In a chilling and heartbreaking video that has gone viral, a brave 11-year-old girl from Yemen opens up about risking her life by escaping from her family ahead of a forced marriage to an adult suitor. Nada al-Ahdal says she fled to her uncle in the capital city of Sana’a after learning of her parents’ plan, despite the fact that they threatened to kill her if she left. It was the second attempt her parents made to marry her off. The first one happened when Nada was just 10 years old.
“I would have had no life, no education. Don’t they have any compassion?” Nada asks in the video that was released by MEMRI-TV. “I’m better off dead. I’d rather die,” she says, referring to the alternative of being forced into an arranged marriage.
“This is no upbringing,” she points out. “This is criminal, simply criminal.”
The courageous girl discusses the cruelty that some of her peers have endured as child brides, recounting the story of her own teenaged aunt who was beaten with metal chains at the hands of a husband she was forced to marry. After about a year of marriage, Nada says her aunt took her own life by pouring gasoline over her body and lighting herself on fire.
“I managed to solve my problem, but some innocent children can’t solve theirs,” Nada says. “And they might die, commit suicide, or do whatever comes to mind. ... It’s not our fault. I’m not the only one. It can happen to any child.”
By making and releasing the video, the girl has given a face and a voice to the numerous children who have been forced into arranged marriages—and the untold many who will involuntarily enter marriages to much older men at their family’s command in the future—and to those who cannot speak out about their circumstances.
“Nada al-Ahdal is proof that bravery knows no age,” The Daily Dot notes.
The Daily Dot:
Amazingly, this is the second arranged marriage Nada has escaped from. Lebanese news outlet NOW reports that the young girl, who grew up living with her paternal uncle Abdel Salam al-Ahdal, had been sold into marriage by her parents to a wealthy Yemeni expatriate living in Saudi Arabia. Upon finding out, the uncle intervened.
“When I heard about the groom, I panicked,” Abdel Salam al-Ahdal recounts.
...It didn’t take long for Nada’s parents to try to once again profit from marrying off their daughter. The couple convinced the uncle to let the child stay with them during Ramadan—it began July 8 and ends Aug. 7.
A couple of days later, Nada ran away from home. Abdel Salam al-Ahdal reunited with his niece and immediately took her to the Yemeni Ministry of the Interior to explain what had transpired. It was only after the authorities got involved that Nada’s parents backed off and agreed to leave the young girl in the care of her uncle.
—Posted by Tracy Bloom.