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- Nujood Ali with her lawyer, Shada Nasser (Photo: Glamour Magazine)
Early morning light pours into the bedroom. In the distance, a rooster is crowing… Eyes wide, I look around at the disorder of the bedroom: the oil lamp has rolled over to the door, and the brown dress lies in a heap on the floor like an old dishrag. And there he is – what a wahesh – what a monster! On the rumpled sheet, I see a little streak of blood.
‘Congratulations!’ echoes my sister-in-law. With a sly smile, she studies the red stain. I can’t say a word. I feel paralyzed. Then my mother-in-law bends down to pick me up as if I were a package. Why didn’t she come earlier, when I needed her help? Now, in any case, it’s too late – unless she was his accomplice in what he just did to me?
…’Mabrouk!’ both women say together…”
Nujood Ali is just twelve years old. Yet this young girl from Yemen has already demonstrated the kind of courage most adults can’t imagine possessing.
At the age of eight, Nujood’s father forced her into a marriage with a 30 year old man. Nujood was repeatedly and violently raped by her husband.
Nujood pleaded with her family for help. Rather than protecting her, Nujood’s father beat her – and told her that she would find no way out of her situation. The family’s honor was at stake – and it was Nujood’s responsibility, he felt, to preserve it through being a subservient young bride.
After Nujood had exhausted all hopes for support from her immediate family, she sought out the advice of her father’s second wife, Dowla. Dowla told her that if she needed help, she had to go out on her own. She would have to get herself to court, and demand a divorce.
So she did.
On April 2nd, 2008, Nujood left home, hailed a cab, and became the first girl in Yemen’s history to ever appear alone in court to request a divorce. With the help of Judge Muhammad Al-Qathi and attorney Shada Nasser – Nujood was granted an annulment. Her case has brought worldwide attention to the issue of child marriage, and has inspired action to end the practice. For any person – young or old, male or female – who has ever doubted his or her own resilience – may Nujood’s story serve not just as an inspiration – but also as a call to action. No child should have to live through what she endured. It is our responsibility to make safety for all children a reality.
- Nujood’s memoir
“My divorce has changed my life. I don’t cry anymore. My bad dreams are starting to go away. I feel stronger, as if all these ordeals have toughened me. When I go out in the street, sometimes women in the neighborhood call to me, congratulating me and shouting ‘Mabrouk!’ – a word once tainted by evil memories, but which I know like to hear again. And shouted by women I don’t even know! I blush, but deep down I’m so proud.” – Nujood Ali, June 2008.
To learn more about Nujood Ali, please read her memoir, released just this year. The above quotes are excerpts from the book.
For more about the movement to end child marriage, please see these links:
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