Sunday, June 24, 2018

Book Review: I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced (2011) by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced: A Memoir (2011)
by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

Done some research. Husnia al-Kadri, the director of women’s affairs at the University of Sana’a, Yemen, oversaw a recent study revealing that more than half the girls in Yemen get married before the age of eighteen. Delphine, ghost-writer of this book, in the Epilogue, writes that “in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, one year after Nujood’s historic court case, an 8-year-old Saudi girl married off by her father to a man in his 50s successfully sued for divorce – the first time such a thing has happened in that ultraconservative country.” In the Arab and African countries, child marriages are customary, even (sadly) normal. In September 2013, The Guardian reported that an 8-year-old Yemeni child (identified only as Rawan) was married to a 40-year-old “died of internal bleeding on her wedding night.” Arwa Othman, an activist, said, "On the wedding night and after intercourse, she suffered from bleeding and uterine rupture which caused her death. They took her to a clinic, but the medics couldn't save her life." In Yemen, there is a tribal proverb that say: “To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a 9-year-old girl.” Disgusting! According to the UN, 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are married each day.

Back to Nujood Ali. With this background, due to “poverty, local customs, and a lack of education” and even “family honour, the fear of adultery, the settling of scores between rival tribes” (among many other reasons and/or excuses for child marriage) Nujood’s childhood, somewhat 10-year-old at that time, came to abrupt end in 2008 when her mischievous father arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. Mona, her eldest sister, once tried to reason with her father, “Nujood is way too young to get married.” To this, the father replied, “Too young? When the prophet Muhammad wed Aisha, she was only 9-year-old.” “Yes,” insisted Mona, “but that was in the time of the Prophet. Now things are different.” The father won’t listen. The husband ‘promised’ to the family that he will not have sex with Nujood until her first period, but he didn’t honour it. He raped and abused her brutally, “You are my wife! From now on, I decide everything.” In her heart, she prayed and plead for help, but nobody heard her. Once when she met her father, told him everything, wanted a divorce, the father simply replied, “If you divorce your husband, my brothers and cousins will kill me! Sharaf, honour, comes first. Honour? Do you understand?Honour, bullshit!

For many weeks, she contemplated of running away. But where? She doesn’t know yet, but she was determined. “I have always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything,” she thought, “Today I have decided to say no.” With this declaration, she gathered her courage and started the journey of daring escape. She went to court and would speak to anyone – judges – who then eventually take noticed of her and her miserable story. For the rest of the story, read this exciting book. You’ll be angry, you’ll cry (men probably cry in their hearts), you’ll be filled with love then hope – hope for humanity amid evil systems, traditions, and even religions. Nujood dreams to become a lawyer, she said, “When I grow up. I’ll be like a lawyer, like Shada [Nujood’s lawyer], to defend other little girls like me. If I can, I’ll propose that the legal age for marriage be raised to eighteen. Or twenty. Or even twenty-two! I will have to be strong and tenacious. I must learn not to be afraid of looking men right in the eye when I speak to them. In fact, one of these days I’ll have to get up enough courage to tell Aba that I don’t agree with him when he says that, after all, the Prophet married Aisha when she was only nine years old... I hope to go to college and study law. If I work hard, I’ll get there.”

Nujood, by God’s grace, may you find success and achieve your dream. Inshá allá. Amin.

[P.s.: Sad to say that it was reported in March 2013 that Nujood’s father has used proceeds from her book royalty deal to marry (again) and has arranged wedding for her younger sister, Haifa. Her father’s position “is upheld in Yemeni law. There are plenty of judges who support him and are unsympathetic [to Nujood]." "I won't let it happen to her [Haifa]," says Nujood to the Guardian, "I will speak to as many journalists and lawyers as possible about this. It is illegal." Animal!]


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