Ayesha Sayed was in the middle of a bachelor’s degree programme when her family received a marriage proposal for her.

Sayed worried that her studies would be disrupted. Her education had already been halted a few years earlier, after graduating from Class 12, because her family faced financial constraints. She had then worked at a call centre to support her family – it was only four years later that she could sign up for a bachelor of arts programme in sociology, economics and history at a college in Udupi.

So, when the marriage proposal arrived, Sayed accepted only after extracting a promise from the groom’s family that she would be allowed to continue studying afterwards. She graduated in 2019.

She then decided to pursue her dream of studying law. From a young age, Sayed said, she had had a special interest in the Indian Constitution and had dreamt of one day practising law in the Supreme Court.

When she decided to apply for her law programme in 2021, she had to sit her in-laws down and convince them to allow her to take up the course. The nearest college was an hour away. By this time, she also had a young child, aged three, to look after, so the logistics were not going to be easy.

But she persuaded them, and found a neighbour to babysit the child. Her classes started in January 2022. Every morning, Sayed would leave her child in the neighbour’s care and take a bus to her new college. Despite the long travel hours, she managed to study and look after her child and her home.

She found her studies thrilling. But that wasn’t all she enjoyed – Sayed was also a sportsperson. She showed me a video on her phone of herself in the college sports field with a javelin in her hand.

But the happiness she felt on her return to academics was short-lived. In early January, protests broke out in parts of Karnataka, beginning in Udupi, against a long-accepted practice of allowing Muslim women students to wear their hijabs, or headscarves, to college. While most colleges prescribed uniforms, their administrations typically accepted that the headscarves were an integral part of Muslim students’ identity and religious practice, and did not object to them.

In late December, the Government Pre-University College, in Udupi, prohibited Muslim students from wearing hijabs inside the classroom. Six students protested this move. The administration refused to change its new rule, leading to further protests from Muslim students. Subsequently, in January, hundreds of Hindu students arrived at their colleges with saffron scarves around their necks, demanding that students with hijabs be denied entry into campuses. They argued that hijabs violated their institutions’ rules on uniforms.

Some other colleges, too, decided to ban students from wearing the headscarves. In the following days, several videos emerged of Muslim female students being stopped at college gates, being forced to remove their burkas and hijabs outside, being harassed by teachers and right-wing student groups, and in some cases, being sent home if they refused to take off the headscarves.

On February 5, the Karnataka government issued an order stating that colleges should adhere strictly to uniform rules, and that no exceptions would be made for hijabs.

Several Muslim organisations and students filed petitions against this order. On February 10, a little over a month after Sayed had started her course, the Karnataka High Court issued an interim order restraining students from wearing “saffron shawls, scarves, hijabs, religious flags or the like inside the classrooms”.

The order left many in shock and disbelief. Muslims already enjoyed relatively low access to education – according to the All India Survey on Higher Education, 2017-’18, the enrollment of Muslims in higher education is the lowest among all disadvantages groups, including Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. Now, faced with the threat of being barred from their colleges, some students were forced to remove their hijabs to continue their studies. Some shifted to colleges that did not impose a ban on the scarves, most run by Muslim organisations, while some dropped out of college.

When the protests had started, Sayed, who was the only student in her class who wore a hijab, hadn’t been too worried. She felt sure that her college would not be affected by the problem.

She was partially right. Her college administration did not impose a ban on hijabs after the high court’s interim order.

But things changed in March, when the Karnataka High Court delivered a verdict in the matter, upholding the rights of colleges to prohibit students from wearing hijabs – a slew of colleges across the state began to enforce bans on hijabs, in what broadly began to be referred to as the “hijab ban.” The court stated, “Petitioners have miserably failed to meet the threshold requirement of pleadings and proof as to wearing hijab is an inviolable religious practice in Islam and much less a part of ‘essential religious practice’.”

The court also claimed that the prescription of dress codes would be a “step in the direction of emancipation”. The judgement read, “It hardly needs to be stated that this does not rob off the autonomy of women or their right to education inasmuch as they can wear any apparel of their choice outside the classroom.” The petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court — in October 2022, a two-judge bench delivered a split verdict, following which the matter was referred to the Chief Justice of India. Effectively, from the time of the high court verdict, to the present, when petitioners await the constitution of a new bench to hear the matter, the hijab ban has effectively remained in place.

