So handsome, how could a 10 year old help herself?
An eleven-year-old girl debating a Muslim cleric? No contest. Atlas readers know Nada well; I posted the video of her here -- the incredible video from the 11-year-old Yemeni girl who fled her home because her mother was going to force her into marriage. She said she’d rather kill herself before being forced into marriage. Unfortunately, she said, other girls weren’t so lucky, and did kill themselves by burning themselves alive and plunging themselves in the river.
Child Marriage In Yemen: 11-Year-Old Nada Debates With Egyptian Cleric MEMRI
When 11-year-old Nada Al-Ahdal's video, in which she explained why she was fleeing a forced marriage, went viral (to view MEMRI TV Clip 3919, click here), Nada was catapulted to fame, and the issue of child marriage in Yemen, along with its often tragic consequences, was brought to the limelight. A recent TV show hosted Nada and her uncle in a debate on the topic of girl brides, along with Egyptian cleric Sheikh Abu Yahya, who defended the practice. In this debate, broadcast on September 16, 2013 by the Lebanese Al-Jadid/New TV channel, Sheikh Abu Yahya said that "contractual marriage" can take place "from the moment the baby girl is born, draws her first breaths, and is given a name," but that sex is not permitted until the girl reaches puberty and then only "if the girl can tolerate it." Asked by the TV host how one could tell whether a 9- or 10-year-old girl could "tolerate" sex, he responded: "It depends on her physique and on what her mother and aunts [say]." Sheikh Abu Yahya further said that he would marry off his own daughter at nine years of age if she had reached puberty.
Nada recounted details of her ill-fated marriage, saying that her parents had promised her a new dress when she was supposed to marry the 26-year-old man. "They told me it was a game, but it isn't. It turns you into a servant, and places a burden that is greater than you can bear on your shoulders," said Nada. She made an impassioned plea to set up an organization to help young girls like her. To view MEMRI TV Clip 4002, click here.
On September 18, Sky News Arabia aired a report giving an insight into the fate of Yemeni girls not as fortunate as Nada. It portrayed the fate of Saada, a Yemeni girl whose husband abandoned her to fend for herself and her two children, and her 13-year-old sister Amina, who was married for only a few months before fleeing back to her family. "In the absence of laws… setting a minimum age for marriage, the tragedy of minor girls being married off continues," says the reporter. "But every time another victim joins the ranks of the so-called 'death brides,' the debate flares up again." To view MEMRI TV Clip 4004, click here.
Nada Al-Ahdal: "They Told Me It Was A Game, But It Isn't"
Following are excerpts from the September 16 Al-Jadid/New TV debate:
Nada Al-Ahdal: "As you know, I fled marriage and ignorance, so that I could continue to study. I didn't run away just because of the [intention] to marry me off, but because of the ignorance and because I wanted to study."
Interviewer: "How old were you when they married you off?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "Ten years old."
Interviewer: "How old was the man who married you?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "26 years old."
Interviewer: "When they told you they wanted to marry you off, what did you know about marriage?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "They told me it was a game, but it isn't. It turns you into a servant, and places a burden that is greater than you can bear on your shoulders."
Interviewer: "[Your parents] told you that marriage was a game?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "Yes."
Interviewer: "How long did you stay with the man you were married to?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "I didn't marry him. I was engaged to him."
Interviewer: "So you ran away before you were married to him?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "A week before."
Interviewer: "You fled to your uncle?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "Yes."
Interviewer: "Was [the bridegroom] Yemeni or of a different nationality?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "He's Yemeni."
Interviewer: "Who encouraged you to flee marriage?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "Nobody did."
Interviewer: "You felt you had to run away…"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "Yes. I told myself that I would call Abd Al-Jabbar, and that if that didn't help, I would call somebody else, or else this would be the end of my life."
Interviewer: "Who told you that you had to get married? Your father? Your mother?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "Both of them."
Interviewer: "What did they tell you?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: |They said: 'You're going to get married. You'll get a new dress.' Things like that."
Interviewer: "Are you a poor family?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "Sort of… Yes."
Interviewer: "Do you know how much the bridegroom paid [your parents]?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "Yes."
Interviewer: "How much?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "2,000 dollars."
"My mother told the police that my uncle kidnapped me, but it was me who fled to him."
Nada's Uncle: Nada's Two Sisters, Aged 12 And 14, Soon To Be Married
The interviewer turns to the uncle
Interviewer: "Abd Al-Salam, Nada fled to you. How come you didn't think the same way as your brother, when he decided to marry off his daughter?"
Abd Al-Salam Al-Ahdal: "As a matter of fact, Nada doesn't live with her parents. If she had been living with them, she would have ended up just like her sisters, who were married off…"
Interviewer: "She has sisters who were married off?"
Abd Al-Salam Al-Ahdal: "One sister, who is 12 years old, will be married soon, after the holiday. Another, who is 14, will be married off on Thursday. [Nada] lived with me for two years, and would spend her summer holidays with me, so I could devote more time to her education and culture."
Sheikh Abu Yahya: As Soon As A Baby Girl Is Born, A "Contractual Marriage" Is Permitted
Egyptian cleric Sheikh Abu Yahya: "There is a difference between contractual marriage and consummated marriage. A contractual marriage can take place from day one. From the moment the baby girl is born, takes her first breaths, and is given a name, her guardian, who is her father only – and there is consensus about this in the Muslim world – is allowed to marry her off. This is an accepted custom, and perhaps even my grandparents and your grandparents married this way. The boy is kept for the girl, and vice versa.
"This marriage – a contractual marriage or engagement – is permitted [at this age]. As for consummation of the marriage – it is not permitted until the woman is ready to bear it. A guardian who acts otherwise is harming the girl under his charge."
Interviewer: "At what age is she ready for him?"
Sheikh Abu Yahya: "This varies from girl to girl. One girl may be ready at the age of nine, and another may not be ready even at 25."