For most Westerners, child brides are an anacronism of the past. They are stories read in newspapers or seen on the news about uncivilized parts of the world.
But for Aynaz Annia Cyrus and millions of women in the Middle East and North Africa, being sold into slavery – called “marriage” in nations such as Iran and in regions controlled by ISIS – is reality. These women are “married” as children to older men. Sometimes, like Cyrus, they try to leave these sham “marriages” and go to safe harbors.
Too often, they fail. Cyrus is one of the lucky ones – she left her “marriage,” she left Islam, and she became a Christian. She is currently a U.S. citizen who is using her voice to bring a message of hope and resilience for those still enslaved as “child brides.”
Most readers of this piece won’t consider Cyrus lucky. Yes, she’s a U.S. citizen, free to oppose the viciousness of ISIS and the Iranian caliphate. But on her journey from a 15-year old child bride to freedom advocate, Cyrus was jailed and raped for rebelling against the injustices she faced every day. Her violent, abusive husband treated her as property, not as an equal.