Following the high court verdict, the college authorities told Sayed that she would be allowed into class only if she removed her hijab. “I tried to convince them several times,” she said. “But they just would not listen.”

Sayed persuaded her in-laws to let her study law even after she had a son. But soon after she began her course, many colleges, including hers, barred women from attending in hijabs. Photo: Johanna Deeksha

A few weeks later, Sayed was back at home, doing household chores and taking care of her son. It had already been a struggle to convince her in-laws to allow her to go out to pursue an education; she did not feel up to the challenge of persuading them to let her study without a hijab.

For that matter, it wasn’t even a battle she believed in. “Every woman from every kind of background should be allowed to study,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether she is wearing a bikini or is clothed from head to toe. Everyone deserves access to education.”

But Sayed is angry that she had been robbed of her dream. “I am not meant to be stuck inside these four walls,” she said, glancing around at the bright yellow walls of her bedroom, as she cradled her four-year-old son in her arms.

“There must have been a reason why my mother gave birth to me, right?” she added. “It couldn’t have been to just slog it out in the kitchen and scrub the bathrooms.”

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While Muslims across India have long had low access to education, those in Karnataka have struggled particularly hard for it. A government survey released in 2013 found that of all states, Karnataka had the highest dropout rate of Muslim school students between classes 1 and 8, at 6.3%. The survey also found that among all the Muslim students in India in the upper primary stage who dropped out of school that year, 73.9% were from Karnataka.

The hijab ban sharply exacerbated the difficulties of women students – responses to RTI queries in June 2022 showed that in the aftermath of the ban, 145 out of 900 Muslim women students in colleges affiliated to Mangalore University in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts had collected transfer certificates from their colleges, suggesting at the very least that their education had been disrupted, if not completely stopped. A recent report on admission at the pre-university level for the 2022-’23 year found that enrolment of Muslim students in government institutions at this level had halved, while enrolment of Muslim students in private institutions had risen by about 40%.

“What pains me the most is that it is only recently that young Muslim women have started to get an education,” said Humaira Karkala, who has worked as an activist in Karnataka for over 20 years. She recalled that throughout her career, she had knocked on the doors of Muslim households to persuade families to allow their daughters to obtain a formal education.

“They would ask us how to send their children, especially those who have hit puberty, out on the streets,” she said. “But we convinced them that their daughters could wear the hijab and go to class, at least until they are of marriageable age.”

She added, “The daughters from these very same families called me up in tears after their colleges banned the hijab and asked me what they are supposed to do now.”

It was only in the last couple of decades that the numbers of Muslim women students had increased significantly, Karkala noted. And just as they did, “the government shut out these avenues for them to become career women”, she said.

Humaira Karkala, who has worked as an activist in Karnataka for over 20 years, said that years of effort to persuade Muslim families to let women study have been undone by the hijab ban. Photo: Johanna Deeksha

Unlike Sayed who had just started her degree in January 2022, 21-year-old Gulnaz Ali, the fifth of eight siblings, was on the brink of completing her BSc degree at the time.

Ali had been a strong student throughout her school years. (Other than Sayed, all the other students referred to in the story asked to be identified by pseudonyms, fearing repercussions if their identities were revealed.) In both her Class 10 board exams and her pre-university board exams, Ali passed with distinction.

Her academic rigour did not stop her from participating in extracurricular activities. She signed up for elocution competitions both in English and Kannada, as well as essay writing contests, and also did art in her spare time. “I enjoyed all activities,” she said when I spoke to her in December.

Ali started her bachelor of science course in 2019, studying physics, chemistry and mathematics at a government institute in Mangaluru. A few months later, the Covid-19 pandemic brought normal life to a standstill. Like millions of students across the world, she adapted to the unprecedented situation, and continued her studies online. She remained a determined student, and made sure she cleared all her exams with strong scores.

When the high court issued its verdict in March, Ali’s fifth semester had just started. But the protests had not reached the gates of her campus yet. Her college did not impose any new rules and continued as it had for decades, allowing students to wear their hijabs to class. “But we were told by the college administration that since there will be external supervisors for the exams, they could demand that we remove our hijabs,” Ali recalled. But no such demands were made. The students wrote their fifth semester exams without incident.

