Police know that all it takes for a child to go missing is for a parent, no matter how loving or diligent, to turn their back for a single second.
So when police in Texas received a call from local parents who claimed their daughter had gone missing and begged them to help find her and bring her home, they wasted no time trying to find her and bring her home safe and sound. However, they realized the couple wasn’t telling the whole truth when they started hearing some suspicious rumors about the family…
The 911 Call
On January 30, 2018, a couple living in San Antonio, Texas, contacted the police and frantically explained that their oldest daughter, 16-year-old Maarib Al Hishmawi, had suddenly vanished without a trace and begged the police to help them find her.
According to 34-year-old Abdulah Fahmi Al Hishmawi and his wife, 33-year-old Hamdiyah Sabah Al Hishmawi, their daughter went to her San Antonio high school on the morning of January 30 like she did every other school day. But this time, she didn’t come home…
The Worried Parents
Hishmawi told the police that it wasn’t like his daughter to do anything without telling him and his wife. The 34-year-old father of 6 told police there was no way Maarib would run away and believed something must have happened to her after she left her school that afternoon.
The Investigation Begins
After a missing person report was filled out for the 16-year-old girl, Police officers from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office promised they would do everything in their power to find her and get to the bottom of what happened on the afternoon of January 30…
Spreading The Word
With the police working on the case, Hishmawi reached out to local news stations to help him spread the word about his daughter’s disappearance in the hopes that someone who may have seen her could contact the police and help with the investigation.
Begging For Help
“Please help me,” Hishmawi said. “Every time we go into her room, we cry.” However, as investigators looked into the missing person case, they discovered some new information that made them believe this wasn’t just a simple case of a missing child…
A Strange Case
“It became pretty obvious very early on that this wasn’t a regular missing person’s case,” said Sheriff Javier Salazar from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. The more detectives dug, the more they started to believe that Maarib wasn’t really missing.
Instead, police started to suspect that the 16-year-old had run away from home. “We began hearing reports of ongoing abuse involving this young lady, possibly reports of an arranged marriage, and we believe that that may have been the precursor that prompted this young lady to leave her home,” said Sheriff Salazar…
When confronted about the rumors that they were abusing their daughter, Hishmawi insisted that none of it was true. Hishmawi, who moved his family from Iraq to San Antonio, Texas about 2 years ago, insisted that he and his wife would never abuse their children.
Investigators working on the case weren’t sure what to believe, but were suspicious about the rumors surrounding the 34-year-old father and his wife and had a feeling the couple wasn’t telling them the full story about what happened before their daughter had disappeared…
A New Lead
What the police did know, however, was that a young teenage girl was missing, either by force or by choice, and they needed to make sure she was ok. So when they got a lead about Maarib’s whereabouts about a month and a half later, they were careful not to tell anyone about the development in the case.
In mid-March, officers from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office with the help of the FBI discovered that the 16-year-old had been taken in by an underground organization that rescues runaway teenagers and women from abusive families and relationships…
The Missing Girl
“Thankfully, we were able to find her safe and sound,” Sheriff Salazar said. However, instead of returning the teenager home to her parents and closing the case, the detectives asked Maarib to open up about what happened leading up to her disappearance.
No Other Choice
As they feared, the 16-year-old explained that she felt she had no other choice than to run away because she couldn’t bear the abuse from both of her parents any longer, which stemmed from the fact that she wouldn’t agree to the arranged marriage they had set up for her…
The Arranged Marriage
According to Maarib, her parents first told her about a 28-year-old family friend named Mohammad Al Taie who lived in Dallas in May 2017. The following month, Hishmawi and his wife told Maarib, who was just 15 years old at the time, that she was arranged to marry Al Taie when she turned 16, which is the youngest someone can legally marry in Texas.
Maarib told police that when she refused to marry the 28-year-old stranger, who paid her father $20,000 on her 16th birthday as part of the arranged marriage contract, her mother and father both beat her with a broom handle, choked her, and burned her with hot oil. And Maarib has the scars to prove it…
6 Months Of Hell
“It’s really heartbreaking to hear,” Salazar said about the abuse, which Maarib endured for about 6 months.“Because the child victim was refusing to marry the potential suitor, she was being beaten on an almost daily basis by her mother and father,” a court document says. “The child victim stated that every time the subject of marriage came up, about her having to marry this 28-year-old suitor, she was beaten with broom and mop handles all over her body by both her mother and her father.”
A 16-Year-Old Survivor
“This young lady, at various times over that time period was subjected to some pretty bad abuse because she didn’t want to be married to this person. Several times it was reported to us that this young lady was abused with hot cooking oil being thrown on her body. She was beat with broomsticks. At least at one point, she was choked almost to the point of unconsciousness,” Salazar said. “In order to stop the physical abuse, the child victim would have to tell her parents that she would submit to the prearranged marriage…”
The Parents Speak Out
Hishmawi and his wife were arrested and are being charged with the continued abuse of a family member, but Hishmawi denies the allegations. “Nobody abused my daughter,” Hishmawi said. “He never touched her. He never go to her room. She never go to where he live in Dallas. I have nothing to hide. I’m not scared about this. My daughter and this guy – we help those together to build a family.”
Protecting The Children
After bringing the 16-year-old back to Texas and charging the parents with abuse, the teenager and her 5 siblings were placed in the custody of Child Protective Services. “We don’t know if those other siblings are victims of any abuse,” Sheriff Salazar said, “but certainly the circumstances involving this case did cause us some concern for those other siblings.”