A harrowing video has been posted on online of an 11-year-old Yemeni girl who claims she ran away to escape an arranged marriage.
Nada al-Ahdal says she was only saved from the forced engagement after her uncle intervened.
‘Go ahead and marry me off – I’ll kill myself,’ she warns in the video, dated July 8, and posted on YouTube.
‘Don’t they have any compassion?’ I’m better off dead. I’d rather die.’
She continues: ‘It’s not [the kids’] fault. I’m not the only one. It can happen to any child.’
‘Some children decided to throw themselves into the sea, they’re dead now. They have killed our dreams, they have killed everything inside us. There’s nothing left. There is no upbringing. This is criminal, this is simply criminal.’
In the video filmed in a car, she explains why she does not want to leave her family home saying: ’I would have had no life, no education,’ she says in the video.
Strong: The video finishes with her telling her family: I’m done with you, you ruined my dreams’
The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has attracted the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages.
Yemen’s gripping poverty plays a role in hindering efforts to stamp out the practice, as poor families find themselves unable to say no to bride-prices in the hundreds of dollars for their daughters.
More than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before age 15, according to a report in 2010 by the Social Affairs Ministry.
Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation.
In September 2010, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labour to give birth, a local human rights organisation said.
Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.
The schoolgirl. one of eight children, was taken in by her uncle Abdel Salam al-Ahdal, when she was aged three.
But when a Yemeni expatriate living in Saudi Arabia asked her parents if he could marry her, they readily agreed.
In an interview with National Yemen, Nada accuses her mother of arranging the marriage for profit.
‘But I’m not an item for sale,’ she says.
‘I’m a human being and I would rather die than get married at this age.’
Nada, has an 18-year-old sister who has already been engaged many times.
Her parents accepted each new proposal and took a partial down payment for a bride price.
They would then postpone the marriage until the groom had accumulated enough money before ending the engagement and keeping the down payment.