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Sep 16, 2013
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Yemeni Child Nada who Fled Forced Marriage and Egyptian Cleric Debate Child Marriage

#4002 | 06:24
Source: Al-Jadeed TV (Lebanon)

Following are excerpts from a TV debate on child marriage aired on Al-Jadeed/New TV on September 16, 2013:

Nada Al-Ahdal, Yemeni girl who fled forced marriage: As you know, I fled marriage and ignorance, so that I could continue to study. I didn't run away just because of the [intention] to marry me off, but because of the ignorance and because I wanted to study.

Interviewer: How old were you when they married you off?

Nada Al-Ahdal: Ten years old.

Interviewer: How old was the man who married you?

Nada Al-Ahdal: 26 years old.

Interviewer: When they told you they wanted to marry you off, what did you know about marriage?

Nada Al-Ahdal: They told me it was a game, but it isn't. It turns you into a servant, and places a burden that is greater than you can bear on your shoulders.

Interviewer: [Your parents] told you that marriage was a game?

Nada Al-Ahdal: Yes.

Interviewer: How long did you stay with the man you were married to?

Nada Al-Ahdal: I didn't marry him. I was engaged to him.

Interviewer: So you ran away before you were married to him?

Nada Al-Ahdal: A week before.

Interviewer: You fled to your uncle?

Nada Al-Ahdal: Yes.

Interviewer: Was [the bridegroom] Yemeni or of a different nationality?

Nada Al-Ahdal: He's Yemeni.

Interviewer: Who encouraged you to flee marriage?

Nada Al-Ahdal: Nobody did.

Interviewer: You felt you had to run away…

Nada Al-Ahdal: Yes. I told myself that I would call Abd Al-Jabbar, and that if that didn't help, I would call somebody else, or else this would be the end of my life.

Interviewer: Who told you that you had to get married? Your father? Your mother?

Nada Al-Ahdal: Both of them.

Interviewer: What did they tell you?

Nada Al-Ahdal: They said: "You're going to get married. You'll get a new dress." Things like that.

Interviewer: Are you a poor family?

Nada Al-Ahdal: Sort of… Yes.

Interviewer: Do you know how much the bridegroom paid [your parents]?

Nada Al-Ahdal: Yes.

Interviewer: How much?

Nada Al-Ahdal: 2,000 dollars.


My mother told the police that my uncle kidnapped me, but it was me who fled to him.

Interviewer (turns to the uncle): Abd Al-Salam, Nada fled to you. How come you didn't think the same way as your brother, when he decided to marry off his daughter?

Abd Al-Salam Al-Ahdal: As a matter of fact, Nada doesn't live with her parents. If she had been living with them, she would have ended up just like her sisters, who were married off…

Interviewer: She has sisters who were married off?

Abd Al-Salam Al-Ahdal: One sister, who is 12 years old, will be married soon, after the holiday. Another, who is 14, will be married off on Thursday. [Nada] lived with me for two years, and would spend her summer holidays with me, so I could devote more time to her education and culture.


Egyptian cleric Sheik Abu Yahya: There is a difference between contractual marriage and consummated marriage. A contractual marriage can take place from day one. From the moment the baby girl is born, takes her first breaths, and is given a name, her guardian, who is her father only – and there is consensus about this in the Muslim world – is allowed to marry her off. This is an accepted custom, and perhaps even my grandparents and your grandparents married this way. The boy is kept for the girl, and vice versa.

This marriage – a contractual marriage or engagement – is permitted [at this age]. As for consummation of the marriage – it is not permitted until the woman is ready to bear it. A guardian who acts otherwise is harming the girl under his charge.

Interviewer: At what age is she ready for him?

Sheik Abu Yahya: This varies from girl to girl. One girl may be ready at the age of nine, and another may not be ready even at 25.


Interviewer: If you had a girl who reached puberty at nine years of age...

Sheik Abu Yahya: I would marry her for sure. If she has reached puberty...

Interviewer: You would marry her off?

Sheik Abu Yahya: If you say she has reached puberty, that's it.


If I had a daughter who reached puberty, I would marry her off. People must understand that there is a distinction between contractual marriage, which is permitted by Islamic law, and consummated marriage, which means sex...

Interviewer: We are talking about sex now.

Sheik Abu Yahya: With regard to sex, if she might be harmed by it...

Interviewer: How could you possibly tell if she would be harmed by it or not?

Sheik Abu Yahya: It depends on her physique an ond what her mother and aunts [say]. They will hear from her whether she could tolerate it or not.

Interviewer: How can they know from a girl of nine or ten whether she could tolerate it or not?

Sheik Abu Yahya: How can you tell if a girl of 14 could tolerate it or not? Yet it is the [marriage age] permitted by Spain. And what about a girl of 12 years, which is the [marriage age] permitted in Mexico?

Interviewer: Where did you get these figures? Did you search on the Internet? This information that Spain permits [marriage] at 14 and Mexico at 12 – where did you get it from?

Sheik Abu Yahya: The Vatican – the source of authority for your religion – permits [marriage] at 12.

Interviewer: Where does this appear?

Sheik Abu Yahya: The Vatican...

Interviewer: Show me where this is written.

Sheik Abu Yahya: I will show you my sources if you ask.

Interviewer: Go ahead...

Sheik Abu Yahya: I am telling you and the viewers that the Vatican [permits marriage] at age 12, Spain at age 13, Japan, at age 13...

Interviewer: What is your source?

Sheik Abu Yahya: ....Germany at age 14, Italy at age 14, Chile at age 14, France at age 15, and America at age 14. You can see this article, which appeared in The Guardian.


Nada Al-Ahdal: My final words are directed toward the Arab world. I hope that all the girls will do what I did, but there is nobody there to help them. I hope that an organization will be set up, and then 90% of the girls will flee [forced marriage]. That will happen if there is an organization to protect children, not act against them. It should protect them from everything, not just marriage. That's what I have to say.


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