interview by Tash | photo Atena’s own | oct 27, 2016 |  empowerment

Zahra migrated to Australia with her husband and children in 1997. The restrictions of being in an abusive and controlled marriage limited Zahra from living the full life that she had hoped for. Despite all this, Zahra embraced the opportunities in Australia.

Zahra was a caring mother devoted to her children. She fiercely protected her children from threats and abuse by her husband. In 2009 Zahra took the brave steps to leave the family home with her children and was assisted by the Central Domestic Violence Services. She approached life with this new beginning.

On 21st of March 2010 Zahra was attending the Persian New Year function at the Adelaide Convention Centre, to celebrate this cultural event and her 44th birthday. The celebration was cut short when her husband took her life in front of 300 witnesses.

Atena Abrahimzadeh, daughter of Zahra narrates to us the atrocities of living in an abusive relationship and shares a strong message through the interview to all women and children to stand up and fight for your Rights. The Zahra foundation has been set up to help women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

If you would like to know more information about Zahra Foundation Australia, please don’t hesitate to contact them

www.zahrafoundation.org.au

What was the earliest age you remember your father abusing your Mum?

For as long as I remember, my father was physically and verbally abusive toward Mum. It’s what I grew up with.

Did the abuse also extend to you and your siblings?

Yes. He was abusive toward my siblings – but more so toward Mum and I.

Did you have much support growing up? 

We didn’t talk about the abuse with anyone.  It was something we grew up around and was normal for our family.  My father’s family knew about his temper and his abusive attitude toward mum and the children but didn’t speak to him about it.

Can you explain the process that came about starting the foundation? 

As children who lived through and experienced domestic violence, we knew well there were gaps in the system to support women who left their abusive relationship.  As a result, we decided to establish a service that would support women in the long run.

What is your mother’s legacy? 

Love, strength and hope.  She was a brave woman who sacrificed so much for the safety of her children.  Zahra was a mother with so much hope for a bright future for her children.

Can you please tell us from the children’s side what life was like with your father? 

We were not close to my father, he had created an invisible wall of fear between us and himself.  As my brother and I grew older, we grew further apart from our father.

He controlled our lives, and if we didn’t do as he pleased he would express his disappointment. At times this was physical or verbal abuse. He was particularly strict with me, being the eldest child and a girl I was treated differently to Arman and Anita.

How has life changed for you all now? 

A big hole has been in our lives since mum’s death.  We suffered and endured a lot of pain after losing her.

Life is different; our story is publicised and known to many in South Australia because mum’s death was so public.  However, we’ve used our experience to be a voice for the women and children who have and are experiencing domestic violence.

Despite all, we’re trying to live life to the full.  Mum was a happy and positive person and we want to live our lives how she would have wanted us to live.

Have any of you had contact with your father? 

No.

Can you please explain to all our readers what your foundation is about.

The Zahra Foundation Australia has been established to help women who have left their abusive relationships and are in care of a domestic violence service.  The ultimate goal of the foundation is to economically empower women through specifically developed programs and direct them toward

further training and education so they can gain employment. Women who are financially independent are less likely to return to their abusive relationship.  This foundation is designed to give hope to women who have left their family home in search for a better future for themselves and their children.

Can you give us some warning signs to look out for of someone abusing a friend or relative.

I am not the best person to answer this question, best to leave it to experts and professionals.

Do you think the laws are good enough to help and protect those living with Domestic Violence?

Recently, authorities have paid more attention to this issue and as a result we are seeing changes in the system. However, it is an area that requires continuous attention.

What can the public do to help?

It all starts by acknowledging that the issue of domestic violence exists amongst our society. As a society we have the power to advocate for the women and children who are affected by domestic violence and can’t speak for themselves.  I need to add that in recent times Australians have paid attention to this issue and campaigners (Australian of the year 2015)  like Rosie Barry have made a huge difference in raising awareness around the issue of domestic/family violence.

What laws would you change or want brought into Australia?

I am not the right person to answer this question, another one for the experts.

If someone who is reading this is living with a abusive partner what would you like to say to them? 

You are not alone.  There are services that can help and support when you are ready to leave the abusive relationship, but only you know when the time is right.  Talk to a family member or a friend you trust about the issue and have a plan.  It won’t be an easy and smooth ride when you leave the relationship but it’s a step closer toward safety and freedom.

Is there anything else you would like people to know?  

People should not judge women who live in abusive relationships.  Leaving a home behind that a woman has built with her partner is not easy.  It takes a lot of courage and bravery to take that first step.  There are many risks involved when a woman decides to leave her home.  Instead of judging, support these women.

What are your feelings towards your father now? Have you forgiven him?

I prefer not to answer this question.

Where do you find your strength? Who has been your biggest supporter?

My Mum and my siblings have been my strength.  I live my life for mum; she is the reason why I no longer live with abuse and fear at home.  I am and will forever be grateful to her.

My biggest supporters are my siblings, Arman and Anita.  We have been through a lot over the last few years and experienced many ups and downs, but we’ll always be united, as mum wanted us to be. After all, we only have each other.