She was a 15-year-old student at San Antonio’s Taft High School with a soft smile and dark eyes. Like most girls her age in Texas, she favored blue jeans. Unlike most girls her age in Texas, in 2017 she was promised in marriage to a man 10 years her senior, who would pay her parents $20,000 to take her as his wife.
But the Iraqi-born Maarib Al Hishmawi had no intention of marrying so young, least of all to a man so much older and whom she hardly even knew. She refused.
Her parents, who had moved to the United States from their native Iraq two years prior, were furious. They “choked her almost to the point of unconsciousness,” said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar. They beat her with broomsticks. Her mother, 33-year-old Hamdiya Sabah Al Hismawi, threw hot oil on her body.
Maarib escaped, running away from home in January. Claiming they feared she’d been kidnapped, her parents called in local police and the FBI to help track her down. But even from the start, Salazar told CBS News, it was clear to him that “this wasn’t an ordinary missing persons case.” When police found her in an undisclosed location some weeks later, Maarib explained her story. She and her five brothers were taken in by Child Protective Services and her parents immediately taken into custody. Her father blamed Maarib for his arrest.