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07/23/2013

Out of the mouth of babes: Yemeni girl runs away from a forced marriage

 

She is a sweet-faced, bubbly child, only 11 years old and as she speaks to the camera in her native Arabic you could be forgiven for thinking she’s talking about a new doll or favourite subject at school.

But Nada al Ahda tells the world via YouTube that she refuses marry a much older man and that she’d commit suicide if her parents forced her into such an arrangement.

“I would have had no life, no education. Don’t they have any compassion? What kind of upbringing did they get? I’m better off dead. I’d rather die,” she says in the clip filmed in a car and dated July 8.  

According to NOW, an online news website, Nada was raised by her uncle Abdel Salam in the Yemeni capital Sanaa from the age of three because her parents couldn’t afford to look after her. They tried twice to marry her off against her will because they needed the money.

The second time was on a visit to her parents' home. They informed her that she would be married off to a Yemeni living in Saudi Arabia who was rich. 

Nada then escaped to her uncle’s house.

He told NOW that he went to the authorities and the case concluded when Nada’s father agreed to allow him to raise Nada. 

“What about the innocence of childhood?” Nada asks. “What have the children done wrong? Why do you marry them off like that? I managed to solve my problem but some innocents can’t solve theirs and they might die or commit suicide or whatever comes to mind.” 

She recounts the harrowing tale of her young aunt.

“My maternal aunt she was 14-years-old. She lasted one year with her husband and then she poured gasoline over herself and set herself on fire. She died. He would beat her with metal chains. He would get drunk.”

Child marriages are common in Yemen. Nearly 14 per cent of girls are married before the age of 15 and half of all Yemeni women are married before 18,  Human Rights Watch reported.  There is no legal minimum age of marriage for girls. 

Nada concludes that she will never return to her parents.   

“Would it make you happy to marry me off? My mother, my family, believe me when I say I’m done with you. You’ve ruined my dreams.” 

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

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