Daily Israel Report

Video: Yemeni Child Bride's Flight to Freedom

In a country where forced marriages of children is common, one 11 year old took a stand, filming her escape, along with a defiant message
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 7/21/2013, 3:14 PM

Yemeni girls at the al-Mazraq refugee camp
Yemeni girls at the al-Mazraq refugee camp
Reuters

In Yemen, a country where children as young as six can be married off to men many times their age, 11 year old Nada Al-Ahdal's story might not have stood out at all. 

But when her family decided to marry her off in an arranged marriage to a man she didn't know, she resolved not to become just another statistic. Instead, this young but surprisingly eloquent girl called her uncle and arranged her own escape, during which she recorded a special message for her family.

In the video - translated by MEMRI, a Middle East media watchdog - Nada explains her decision to run away to live with her uncle, exclaiming "I can't live with them anymore. Enough!" 

Challenging Yemeni society as a whole, she asks "What about the innocence of childhood? What have the children done wrong? Why do you marry them off like that?" 

At times close to tears, but mostly composed and expressive, Nada recounts how her family threatened to kill her if she ran away, and tells of the experiences of other child brides who committed suicide as a result of their ordeal, including her own aunt.

She also had some choice words for her parents:

"What kind of people threaten their children like that? ...This is no upbringing. This is criminal, simply criminal. 

"My mother, my family believe me when I say: I'm done with you, you've ruined my dreams."

According to the United Nations, one in nine girls in developing countries is married, often forcibly, by the age of 15. UN estimates state that if current trends continue, there will be approximately 14.2 million child brides by 2020.

Yemen is one of the worst offenders, where child marriages are seen as completely normal. The phenomenon is blamed on a potent mixture of poverty, Islamic conservatism and a highly patriarchal society.

Tragically, though unsurprisingly, Yemen also has one of the highest rates of death at childbirth in the world.

But for one little girl at least, the future is looking somewhat brighter.