Now, Ali had only a few months to complete her degree, after which she would become the first science graduate in her family.

During their fifth-semester vacation break in August, however, Ali received a message on her phone from the college stating that Muslim students would not be allowed to wear hijabs to college anymore. “It was not even an official announcement,” Ali said. “We just got a text saying we would not be allowed into the campus with the hijab on.” Ali was taken aback. “We were all very confused by this sudden change in the attitude of the administration,” she said. Ali added that during a press interaction in August, her college’s principal had admitted that the administration had received a letter from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad – a student group that is a sister organisation to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – demanding that the college ban hijabs from the campus.

On the first day of their sixth semester in August, Ali and 22 other Muslim girls from the college gathered up their courage and turned up to their college wearing their hijabs.

The students were denied entry into the classrooms. “There were two policemen on campus too, because I guess the administration anticipated that we would come with hijabs despite the WhatsApp message,” Ali said.

They marched up to the vice-chancellor’s office, with letters in their hands, demanding to be allowed to attend class. Ali said her college prospectus mentioned that students were allowed to wear hijabs to class. “The vice-chancellor said that they could not do anything about it because it was a government rule,” she said. “But anticipating that answer, we showed him the copy of the verdict we carried in our hands, and said that that was not what the government had said.” Ali pointed out that the verdict did not mandate that colleges stop students from wearing the hijab, but rather allowed colleges to create such rules, or retain them if they had already been made. The matter was at the discretion of each college, the students argued. “Nowhere did the judges say that institutions should impose this rule,” she said. “But still, the vice chancellor said it was out of his hands.”

Ali and her peers even met with the deputy commissioner of police of the district and demanded that they be allowed to attend classes. “He told us to take it up with the vice-chancellor,” she said. For the next couple of weeks, the students were sent from one authority to the other, none of whom helped them. “This went on for the whole month of August,” she said.

During this time, the students tried to negotiate with their teachers. “I told them I would sit outside the class and only listen in, but they refused,” she said. “Then we asked if we could sit in the verandah, which they refused again.” Finally, the students asked if they could at least sit in the library and study. “Initially, we sat there, then a few days later, they threw us out,” she said. She added that this happened “after ABVP members in our college protested against our presence on campus.”

When the protests grew worse in the following weeks, Ali said the administration barred the students from even entering the campus with their hijabs.

With only three months left to finish her degree, Ali begged the administration to allow the students to continue studying on the campus with their hijabs on until they finished their semester. “We were so close to finishing,” she said. “They could have easily just made an exception for us for those few months.” But the women were asked to transfer to another college if they wanted to continue wearing their hijabs.

The controversy over women students’ right to wear the hijab erupted in December 2021 after a college in Udupi, prohibited Muslim students from wearing their hijabs inside the classroom. Photo: PTI

“Even the transfer process was not easy,” Ali said. “They wanted to make even that a hurdle-filled path for us.” She explained that it took two months of relentlessly pursuing the matter in the college before, she was given her transfer certificate – now, she will have restart the year in the new college.

She said she was the only student among her group of female Muslim students to have obtained a transfer to the same course that she had been studying. Others “had to join a completely different stream”. she said.

Ali is scheduled to begin classes in her new college in April, a whole year after she was meant to graduate. But she needs to save Rs 20,000 for her fees. So these days, Ali leaves her home at 9 am, rides a bus for over an hour and then works as a part-time teacher in a small school in Mangaluru. On holidays and other occasions, she works as a mehendi artist at weddings – the first time I contacted her, she mistakenly sent me a set of photos from a wedding she had been attending. “All my friends are already doing their Masters,” she said. “But I’m just stuck.”

For the twin sisters Faria and Faiza Mohammed, the high court’s verdict was particularly bitter because, as law students, they had the training to recognise what they saw as glaring flaws in it. “At no point did the verdict direct institutions to implement a hijab ban,” Faria said. “It only said institutions would be allowed to do so if they wished to.”

The 23-year-olds were law students at a private college in Mangaluru when the protests started in early 2022. They, along with two other relatives, Ayesha and Aliya, all studied in the same college. While Ayesha was in her third year, the other three were all in their final year, with only a few months to go before they graduated as lawyers.

When they started their course in 2017, they fell in love with the subject instantly. They also thoroughly enjoyed the free atmosphere of their college. “Not even in our wildest dreams did we think the college would turn on us like this,” Faria said.

