Yemeni girl's fight against forced marriage going viral

July 25, 2013 6:37:18 PM PDT
A video of an 11-year-old's fight against forced marriages in Yemen has gone viral.

Nada al-Ahdal appeared online, saying she narrowly escaped being forced to marry an older man. The video was taken by a camera crew in Yemen. In it, the girl speaks to her parents. "Go ahead and marry me off. I'll kill myself, just like that. I won't go back to live with them. I won't," she says.

According to media reports, her parents had arranged for her to marry an older man. It was her uncle who then took her to police to make a complaint. "I would have had no life, no education. Don't they have any compassion?" she asks in the video.

The financial circumstances of the girl's family are unknown. When ABC7 News spoke to members of a San Francisco Yemeni mosque, they insisted that this doesn't happen in their country. "Never in my life, this, never ever," one man said.

Yet, according to the United Nations Children's Fund, half of all girls in Yemen marry before age 18 and 14 percent of those marry before age 15.

"This is wrong happening for children," Ziad Abbas told ABC7 News. Abbas is with the Middle East Children's Alliance in Berkeley. He says in 2009, the parliament in Yemen passed legislation raising the marriage age from 15 to 17, but it was repealed the following day by conservative religious leaders.

There has been no word on when it will be voted on again. "But implementation of the new rules, it's not there yet because still, the families there are in control of the future of their children," Abbas said.

Organizations like CARE say this happens in a few other countries. They say India and Bangladesh are the worst. Care spokesperson Doris Bartel told ABC7 News, "This is a problem that has been going on for many, many centuries and we are looking for ways to not just stop one or two cases, but to really create a social movement and a social change to stop it completely."

The 11-year-old now lives with her uncle, but she says she worries about other girls. "And they might die, commit suicide, and do whatever comes to mind. They're just kids. What do they know?" she said.

The video was posted four days ago on YouTube and has already gotten nearly 7.5 million hits and been picked up by dozens of media outlets which are now helping to raise awareness around the world.


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