the first man she could, I believe she is his second wife.

I realize that the suggestion to marry might be no less frightening than the proposition of staying with your family. However, you should know that despite what television shows, lots of people are not happy even in Western-style marriages. When faced with multiple bad options, choose the least-bad option.

If you'd like to talk leave your number here. A call from Israel will show on Egyptian phones as an unidentified number, so someone looking at your phone won't know from where the call came (though of course the Mukhabarat would know, if that is a concern for you, but they already know that you posted here).

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This was my idea as well. Seeking marriage is good because it will possibly be endorsed by the father (as opposed to all other ideas); will align with society's and religious norms; therefore can be pursued without any lying, totally (as far as romance goes) in the open; provides you with a protector; and is a permanant way out. My only advice is to listen to your heart which man you approach. There will likely be some future conflict with your father and you want your husband on your side. Feel the vibes; try to find someone who is honest and has a good heart. Good luck. Life is ahead of you. – Peter A. Schneider Mar 3 at 19:36

I know what I am suggesting is extreme, but so is your situation and your fear.

Get out. At least out of the city. You have survived this far, and you DO have the strength to reach out with this question. That shows a lot of determination already.

I am not sure how you can best pull this off, because I don't know what resources you are denied and which ones you have access to, but a quick checklist of things to have:

  • Your passport, plus whatever papers you can get your hands on.
  • As much CASH money as you can get, plus whatever cards you feel your father cannot just block -> Max out whatever cards he CAN block
  • Possibly Maps -> Depends on how and where you can travel.
  • All your heart. You will need it. And yes, if you can get contact with Western help organisations, do so.

Stay strong.

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Hey Lana, Thank you for your reply; it means a lot to me. The problem with getting my papers is that I cant. My father keeps them all in his room which is locked 24/7 and the key is either with him or his wife. They never keep the key in the lock unless there is someone in their room. Even if I did get the key and went in their room I cant get my papers or passport because it is in a bag that is locked with a code and only my dad knows the code. That's why I said 'my life I call a prison' I literally cant do anything without getting permission first. Thank you so much though. – user21063 Feb 28 at 13:21
    
Can you request the new papers in the official organisations? For example, if you "lost" the ID, government have to release a new pack of papers to you. – Help Feb 28 at 14:06
    
Yeah they do and they send it to my dad's house which could trigger something far worse than his anger...I cant even imagine what could happen... – user21063 Feb 28 at 18:02
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Sometimes in life we are forced to pick between the lesser of two evils. Do you have any suitors? Can you marry soon? 21 is fairly typical in Arab countries as I understand it. Option 2: Christian missions exist; they might be able to help with a clandestine escape. Option 3: you could waltz into an Embassy and request asylum. This seems unlikely; a work visa would be easier to obtain, but you would need some ID. Perhaps your father would approve. Millions remain in America after their visas expire. – Stu W Feb 29 at 1:34
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Be very very careful with this advice. Leaving is often the time which is most dangerous to women when leaving an abusive person (usually partner, but this time it's your father). You will need an asylum or shelter, preferably one which specialises in protecting women. – Mooz Mar 1 at 4:45

What your father is doing is wrong. The role of a man in a family is to serve his wife and protect his family. For a man to hit a woman is inexcusable. In the West, we teach this as fact. A man who strikes a woman is beneath contempt.

I know you are religious, but I'm going to go out on a limb. The one organisation I know of who are actively doing work with women and girls in Egypt is the Christian Church. You won't be expected to abandon your religion, but if you can get to an evangelical church I'm pretty certain they will be able to help emotionally and practically, and, if necessary, they will be able to protect you.

If you are religious as you say, you will know that you were made for a purpose. Don't give up. There is a reason for your life that you don't know yet.

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I don't disagree that churches would usually be willing to help, but it might be best to try to get out of Egypt first. Leaving Islam is a crime in many majority-Muslim countries (and the penalties can be quite severe in some cases... I'm not sure where the OP's area of Egypt falls on that spectrum.) – reirab Feb 28 at 22:51
    
@reirab I'm not advocating apostasy necessarily. That is dangerous. Leaving Egypt it's probably not an option though. Where would she go? – superluminary Feb 28 at 23:00
    
@superluminary It seems you are recommending a potentially dangerous course of action. – Citizen Mar 1 at 16:39
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@Citizen - Apostasy would be dangerous. Leaving the father would also be dangerous, unless the OP is protected by a third party. Staying with the father is perhaps even more dangerous. The situation as described does not sound safe from any angle. – superluminary Mar 2 at 7:18

You mentioned you are at University.... and have some English skills (and I gather some computer skills). So that is a great advantage. You already have some employable skills. A completed degree could also help.

Maybe you have to look to finish your degree then line-up a job in a different city and then off you go. Perhaps in this context you could leave with his blessing.

Hopefully you are in your final year of Uni.

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Your situation is a difficult one. But be strong and persevere. Every step you make, do it wisely and carefully after talking to various trusted people. You will definitely need friends, or if not, go to some humanitarian organization (search via web, and you can zoom down easily to places near your place) for help. Seek a few organizations and people simultaneously for help - you never know who will provide the best solution, or some may harber evil intentions. Many people will take advantage of people in need to exploit them - especially for purpose of human trafficking (eg, promising you a place to stay, a job, and then you end up as a prostitute). Always be prepare to call someone for help. Get ready their number - not necessarily it is the police, as many stories (even in US) in youtube have shown - police might be the one exploiting you instead. Nonetheless, the attention you get, the more help will come to you, and more likelihood of genuine help.

Alternatively, instead of finding help yourself, you can always broadcast for help - be it facebook, youtube, or any social media. Provide some means of communicating back to you.

One small step each time is my best advice. Many of the advices given by others (marry off to another person, lock-picking etc) are quite unrealistic and requires great risks to be taken. Many refugees have taken great risks to get into boats they have got no experience, and then either later died in the seastorms due to poor structures of the boat, or due to evil intentions of the boat owner to trick their money.

Religion fanaticism, past cultures/practice, male dominance/chauvinism is really a sad features of certain parts of the human civilisation that never seemed to go away, and going along with the waves seemed the best option at times, until the times when you can be independent enough to step into other human societies which can provide better equitable treatment.

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So you don't like your father... but how much of a talking relationship do you have? If he knows you are miserable, then nobody likes to cause misery. Sometimes such people try to exert authority and fix what they see as a problem. However, he may be willing to just agree to dismiss/disown you. If he does agree to that, then you may not need to flee your home area quite as much. That may be the much less disruptive, and acceptable, solution.

If he won't cooperate, then the Arabic culture may empower him to have significant control over your life. Your best option may be to try getting into a different culture. You appear to have done a good job writing this question in English. You are young enough that you can invest in a different life, and enjoy a lengthy life somewhere else. This may mean leaving all of your possessions and even many relationships. Too often, people trust siblings or other people who may also tell the father. Maybe they don't even tell him everything right away, but sometime say something (or respond to a question in a certain way) that provides some details so he can figure out the threat of your departure.

Be aware of how people can be tracked. For instance, obviously cell phone towers can keep track of where a cell phone is at (which is how a cell phone can receive a phone call). If you need to go into hiding, do some planning.

In America where I live, churches are often involved with helping people escape scary situations. You didn't mention which religion you follow. I suspect Islam due to its popularity in your area. You may find that Christians are quite compassionate, as love is a very important aspect of their religion. It is likely that some resources, which you may be able to find in their churches, may be willing to help, even if you intend to continue being a Muslim. They may also have some experience dealing with living in the Arabic culture, but not embracing some aspects of the culture (such as being predominantly Muslim). That might be helpful if you're trying to leave when the area's culture would suggest doing otherwise.

I won't elaborate further since that very important subject is off-topic, mostly unrelated to the core question that you asked here. It is a very worthy discussion, but a separate discussion.

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Thank you for your reply. I do in fact talk with people who attend churches a lot. I could ask for some help from them...but I am not sure to what extent they are willing to take it. I will give it a try nonetheless. My english is well enough due to reading a lot in my room and learning through online videos...I thought learning a new language could help my situation a bit. – user21063 Feb 28 at 18:15
    
Talking with my father leads to his anger and him feeling frustrated so I try to avoid it as much as possible. I speak only when spoken to and that's it. If there is an opinion on the line, I just agree with the majority and pray it is what he wants to hear. This personality is very prominent in my University presentations...My instructors would always advise me to speak up and say what I think about something and I just refuse or in extreme cases throw up from fear of making the instructor angry...This is literally destroying my life and I am reaching my limit. – user21063 Feb 28 at 18:23
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@TOOGAM "nobody likes to cause misery" Is an incredibly naive statement. Many people do. – Nagora Feb 28 at 18:44
    
In case this helps, I think these ones are trustworthy: ive.org/en/egypt – leonbloy Feb 28 at 19:44
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Hi @user21063 - Jesus explicitly told Christians to help people who are in need. It's pretty much core to the whole thing. If you ask for help, you might be surprised what doors open. In my church, we protect and hide women who are in danger. We shelter people who are without homes. You won't be expected to convert unless you want to. Good luck. – superluminary Feb 28 at 22:43

Are you able to leave your home alone. If so, perhaps you could contact a western aid organisation, and seek advice. If you're able to get out of Egypt, there may be places you could seek asylum, but getting out in the first place could be very difficult and very expensive.

Would there be any way you might be able to get permission to travel out of the country, perhaps on the pretence of going to study in the United States, or Canada, Australia etc?

You would need to be able to convince your father, and the foreign consulate (when you apply for a visa) that you will definitely return.

If you can do this, and can get into a western country, you can claim asylum, and it should not be possible for them to compel you to return home.

If you do this, it may be unsafe to travel to certain Islamic countries again. You would also want to change your name as soon as possible, to prevent your father from tracking you down.

If you cannot get out, don't give up hope. You father obviously is much older than you, so you should not have to wait for your death until you're free.

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i) getting asylum is very far from guaranteed. Especially given the current Syrian refugee crisis. You make it sound as though the OP would only have to ask. ii) What is this about never being able to travel to any "Islamic" country ever again? First of all, what in the world is an "Islamic country"? Assuming you mean states whose official religion is Islam, what makes you think that they have some kind of common register that tracks people who left one of them? Do you have any references to back any of the suggestions you are making? – terdon Feb 28 at 14:29
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@terdon If the father found out where she was travelling. He would simply need to contact the authorities in that country, and have her arrested. No, they wouldn't have a register, but that wouldn't necessarily make it safe. I had a friend in a similar situation. Except she and her mum were able to get out. – user1751825 Feb 28 at 15:29
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The difficulties in applying for asylum would probably start with the question of how much proof of the situation would they require, and how much proof the OP can supply. – vsz Feb 28 at 17:51
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I don't see that she would be eligible for asylum in the first place. She's not afraid of her government, she's afraid of one individual. – Loren Pechtel Feb 28 at 21:31
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@reirab She didn't say anything about trying to leave Islam, though. – Loren Pechtel Feb 29 at 0:24

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