A 10-year old girl from Yemen who managed to flee to her uncle to avoid a forced marriage with a 26-year old man appeared on Lebanese TV in a debate with a Muslim cleric.
Nada al-Ahdal became famous through an internet video she made as she was fleeing. The video was published in July by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) and has since gone viral with more than eight and a half million views.
On the TV debate, which aired on Al-Jadid, Nada tells of how her parents presented marriage to her as a game, but in reality, she says, “It isn’t. It turns you into a servant and places a burden on you greater than you can bear on your shoulders.”
Nada explains she didn’t just flee because of the prospect of getting marriage, but rather because she wanted to continue her education, an activity impossible after a girl marries in Yemen. (See below a video report about the tragic consequennces of child marriage on girls in Yemen.)
Nada’s uncle, who appeared with her on the show, relates how Nada had been living him for the past two years, even spending vacations with him, so that more time could be devoted to her education. “If she had been living with them [her parents],” he said, “she would have ended up just like her sisters,” 12 and 14 years old, who were married last month.
A Muslim cleric appearing on the show explained, “From the moment a baby girl is born … her guardian, who is her father only – and there is a consensus about this in the Muslim world – is allowed to marry her off. This is an accepted custom.” The cleric said the marriage, which begins as a contract only, could be consummated at soon as the girl “could bear it,” which according to him could be as young as age nine. The cleric declared that if he had a daughter who reached puberty at the age of nine, he would surely marry her off.
Nada directed her final words to the “Arab world,” making a plea to other girls. “I hope that all the girls will do what I did,” she said. However, realistically, she acknowledges that until there is an organization set up to help girls escape such a fate, “there is nobody to help them.”
See the following video on the tragic consequences of child marraige on girls in Yemen, a TV report aired by Sky News Arabia: