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July 22, 2013 4:54 AM   Subscribe

When Nada Al-Ahdal discovered that her parents had sold her she ran away. She is 11 years old, and this is her message.

Yemen stands out as having no minimum age for marriage (HRW report) but according to the United Nations Population Fund, child marriage affects one in three girls in the developing world. Stephanie Sinclair (previously) has produced a seriously disturbing video that presents testimony from girls forced into child marriages. In a later interview she is optimistic about bringing an end to child marriage by 2030, and refers to the earlier case of the Yemeni child bride Nusood Ali (previously) as one of the lucky ones. Other reports are less sanguine. Also previously.
posted by Joe in Australia (32 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I saw this yesterday and was blown away by Nada's poise, self-respect and bravery. I just don't know what else to say about it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:11 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just don't know what else to say about it.

The thing that strikes me after watching that and reading your comment is that it is not entirely a great thing that Nada is so impressive; it would appear to take that level of unusual poise, self-respect, bravery and helpful alternate support network to avoid being a 12 year old forcibly raped in an older man's bed.
posted by jaduncan at 5:15 AM on July 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


Thank you for posting this, Joe in Australia. It's so hard to read/watch, and yet Nada's bravery and eloquence is incredible.

I'm also curious about this:
Nada’s story goes back to when she was only two years old. At that time, her uncle, who lives alone with his mother, had expressed to her parents his wish to adopt her in which they agreed. And so Nada lived with her uncle in the capital city, Sanaa, and didn’t hear from her real family until about a month ago when they asked to see her.
Is this typical in Yemen culture? Even if it was in some way an economic necessity, no contact from her parents for nine years seems very odd.
posted by Georgina at 5:19 AM on July 22, 2013


Amazingly powerful.
posted by odinsdream at 5:22 AM on July 22, 2013


The internet and television have done many things, some of which I dislike strongly. But the capacity to shift awareness of the possible changes we can all make in how we function as individuals, families, and societies is a powerful force. The truth is that harmful and abusive environments become invisible to us when we assume that's how it has to be. Evil is frequently as simple as ordinary people doing what everyone around them thinks is ok or normal.

jaduncan, agreed. a child should not have to be a heroic to avoid being sold by her family into rape and abuse. Of course it's great for those who are and escape because of it, but that says nothing of normal children who obey their parents and don't have enough power, resources, or education to stay safe from this.

I hope that education and exposure will allow us all to create a better vision and help us actualize the tools and ideologies and resources needed to make those visions happen.
posted by xarnop at 5:33 AM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some moments I want to reconsider not having kids.
This is one.

Shine on, you crazy diamond. And your uncle.
posted by Mezentian at 6:24 AM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, that's one impressive young girl there. I hope things work out well for her, and I hope this action of hers can in some way help other girls in similar situations.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 AM on July 22, 2013


Wow, that was incredible. What a formidable child, I wish her all good things and I hope to hear an update.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:28 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the end of the first link: "Nada is now waiting in hopes that journalists, human-rights activists and different local organizations will help her make a strong case against her parents who are trying to get her back so they can go on with the marriage process." Disgusting.

Good for her. This story is incredibly moving. Thanks for posting.
posted by rensar at 6:53 AM on July 22, 2013


Is this typical in Yemen culture?

Anywhere that people have chattel status they get treated like chattel.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:56 AM on July 22, 2013


How is it in the 21st century people - especially children - are still treated as property and not human beings? Has nothing about the world moving forward touched these people like her parents so that they might even have a whim of thinking this is wrong or are they so motivated by financial factors that they refuse to?
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:38 AM on July 22, 2013


We in the West are not too many steps ahead of this process. A century ago (the 20th century), women could not vote in most of the countries we today think of as the first world. (And in Saudi Arabia, women still cannot vote.) Two centuries ago (the 19th century), slavery was widespread.

