by Neetzan Zimmerman / gawker.com
The longstanding severity of Yemen’s child marriages is gaining some much needed sunlight this week after a young survivor of this shocking custom took it upon herself to speak out on behalf of the untold many who can’t.
Nada al-Ahdal, an 11-year-old from Sana’a, had been promised by her parents to an adult suitor not once, but twice.
The “gifted singer” had been raised by her uncle Abdel Salam al-Ahdal since practically birth, and had been given the opportunity to go to school and learn English.
Abdel Salam, who was also raising a nephew and his aging mother, attempted to guard young Nada from any attempt by her biological parents to marry her off to a rich groom, having experienced the death of his sister by self-immolation over an arranged marriage.
When Nada turned 10, Abdel Salam learned that Nada’s mother and father had indeed sold her off to a Yemeni expat living in Saudi Arabia.
He phoned the groom in a panic, desperate to get him to rescind his offer.
“I called the groom and told him Nada was no good for him,” Abdel Salam told the Lebanese publication NOW. “I told him she did not wear the veil and he asked if things were going to remain like that. I said ‘yes, and I agree because she chose it.’ I also told him that she liked singing and asked if he would remain engaged to her.”
The man was persuaded to call the whole thing off, leaving Nada’s parents “disappointed.”
Months later they arrived in Sana’a, ostensibly to visit their daughter, but in reality were there to kidnap her and attempt another arranged marriage.
Nada asked to be returned to her uncle, but was told she had already been promised to someone.
Saying she would run away, Nada’s family reportedly threatened her with death, but were unable to stop her escape.
She reunited with her uncle, who took her straight to the authorities.
After an investigation was opened into the forced marriage allegations, Nada’s dad suddenly backed off the idea, and permitted her to continue living with her uncle.
“I managed to solve my problem, but some innocent children can’t solve theirs,” Nada said in a confessional released yesterday by MEMRI-TV. “[A]nd 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.”