But after the high court delivered its verdict in March, these four students, along with a few other hijab-wearing Muslim students, were asked to assemble separately in one room. A few teachers and the principal were present in the room. The principal told the students that they would no longer be allowed to wear their hijabs. “We were given two options – either remove the hijab or leave college,” Faria said. “Imagine, those were our two options at the end of an almost five-year-long law degree course.”

The students pleaded with the administration to reconsider the decision. Like Ali’s friends, they argued that the court did not direct institutions to enforce any such rules, and that it had left the matter to the discretion of college administrations. “But our principal said that there were different ways to interpret the verdict and what he had taken away from it was that there was a ‘no-hijab’ rule on campus,” Faria said.

The next day, the students arrived in college in hijabs again. They were desperate – their exams were to begin in March, only a few weeks later. “We had ensured that we did not have a single arrear all through our course,” Faiza said. “We were not going to start having arrears in the ninth semester!” When all the pleading failed, the students began to ask their teachers and the principal to at least let them write the exams, even if they would not be permitted to attend classes.

“These were teachers who had taught us for four-and-a-half years,” Faiza said, “They knew us and knew how much studying meant to us. But nobody offered to help us.”

There was only one teacher, she said, who was an exception. “She broke down when she saw us looking so petrified and scared that we would not be allowed to write our exams,” Faiza said. “So she went and spoke to the principal, asking him to just let us do the exams.” But the administration did not reconsider its decision.

In fact, the students said, the college even misled them into thinking it could provide them with a compromise. “They said they would allow us to write the exams in a room only filled with female students,” if the women agreed to take off their hijabs, Faiza said. The students did not think this was fair solution, but agreed. But when they were taken to the room on the day of the exam, they found that half the students in it were male. “We left,” Faria said.

Some teachers sought to play down the student’s despair. Faria recounted that they said “we were just doing natak”, or melodrama, “and that it wasn’t such a big deal that we were being asked to remove our hijabs”.

But the sisters saw the headscarf, which they had been wearing for 12 years, as important to them. “If a certain section of people were just suddenly asked to remove one of their main pieces of clothing, would that be fair?” Faria asked. “Our hijabs are a part of our clothing. It is humiliating to be asked to remove it.”

Still, she added, there were students who removed their hijabs and wrote their papers, some of them with tears flowing down their cheeks.

Ayesha was among them – worried that she would have to give up on her dream of being a lawyer, she decided to attend one exam without her hijab. She was acutely aware that people around her, who had known her for four years, were staring at her, since they had never seen her without her hijab. “For three hours people kept looking at me,” Ayesha said, her eyes welling up.

The twins explained that there was one exam that they had to complete that year, and could not carry over to the next year. The students took their parents to the college to request the administration to make an exception for them and allow them to wear their hijabs for the exam. “But our parents were treated so badly,” Faria said.

Finally, the administration offered them a harsh compromise. The hijab-wearing students were summoned to a meeting, and told that they could write their exams with their hijabs – on the condition that immediately after, they would procure transfer certificates from the college and leave. “They had these forms with the conditions written on it, and asked us to sign the form giving our consent to this arrangement,” Faria said. “We were not allowed any time to think, or to consult anybody, not even our parents, or even leave the room, or call our friends, or even take a picture of the form.”

They were left with no choice. “They just trapped us there with no other option,” Faria said.

Ayesha recounted that the students were confused and did not know what to do. One student attempted to offer the teachers alternatives to the hijab. “She kept asking if she could use a cap or something else to cover her head,” she said. “She was trying so hard to convince them.” But the administration did not budge.

Ayesha said she walked up to the student and hugged her to try and comfort her. Then, the students signed the documents. “And we all had to sign as witnesses for each other,” Ayesha added, with tears in her eyes. “So I signed for her.”

The transfer was far from easy for the students. Despite a frantic search, they did not find any law colleges in Mangaluru that would admit them. Finally, a cousin studying in a college in Bengaluru, managed by Muslims, contacted them to say that the college was willing to accept transfer students in the new semester. “In the afternoon we got the news, and by night we were on a bus to Bengaluru,” Faria said.

In the middle of the academic year, the students had to uproot themselves and restart their lives in a new, unfamiliar city. The twins and Ayesha found an apartment with two other students – the twins oversaw all the cooking.