Two hundred years is just the blink of an eye. I actually think we've come a long way -- from treating each other like shit to at least trying, in most situations, to be relatively equanimous to each other -- in a short time.

Which makes me worry, of course, that there's not much stopping us from backsliding. Witness what happened in the American South as soon as liberals stoped paying attention to local politics. Abortion is now almost illegal again, and disenfranchisement of the poor is becoming widespread.

In conclusion: ugh, humans.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:19 AM on July 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Saw the MEMRI-TV logo and closed the tab immediately. (Not saying this story is undeserving of attention, just that MEMRI-TV is.)

If you are unclear why, read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_East_Media_Research_Institute
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:20 AM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Saw the MEMRI-TV logo and closed the tab immediately. (Not saying this story is undeserving of attention, just that MEMRI-TV is.)

This is ridiculous. The video couldn't be any more of a primary source. The individual is speaking directly into the camera with zero editorial commentary. It might as well be any number of station branding logos. The message is unaffected.
posted by odinsdream at 8:23 AM on July 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't doubt the veracity of the story, the problem is that you are getting a cherry-picked set of (true) stories from MEMRI-TV, due to their extreme and highly intentional selection bias.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:31 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


How is it in the 21st century people - especially children - are still treated as property and not human beings? Has nothing about the world moving forward touched these people like her parents so that they might even have a whim of thinking this is wrong or are they so motivated by financial factors that they refuse to?

I live in an economically depressed part of an American city that, in a small area, contains maybe a dozen "Chinese Massage" businesses. It is extremely likely that in at least some of these businesses provide sexual release in exchange for money, and the employees of at least some of those businesses are not willing actors.

People can be terrible to each other, and often are if left unchecked.
posted by jsturgill at 8:37 AM on July 22, 2013


Unfortunately, this happens in America, too.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:44 AM on July 22, 2013


It's interesting how coming to this with a completely different set of signifiers affects the reading. It starts with learning that her uncle, who lives at home with his mother, expressed an interest in adopting her. This set off a cacophony of US-conditioned alarm bells in me, all of which were wrong.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


you are getting a cherry-picked set of (true) stories from MEMRI-TV, due to their extreme and highly intentional selection bias.

I absolutely agree that MEMRI's goal is to make it easier to write negative stories about Israel's neighbours, but there's also that saying about a stopped clock.

The selection bias here is also mitigated by a second selection process at MeFi. Would I want to get a balanced view of the ME from MEMRI? No more than from Fox or RT. Would I dismiss an interviewee or individual story presented here based purely on that? No.
posted by jaduncan at 9:00 AM on July 22, 2013


I don't doubt the veracity of the story, the problem is that you are getting a cherry-picked set of (true) stories from MEMRI-TV, due to their extreme and highly intentional selection bias.

In that case, you may want to check out the many other links provided in the post. Or not.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:09 AM on July 22, 2013


It's a point though, and I hope for her sake that her particular story gets picked up by other sources. It would be far too easy as things stand for Yemeni authority and the parents' side to say she's being used by Zionist propagandists and undermine sympathy for her that way.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:46 AM on July 22, 2013


Is this typical in Yemen culture? Even if it was in some way an economic necessity, no contact from her parents for nine years seems very odd.

Qat isn't a very strong narcotic, so you really have to work hard chewing it to fall into the kind of stupor that will help you forget your own daughter for 9 years.

But it looks like her parents managed.
posted by ocschwar at 11:21 AM on July 22, 2013


Saw the MEMRI-TV logo and closed the tab immediately. (Not saying this story is undeserving of attention, just that MEMRI-TV is.)

Funny thing. I first learned of Nada because the MEMRI-TV video was being shared on Facebook by one of my friends.

He was passing the link from one of his friends.
And that friend is an Iraqi living in Baghdad.

An Iraqi living in Baghdad, who was posting a link to MEMRI-TV.

