I expect some of you will already have seen Nada Al-Ahdal’s impassioned monologue, in which she expresses her horror at her family’s wish to force her into marriage at the age of just 11. Nada is from Yemen, where a case involving an even younger girl hit the headlines a few years ago – that of Nujood Ali who was ten when she defied tradition to secure a divorce from her abusive husband.
When I first saw the video I was surprised by the comparatively controlled way in which Nada was able to criticize her mother’s apparently pivotal role in the threatened marriage. Much useful context is supplied in this article, by Alaa Al-Eryani- Sanaa. We learn that Nada had in fact lived with her uncle since she was three, and had only recently been reclaimed by her parents, whose renewed interest seems to have been sparked by the realization their daughter could prove a lucrative commodity.
Being back with her parents after 9 years of separation was so difficult on Nada. The estranged girl was getting very uncomfortable with the different and, as she expressed, “bad” environment there in which everyone, including children, was just chewing Qat and smoking shisha all the time. When Nada tried to express her wish to go back to her uncle, she was shocked with the news that she was getting married. “They told me that I am engaged and that my fiance had already paid them money and brought the engagement ring. They said that I couldn’t leave and even threatened to kill me if I went back to my uncle.”
This appalling story is by no means unique – Nada seems to have been able to break free because her more modern lifestyle with her uncle enabled her to criticise her parents’ decision, and because she is clearly highly intelligent and determined. Here is an article about girls who were not so fortunate.
Hat tip: Kolya