YEMEN: Child bride escapes after months of abuse and chains
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The young girl had had enough. For months the Yemeni teenager named Hind from the Red Sea town of Hodeida had allegedly been repeatedly beaten and sexually abused by her 70-something husband to whom she was married off by her father and three uncles for the equivalent of $1,400 last year, according to the Yemeni English newspaper the Yemen Times.
She tried to run away from her forced marriage and abuser several times but was caught fleeing by one of the uncles who had arranged her marriage.
Angered that she had tried to run away from the deal he had brokered, the uncle felt Hind, thought to be 13 or 14 years old, needed to be punished for her deed.
So he put a long, heavy iron chain around her neck and tied her to his house like a dog for two months. The uncle apparently made the chain long enough so that Hind could move from the yard to the kitchen and the bathroom.
During this hellish time, Hind was also allegedly beaten by her uncle and sexually abused several times by her cousins.
She finally managed to escape two weeks ago, and details of her tragic story have begun to emerge.
The oldest of five children in a poor family, Hind was living in a shack with her siblings and their elderly blind father. The family’s main income was based on what she and her siblings generated from begging in the streets.
Hind was then married off to a man in his 70s during the Muslim holiday Ramadan last year. The old man did not have a house of his own, so he would take Hind to a place he shared with his friends or to the home of his ex-wife’s son.
The abused child bride finally managed to flee -- still with the chain around her neck -- and was given refuge at the home of a woman and her family in the city of Taiz in the Yemeni highlands.
The woman who’s giving her shelter, 55-year-old Zakya Mohammed, believes Hind is pregnant, added the report.
‘I will do my best for this poor little girl. She is in need of love, food, and safety,’ Mohammed was quoted as saying by the Yemen Times.
Hind, meanwhile, is happy to be safe and relieved to have escaped her torturers.
“I do not want to leave here until I feel sure that my uncle can no longer harm me,” she is quoted as saying.
It was not immediately clear what the authorities plan to do in the case.According to Yemen Times, the investigator at the police station had a look at Hind’s bruises and the chain around her neck. But instead of arresting the uncle, he apparently only wrote a memo and forced the uncle to sign a paper saying he wouldn’t put the girl in chains again.
Hind’s case is not isolated but the latest in a string of publicized cases of child brides in Yemen. Two years ago, 10-year old Nujood Ali became the face of Yemeni child brides when she turned up in a Sanaa court house and demanded a divorce from her husband, who was reportedly in his 30s.
Ali’s story was covered extensively in the Western media and the book she co-wrote with the French journalist Delphine Minnoui was recently translated into English.
The now 12-year old divorcee lives in Sanaa with her family, and the royalties from her book are covering her family’s new house and business, as well as schooling for both herself and her younger sister, Haifa.
But as 12-year old Sally Sabahi signed her divorce papers in Sanaa earlier this week, becoming Yemen’s fourth child bride divorcee, heated debates between reformists and conservatives continue to rage in the impoverished country over whether Yemen should ban child marriages.
Earlier this month, hundreds of women demonstrated outside the Yemeni Parliament in support for the implementation of a legislation which sets the minimum age for women to marry at 17 and men at 18.
But the anti-child-bride activists have been met with fierce opposition. Two days earlier, women opposing the child-marriage ban lobbied lawmakers in an even bigger demonstration outside the Parliament, said Agence France-Presse.
Some conservative Islamic clerics are also giving a ban on child marriages a big thumbs down.
A group of them condemned the law in a statement issued earlier this month, saying those who support the ban were apostates, reported the BBC.
So there is no law protecting children against forced early marriages in Yemen as of yet.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut