SANA’A, Yemen – An arranged marriage is common in Yemen, especially in rural areas where such is done as early as when a child is born.
However, a father did something so extra-ordinary that he was jailed for it–he attempted to marry off his 8-year-old daughter to a relative who is half-way older than her, local officials and activists of northern province in Soul LBB District told Gulf News on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Brigadier General Mohammad Al Qudisi received a report from the independent website, Al Masder Online, that the girl, identified as Iftikhar, was about to be wed to her cousin on January 23, 2014.
The human rights organization was urged by local activists to stop and intervene in the young girl’s wedding. In response, Al Qudisi sent his armed troops to stop the wedding.
The wedding preparations were almost done when the armed troop of soldiers arrived in the waiting area.
The girl’s father immediately locked up the girl with her mother inside the house as soon as he heard about the soldier’s arrival and fled.
The mother first refused to open the door for the soldiers, but gave in when they threatened to break the door if she would not open it.
According to the mother, she allowed her daughter to marry at the age of 8 because her husband threatened to divorce her if she opposed the wedding.
“We risked our lives to help stop the early marriage of the girl. Fortunately, the policemen and soldiers were cooperative and immediately sent their troop,” said Yasser Abbad, local journalist and an activist who contacted the police chief.
“We were scared, we might come up under fire from the father,” he added.
The girl was handed over to her uncle, who contacted the activist and reported the girl’s wedding. Iftikhar, a primary school student, was unaware of her marriage.
“The girl’s uncle opposed her wedding, but he was unable to stop it. So he contacted us [local activists] a day before the wedding,” said Abdul Yousifi, a local activist.
Police officers were able to catch the fleeing father and asked him what his motives were in marrying off her daughter at such an early age.
The father then confessed that he had given a tribal pledge to his nephew to marry his daughter, it was when another man refused his proposal to marry her daughter, official said.
The official also clarified that they did not detain the father for long since he confessed and admitted his fault and pledged not to get his daughter marry until and unless she reaches the legal age of marriage.
In Yemen, child marriage had become sort of news headlines in the month of September last year after a report that an 8-year-old bride died on the night of her wedding.
The citizens and the activists were urged to continue monitoring child marriages in the country.