Your Middle East
Last updated: October 15, 2013

VIDEO: Yemeni girl who fled marriage joins TV show with Egyptian cleric

Banner Icon A young Yemeni girl, Nada Al-Ahdal, who claimed to have fled from her home to avoid being married off at the age of 10 was recently guest at Al Jadeed, a 24-hour pan-Arab TV station broadcasting from Lebanon.

Her uncle, Abd Al-Salam Al-Ahdal, to whom she escaped a week before the planned wedding, also participated in the show which aired on September 16, 2013. He said that if she had not run away she would have been married now, just like her 12- and 14-year-old-sisters.

”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,” the young girl told the host of the show, according to the translation from MEMRI TV.

Nada said nobody encouraged her to flee, and that she had to do it ”or else this would be the end of my life.” Born in a poor family, she said that the 26-year-old bridegroom paid her parents USD 2.000.

"One girl may be ready at the age of nine, and another may not be ready even at 25"

However, her parents have refuted the claims and a leading Yemeni children’s rights group, Seyaj, has said that it believes a part of the girl’s story was made up.

Sheikh Abu Yahya, an Egyptian cleric, who participated via video link said that "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."

"At what age is she ready for him?" the interviewer then asked.

"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," Sheikh Abu Yahya answered.

He then – erroneously – went on to say that countries such as Spain, Germany, Italy and Japan allow marriages under the age of 14.

Nada Al-Ahdal said that her final words in the show were directed toward the Arab world:

”I hope that all the girls will do what I did, but there is nobody there to help them. I hope that an organization will be set up, and then 90% of the girls will flee. That will happen if there is an organization to protect children, not act against them. It should protect them from everything, not just marriage.”

According to Human Rights Watch, more than half of all young girls in Yemen are married before age 18 and around 14% before age 15. A major reason for these marriages is that poor families need money and sell off their girls to older, wealthier men.

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