Arta is 23 years old, works as a hairdresser and lives a good life. The outlook was not so promising before. At the age of 15, she ran away from home and moved in with her boyfriend. When the relationship ended after eight months, she was unable to return home. Her parents felt that she had shamed them.
Liria takes in women who have been victims of trafficking or maltreatment. The centre was opened in 1999 by Nazife Jonuzi, and today ten people work there, all women. They offer legal advice, psychological support and courses in computers, for example. Since 2003 they have also provided shelter for women and children.
"I opened the shelter after having visited women's centres in Sweden. At the time I didn't know what I was getting myself into; I was driven by a desire to help," says Nazife.
One of the women we meet at Liria is Arta. When she comes into Nazife's office, she gives the impression of being a strong and resolute woman. Her strength and purposefulness alone are impressive. She explains that when she was unable to return home after leaving her boyfriend, she started looking for work. She was 16 years old.
"I had nowhere to go and made contact with some friends of my ex-boyfriend. They said that they could get me work in a hotel. When I went there, they instead forced me to meet lots of men."
After 4-5 months she managed to escape. She went to the police and with their help she came to Liria, where she stayed for a week.
"I had so many problems that I couldn't cope with being confined like that. So I left Liria and went to meet some friends. I was so young and restless and just couldn't handle being indoors."
Arta lights another cigarette as soon as one is finished. She explains that she worked at a cafe for a while and was happy there, but after a while she was persuaded to move to work in a bar. She swallows hard and continues.
"After ten days of working in the bar, the owner offered me a Coca Cola that tasted of alcohol. I didn't want to drink it, but he said that I had to. Then I don't remember much of what happened."
When she awoke the next day, she noticed marks on her neck and her body was in pain. The owner said that if she told anyone about what had happened, he would hurt her.
Arta had nowhere to go and did not have a wage, so she stayed with the bar owner. He was very aggressive and abused her both physically and psychologically. In spite of this, she felt that it was better to be forced to be with one man than with many. But after two years of abuse, she tried to take her own life. She survived and eventually managed to escape.
When Arta came back to Liria, she received help from Nazife and her staff. She has trained to become a hairdresser and they have helped her to make contact with her family again. Her aim is to continue to improve within her trade and eventually open her own salon.
"Liria has been very important for me. They saw to it that I regained a normal life. Without them, I don't think I could had coped," says Arta.
530 women and 130 children have at some point stayed at the shelter. They come from different ethnic groups, which can be problematic in a country where segregation and antagonism are rife. But it is just as Executive Director Nazife puts it:
"Violence has no religion. When it comes to violence, everyone is treated equally."
Nazife has also played a part in influencing the new law and the strategy that will improve women's rights and provide better protection. All she is waiting for now is for the new law to be implemented.
Footnote: Arta is a fictitious name which has been used to protect the woman's identity.