The Current

Shot in the face by her husband in Afghanistan, former teen bride starts anew in Canada

Shakila Zareen has spent years trying to put her life back together after a violent attack in Afghanistan, but now Canada has offered her hope.
Shakila Zareen at her home in the Vancouver area, B.C., on March 21, 2018. She was forced into marriage at 17 to a man she didn't know. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

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When Shakila Zareen heard footsteps outside her mother's house one night in 2012, she peered into the dark to try to see who was there.

She heard the voices of her husband, her brother-in-law and some other men.

Suddenly, she saw a hunter's rifle pointed at her.

"There's no way that they could be this ruthless," she remembers thinking.

Then everything went black.

LAURA LYNCH: And so you went home to your mother's and then your husband showed up. If you don't mind, tell me what happened.

SHAKILA ZAREENRight after the police station that night, I went to my mom's.

I remember I was in the house. I was sitting on the ground and my mum was praying. My sister was in the kitchen. And I could hear footsteps at the door. I could hear my husband and my brother-in-law and some other men — I don't know who they were. My eyes were trying to adjust to see who was there, but I could see a hunter's rifle pointed at me and I remember thinking to myself: 'There's no way that they could be this ruthless.'

But I got very scared and said: 'Please God, don't let them hurt me.' And then that's all, that's all I remember.

It went black.

I thought that I was dreaming. I just remember begging my mom to wake me because I was in so much pain and I wanted the dream to be over.

LAURA LYNCHWas it in fact your husband who shot you in your face?

SHAKILA ZAREEN: Yes, yes, it was.

LAURA LYNCHYou survived and then the Indian government flew you to New Delhi for a series of reconstructive surgeries. Tell me what that was like for you — to go to New Delhi and to be helped?

SHAKILA ZAREENI actually found out over the radio that I was being taken to India, and it gave me hope for a new life and hope for a future.

LAURA LYNCH: Shakila, do you mind describing for me what the injuries were that you suffered?

SHAKILA ZAREEN: The bullet that hit my face basically took half of my face off, and it was gone — the entire half of my face. My nose, my eye, my mouth, my teeth, my jaw.

Zareen's brother-in-law had forced her into marriage to a man she didn't know when she was 17.

Her new husband abused and raped her, she alleges, but when she reported it to the police in her home city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, they shrugged it off.

That same day, she says, her husband and brother-in-law shot her in the face.

Both men deny the attack.

Now 23, Zareen lives in Canada after a tumultuous journey that took her through surgery in India, and dashed hopes of a new life in the United States.

She tells her story for the first time to The Current's guest host Laura Lynch. Listen to the full interview at the top of this page.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Samira Mohyeddin and Karin Marley.