Nazida Syed: Starting Over, Fighting for Change

Nazida Syed’s life could have been over when she found out devastating news about her then-husband. But she took the matter into her own hands and removed herself from the situation, legally cleaning her name and starting a new life. In her story she shares her journey and the steps she has taken to be the role model for her daughter she wishes she had.

My name is Nazida Syed. I have been a victim of domestic violence since I was 16 years old. I was with a man who was 10 years older than me, which I now believe was the worst mistake of my life. I got married to this man after a lot of threats and violence. He would threaten to have my family and me be deported if I didn’t comply to him or if I didn’t marry him.

So we got married, and three years later I got a phone call from a woman who claimed to be his wife and have two children with him. While my own daughter was 4 months old, she told me that she had an 11-month-old daughter with him, as well as a 12-year-old son. I also came to find out from her that he had another wife before her who he has an 18-year-old son with. I confronted my husband, and he eventually admitted to having two other wives and three children. All the while still verbally, emotionally and mentally abusing me.

Then I realized why he was missing so many days and months while I was pregnant. And also when I realized why he didn’t want me to have a child, why he would physically abuse me, so, in his mind, I would be forced to get an abortion. When I didn’t want to get an abortion and I fought back for the first time, he had me locked up while I was three months pregnant. He didn’t want another child. He already had three. One that was born just seven months before ours.

After many months and a lot of help from friends and family, I was able to finally leave his vicinity, but that left him with immense outrage against me. As a result, problems started arising one after another. He accused me of being a drug addict, a cheater and a child abuser. This threw me into depression for three years, but still no one wanted to believe me, especially the judge, even though all the probation officers and detectives were giving reports to the judge saying I was innocent.

Once I left him, I ended up living in a shelter with my daughter. I had no car, no money, no food. My family was nowhere near me in New York. I was left all alone to have to fend for myself. Then I came in contact with a group called Domestic Harmony Foundation through the U.S. Department of Social Services. This is a group of women who help out lots and lots of women who are victims. Through them I was able to see how many other women are in my place. Seeing so many women here who has suffered so badly at the hands of their abuser I started to feel less sorry for myself. I decided to take everything into my own hands and do some detective work of my own.

In January 2016 I decided to call up the county clerk’s office in Chicago where my husband’s other wife used to live. And with some digging, I finally found all the paperwork I needed to clear my name and show everyone that I was not making up an outrageous story that my husband committed bigamy. Without help from the law, it took me three years to do, but I finally did it. I found their divorce decree, their marriage date, the other woman’s divorce complaint where she also claimed how he committed bigamy. Yet, my husband kept getting away with everything. Eventually I decided to leave it all to God because I know there is no punishment bigger than the punishment given to him by God.

I started focusing more on myself. I started singing a lot more and started uploading videos of myself singing. Singing is my passion, it is also a way for me to release stress. And because of my songs, I quickly gained a pretty big fan base. Then I saw an opportunity a Bangladeshi girl named Hiam Hafizuddin was giving. Hafizuddin organized an online based Miss Bangladesh USA show, which I signed up for. I was made the first Miss Bangladesh NY USA 2015, and later became the 1st runner up for Miss Bangladesh USA 2015. Then Hafizuddin sought out another opportunity for me, and I became the first Miss Bangladesh United Continent for 2015.

Hafizuddin gave us a platform to speak about something we each feel passionate about. I chose domestic violence. Most of the women in our community get shunned if they speak about domestic violence within their families — as if it is our shame that the man who is supposed to love us instead beats us, cheats on us, lies to us. My platform was to let other victims of domestic violence know that there is nothing to be ashamed about when leaving an abusive relationship. There is nothing to be ashamed of being a divorcee, to seek a better future, for yourself and your children.

Suddenly I was creating the legacy I wanted. The one I had started years ago. I received many awards while being a part of Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps during my high school years. I have been featured many times in the Bangladeshi newspaper Prothom Alo.  I am now a three-time business owner, a single mom, a passionate feminist, a pre-med student at Hofstra University and an advocate for victims of domestic violence. I volunteer at Domestic Harmony Foundation, which is a foundation built for helping and supporting many South Asian victims of domestic violence of Nassau County New York.

My ultimate happiness would be to give my daughter an even better future than I ever had the opportunity of having. Everything I have ever done since I left my abusive relationship has been for my daughter. I want to one day open up shelters for victims of domestic violence. I want to make ways for women like myself who have been victims of domestic violence to be able to get back on their own feet, take control of their lives, and their images, their reputations in society, so they will never be looked down upon for leaving an abusive marriage.

I want my daughter to see that you don’t need money to make a change to be a change for society. I want her to know that to make a change, be the change you want in this world. I want her to know that it is our responsibility to serve our society, our country, and our people, and be passionately involved in any cause that is for the betterment of the world.