Published: Less than 20 min ago
1 of 3 Photo: Adam Ihse/ TT
Hanna Saadi thought she was going to Lebanon to visit her grandmother. Instead, she was met with congratulations – and her new fiancé. At the age of 18, she was married off against her will.
– In that moment, everything collapsed for me, she says.
When Hanna Saadi returned to school after the summer of 1999, on the first day of her senior year of high school, she had a wedding ring on her finger and a lump in her stomach. She felt like a different person than the one who went on summer vacation a couple of months earlier.
She describes growing up, in a townhouse area in Kärra in Gothenburg, as safe.
– I had many friends, I was out, I went to parties. We never discussed at home that “when you turn 18, you should get married”, says Hanna Saadi.
During the summer holidays, the family would visit relatives in Lebanon. Grandma was sick, Hanna Saadi was told. At the airport, large parts of the family met up – and all attention was directed at her.
– Everyone congratulated the marriage. I didn’t understand anything and tried to meet my mother’s eyes, but she turned away, says Hanna Saadi.
She describes it as losing her footing when she realized what was about to happen.
Had taken the passport
She was 18 years old and was going to marry off her cousin who was a few years older, so that he could come back to Sweden with her. Hanna Saadi’s father had taken her passport and she felt completely powerless.
– It felt like they sold me. That I wasn’t worth anything, that I wasn’t their child. I looked at my parents at the airport and they felt like strangers, she says.
– I tried to talk to my female relatives but in their world it was a matter of course. They live in that context of culture and honor, she says.
Livlina became the big sister.
– She said “we’ll ride this out”. We play the game because this is not our home ground, and we will solve it when you come back to Sweden.
So Hanna Saadi got married. When the husband came to Sweden six months later, they had separate bedrooms and did not live together, but her life had changed.
– I suddenly got stricter rules at home. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my friends, wasn’t allowed to go out like before. It took the last air out of me, she says.
Barely a year later, Hanna Saadi called the police, and a short time later the cousin was deported to Lebanon. But it caused major conflicts within the family. Blame and shame were placed on Hanna Saadi, who felt increasingly worse.
At 30, she wanted to end her life.
Want to highlight the problem
But the suicide attempt was canceled at the last second and Hanna Saadi was admitted to the psychiatric ward.
– Then it was like I got a second chance and the journey to build myself up, get help and go to therapy began, she says.
Today, Hanna Saadi is 41 years old and has repaired the relationship with her parents. But the road there was long and required a lot from both sides.
– Today, I have more understanding of what my parents went through, their conditions and knowledge at the time. They have really fought to rebuild our relationship, she says.
Alongside her studies at the University of Gothenburg, Hanna Saadi runs her own company and has lectured on her history.
– I want to highlight the consequences of a culture of honor. Not everything is negative, our traditions and cultures carry warmth and love, but there are things that need to change, says Hanna Saadi.
– Those who are going through this should not feel alone, because it is loneliness that gives hopelessness. And dare to get help! There is much more help available today than there was in my day.
Age: 41 years
Lives: Partille outside Gothenburg
Family: Two twin daughters, 1.5 years old
What: Studies sports science at the University of Gothenburg and runs his own business as a mental advisor for elite athletes