By Alaa Al-Eryani- Sanaa
It has been five years since the young girl Nujood Ali escaped from home and went to court to demand divorce. The story of Nujood’s bravery inspired us all and gave hope to other young girls who were in similar situations. Today, another girl called Nada Al-Ahdal, breaks the silence by taking her story out to the world when she decided to run away from home as soon as she found out her family was to marry her off to a man she did not even know.
|Nada Al-Ahdal, 11 years old, fled from home after she was told she was going to get married.|
Nada’s story goes back to when she was 6 years old. At that time, her uncle, who did not have any children and lived with his aging mother and another of his nephews, expressed to her parents his wish to take her to live with him in which they agreed. And so, Nada lived with her uncle in the capital city Sana’a, and paid a few visits to her parents in occasions and holidays. A month ago, her family asked to have Nada for a visit only to say a few days later that they were keeping her. “They told my uncle that they wanted me back. He couldn’t do anything about it, they’re my parents. So he let them have me,” Nada explains.
Being back with her parents after 5 years of separation was so difficult for 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 ask to go back to her uncle, she was shocked with the news that she was getting married to a man who lived in Saudi Arabia. “They told me that I am engaged and that my fiancé had already paid them money and brought the engagement ring, so there is no way back. They said that I couldn’t leave and even threatened to kill me if I went back to my uncle.”
However, the young brave girl was not intimidated at all by her family’s threats. She was determined to get out of there no matter the consequences. “I decided that I have two choices: to leave or to die. So I chose the first,” Nada says. On 7th of July, the morning after Nada knew the startling news about her marriage, she decided to run away while everyone was still asleep. She went to her uncle’s house but he was not there and didn’t pick up the phone when she tried to call. Since Nada is a singer in a band, she called her band manager, Abduljabbar Ziad, who was in the city of Hodeida, and told him the situation. Not knowing what to do, her manager immediately sent for someone to take the girl from Sana’a and bring her to Hodeida.
After her uncle learned of Nada’s disappearance, he posted her picture on Facebook with a message asking people to look around for her and to call him if they find out anything. Then when Nada connected to her Facebook she saw her uncle’s post and sent to him a message explaining what happened. As soon as the uncle knew what had happened and that Nada was in fact with her manager Abduljabbar, he went and took her from Hodeida back to Sana’a. Later on Nada and her uncle discovered that her parents have issued a statement that their daughter had been kidnapped by her uncle. “They said that my uncle kidnapped me but it’s not true, I am the one who ran away.”
“I want to continue my education and live my life. I have many dreams, I don’t want to be married now. My mother hates me, she just wants me to get married because she will get money from the man. But I’m not an item for sale, I’m a human being and I would rather die than get married at this age,” explains Nada, with frustration.
|Nada Al-Ahdal with her uncle Abdulsalam al-Ahdal|
After Nada’s escape, her uncle seemed very determined to keep her safe from the death threats and the marriage that her parents are imposing on her. “I’m glad that she is safe now. I’m not fighting for her custody against her parents; all I want is just for her to be safe no matter who she’s living with,” he said, “Both Nada and I have faced death threats from her family and I’m worried about her safety.”
When asked if she was scared or not Nada answered: “I’m scared but I know as long as I have my uncle by my side, I will be safe.”
After a long struggle, Nada’s uncle took her to the Ministry of Interior’s family protection department to carry out investigations on her parent’s allegations. It was discovered that no kidnapping took place and that Nada’s story was in fact true: she was to be wed against her will.
Later on, on 13th of July, her father admitted everything and signed papers to give her uncle full custody and cancel all marriage arrangements. Nada’s mother however, is still resistant to do as the father and still denies Nada’s story calling her and her uncle liars. She still does not agree to cancel any marriage arrangements and is trying to cancel the agreement that the father made at the Ministry of Interior so that she can have Nada back and go on with the marriage. “My mother is still threatening to take me by force. She is still very angry but I hope with time she will calm down.” Nada said, “Mom, I hope that you one day love me as much as I love you.”