To complete their law degree, the twins Faria and Faiza Mohammed moved from Mangaluru to Bengaluru along with a cousin and two others, after their college enforced a hijab ban. Photo: Johanna Deeksha

The shift also impacted their training. In their previous college, all their practical work had been scheduled for the final year. This was the crucial period when the students would gain real-world experience of the legal profession. But in the new college, the practical module of the course had already concluded. “We completely missed that phase,” said Faiza.

The students were also under considerable stress because their formal transfer from the university with which their previous college was affiliated did not come for almost the entire year – the transfers finally arrived just in time for the graduation ceremony. “Until the very end we were so paranoid that five years of our lives would just go to waste if the transfer did not come through,” Ayesha said.

The three students are now back in Mangaluru and are planning their next steps. But they fear that the disadvantages they have had to battle because of their hijabs will not end with their education. The twins recalled that just a few days after the hijab controversy broke out, they were required to go to court for their practical work. They were in for a shock when they tried to enter the premises.

“The security stopped us and asked if we had permission to enter the court premises with our hijabs,” Faria said. “The court! Since when did it become a rule in the court?” All their friends were already inside, and the students were forced to wait outside for someone to help them get past the security. “After that happened we knew that things for us were going to change drastically,” she said.

The women said that they had felt as if Mangaluru changed overnight after the hijab controversy.

“I’m quite an outgoing person, but I think twice before I step out,” Faria said. “Often I just convince myself that it is better to stay indoors.” The students felt that people’s attitudes towards them had changed. “People are rude to us,” Faiza said. “There is a lot of hostility.” This included friends in college they had known for four years, Faria noted.

This impression is borne out by a People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ interim report released in September 2022. The report noted that after the high court verdict, “the entire Muslim community is living in a state of panic and fear, unable to understand what this situation will lead to, how the court verdict on hijab will aggravate the climate of hostility and hatred that the community has been facing for quite some time in Karnataka”.

The surveyors who worked on the report found numerous instances of Muslim students being targeted with harassment and discrimination in the form of “social boycotts, threats (including rape) and other prohibitions”. They were also subjected to “intrusive surveillance and, are being ‘outed’ in social media,” the report stated. “For Muslim women students, the loss of contact and friendships with fellow students from other communities has engendered a deep sense of isolation and depression.” A more recent report by the organisation, released this month, stated, “Many students added that they were overwhelmed by the barrage of lewd behaviour and sexual harassment against them from anonymous men in the form of text messages.” It also noted, “Social media platforms by their intrusion into the women’s online accounts effectively served as a second public space for the humiliation of Muslim women even when they were in their own homes.”

This change in the atmosphere is also influencing women’s career choices. “Both of us need to do internships, but we want to look for female Muslim advocates to train under,” she said. “I don’t think we will be able to find secular chambers to work in.” Before the controversy, the twins had dreamt of arguing in court – but now, they are considering office jobs so that they won’t have to frequent the court, where they fear they will face hostility. “For civil cases, most of the work happens in the office,” she said. “So that has become an option now.”

While the twins and one relative, Ayesha, fought through these adversities to graduate, their other relative, Aliyah, dropped out midway – unlike them, she had fought this battle once already. A few years ago, when Aliyah was a pharmacy student in the second year of her degree programme in Mangaluru, anti-hijab protests had broken out in the city. Her college decided to impose a ban on the headscarf soon after. Aliya was forced to drop out. One year later, she enrolled at the same law college as the twins, only to then find herself confronted with the same problem.

“I think because it was the first time it was happening to us, we were able to gather the strength to fight it and move ahead,” Fazia said. “For her, it became very overwhelming to fight it again.”

The sisters also worry about younger students. “Our younger sister is now looking for colleges and we realised that the options we had just a few years ago were so many,” Fazia said. “But for my sister, there are barely any options because most colleges don’t allow hijabs anymore. How is that fair for the younger generation of Muslim women?”

Some students, like Shaima M, a 21-year-old fashion technology student from Udupi, gave in to the pressure of the hijab ban. “I just wore the scarf loosely around my head, revealing a bit of my hair when anyone was looking,” she said. “When no one was looking, I would cover my entire head fully.”

She explained that some of her peers found some comfort in the face masks that became mandatory during certain periods of the pandemic.