I guess his idea of critical thinking isn't "saw a logo I didn't like, closed the tab immediately."
posted by ocschwar at 11:24 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My impression is that the uncle is a man with a mission, and a good one. And that Nada is an incredibly gifted young girl, but also a girl in real distress who will do anything to get out. Including speaking to MEMRI, which might not help her.
posted by mumimor at 3:55 PM on July 22, 2013


Dump your kid for nine years with no contact, sell her, and then put out death threats when she doesn't comply. That's some kind of parental love there. With societies that condone this practice, it's hard to say who I despise more, the parents or the men who want to take a child as a bride sex slave.

I hope Nada can stay free and live her dreams.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:16 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought twice about posting this FPP because I've seen this criticism before. I don't know anything about MEMRI, but it's obviously a selective source. On the other hand, the video had wide distribution and is bolstered by local accounts, and nobody seems to suggest that it's dishonest. In the end I decided that silencing Nada would be an act of cowardice: her voice deserves to be heard and MEMRI's translation (apparently taken from a longer Arabic account) is the only one available. If critics care about child marriage they can go do their own translation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:57 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


You were right to post it. Thanks, Joe.
posted by homunculus at 5:44 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Her parents and yemenpost.com say she was never engaged to be married and is making it up. Not saying I believe Yemen Post more than I believe her, just that something odd is going on with this whole family, starting with the parents giving her up nine years ago. If there is no marriage planned for her I am glad.
posted by feets at 6:08 PM on July 22, 2013


Somebody has definitely got an agenda here. Hopefully there will be enough people watching out for her that she will stay safe. If not, I wouldn't be surprised if she just doesn't disappear off the radar eventually. Either forced into marriage or gods forbid, murdered for 'disgracing' her family name.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:28 PM on July 22, 2013


Here's a report from NOW Lebanon with a lot more detail, including facts that should be easy to refute. I think it's better to err on the side of believing the victim, and an 11-year old girl whose parents actually can marry her off at this age is in a much weaker position than anyone around her. If she's lying it would be so ... so her parents wouldn't actually marry her off? Well then, everyone should be happy.

The NGO statement doesn't actually say that her parents weren't going to have her married off:
"Nada heard rumors from others that her parents were going to get her married. She never heard it from her father or mother and she built her claims on this," said Ahmed Al-Qershi, President of Siyaj.
I don't know how he knows what she did or did not hear, but if he meant she has nothing to worry about he could have said so.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:10 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The NOW Lebanon article also mentions that the family tried once before to marry Nada off. She was ten years, three months old at the time.

I'm curious about the Yemon Post. That article was so poorly written that I went looking to see how legitimate a news source it is, but despite their claims of independence, it's hard to tell. I do find the fact that they only carried the official denials, but not the original story of Nada's video and running away, to be suspicious.

Then there's lines like these:
It appears that the media were too blindsided by Nada's frank and open demeanor to ever question her motives, her allegations and basic facts.

and

While child marriage remains an issue to be debated Nada' story should not and cannot be in any way, shape or form be associated to other cases of abuse or forces marriages as her tale carries no true substance.
Which is funny, since the article contains no true substance either. The authors seem amazingly sure Nada's story is a lie and yet offer no proof beyond government denials and a one-line quote from Ahmed Al-Qershi, president of Siyaj*.

(*And I do wonder if that quote has been twisted to look like a denial when it was actually a statement of fact, i.e. Nada ran away because she heard from others that her parents were about to marry her off. Given they've tried before, that seems like a reasonable reason to flee. But it's impossible to tell because the only people reporting that quote in English are the Yemon Post.

Siyaj (Organisation for the Protection of Children) looks like a legitimate child rights' organisation, though.)
posted by Georgina at 7:53 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


It appears that the media were too blindsided by Nada's frank and open demeanor to ever question her motives, her allegations and basic facts.

Yup. Those 11 year olds and their wiley ways...
posted by ocschwar at 8:43 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


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