“Somehow, we would hide our faces and keep our scarves wrapped around our head loosely,” she said. Still, she explained, some of her teachers in her college were not happy. “They demanded that we remove the masks,” she said. “Imagine, asking us to remove something that is used as a prevention against Covid?”

Karkala noted that the inconsistencies in rules and their enforcement suggested a kind of hypocrisy on the part of institutions. She noted, for instance, that she knew of no engineering colleges that had introduced rules barring students from wearing hijabs. In some colleges, like Shaima’s, with students from different disciplines, engineering students were not stopped from wearing hijabs, but BA students like herself on the same campus were banned from wearing them. “Wherever the fees are high and students are likely to pay at least a few lakhs per year, they are not under any pressure to give up the hijab,” Karkala said. “These educational institutions don’t want to lose any money in the process of imposing such rules.”

However, she noted, there were some private arts, science and commerce colleges that refused to give into any pressure. “They continued to invite their students with open arms and refused to give in to any political pressure or pressure from right-wing student groups,” she said.

She cited the example of one college which had left its gates half open while the controversy was raging – Muslim students stood outside the gates, unsure what to do. “They were worried that it was an attempt to prevent them from coming in,” Karkala said. “Then their principal called them in and said that he was only trying to keep out protestors and that the Muslim students were welcome as usual.”

This was a rare instance of a college without a Muslim management standing up for its students. Elsewhere, many students were forced to shift to Muslim management institutions after their colleges implemented bans on hijabs. “Hostels have filled up quickly and applications have increased drastically,” Humeira said. “I’ve heard some colleges are not able to accommodate as many male students as they previously did because of the large number of female applicants.”

Muslim organisations have taken some measures to meet the increased demand from Muslim students. On November 29, the Karnataka Waqf Board, a government body tasked with the proper administration of waqf, or official charitable donations under Islamic law, announced that it was planning to establish self-funded schools and colleges in the state where students will be allowed to wear hijabs. It was stated that this would include ten colleges for female students. But on December 1, CM Basavaraj Bommai stated that he had not approved of such a plan.

Even if more such institutions are established, some students worry that at them, they will have less opportunity to interact with a diverse student body. Nazriya Salim, a 19-year-old student from Udupi, had studied in Muslim institutions for most of her life. So when it came to choosing a college for her undergraduate course, she wanted to go to a mainstream institution. “I wanted to have the chance to interact with people from different backgrounds,” she said. “I wanted the chance to explore another kind of atmosphere.” Now, after being forced to drop out of college after the hijab ban, she is not enthusiastic about returning to a Muslim institution.

Nazriya Salim, a student from Udupi, said that she had been enthusiastic about studying in a mainstream institution so that she would access to a more diverse range of students. Photo: Johanna Deeksha

Salim, the oldest of four children, grew interested in psychology in the last few years after reading news stories about young children addicted to online games like PUBG. Her mother, who is uneducated, was excited about her daughter stepping into college.

Salim was in her first year of college when the controversy broke out. Before she joined college, her mother had made enquiries about whether the hijab would be permitted on campus. “They said that it would not be an issue at all,” her mother said. A neighbour, who was present for my conversation with Salim’s mother, added that her own daughter had studied in the same college a few years earlier, and had not faced any problems. “Many Muslim students have not stepped out of their homes without their hijabs for 10-15 years and to suddenly make this demand of them is unjustified,” Salim’s mother said.

When the parents approached the administration and asked them to reconsider the hijab ban, Salim’s mother recounted, they were spoken to very rudely. “They refused to hear our side,” she said. “They talked to us in a very insulting tone, and scolded us too.”

Salim explained that after the ban, “teachers said that they would give us attendance but that we would not be allowed to sit in class.” She added, “The boys also started to rag us about our hijabs when we walked on campus, but nobody took any action against them.”

Like the twins, Salim, too, said she noticed a dramatic change in the streets of her city during and after the controversy. She recounted that recently, she heard someone on a street yell out “terrorist” at her.

Salim’s mother rued the fact that her hopes for her daughter had been crushed. “I did not have the opportunity to go to school or college,” she said. “It was a dream to make my daughter independent and give her those opportunities. Now they’ve been taken away from her too.”

This reporting is made possible with support from Report for the World, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.