Save Little Iman
🚫Trigger Warning - details of sexual abuse, rape, pedophilia, and violence Sana'a,Yemen
Iman and Aman sat in the corner of the living room, hands cradling their legs, shivering and staring at the already familiar room like it's their first time being there, trying to make sense of a situation much larger than their fragile frames. I saw Iman's little hand reach out to me shakily while she blankly looked at me and slowly asked, "Will you get me divorced from him finally? Will Aman and I get to stay with Um-Zaid forever?".
Iman 11, and Aman 10 are the daughters of Najib, a man who lost his position as a soldier in the military as a result of the absence of government wages for the last 3-4 years. After his divorce from the girls mother, he took to the streets, the mother remarried to the countryside and the girls as per the Yemeni law after their mothers marriage were left to live with their father who in turn gave them to a family of 12 who live under the poverty line.
Iman and Aman were 8 and 7, because of the protection of the host family the little girls were staying with, Najib failed numerous times to force the girls into begging in the streets of Sana'a to provide money for his daily qat chewing sessions. Um-Zaid, the host family's mother described their horror the day they found out the girls were gone because Najib had kidnapped them to an unknown location as ,"it was an unexpected shock, by then the girls were a part of our family and we considered them as our daughters, we were scared".
Ali, the host family's father said,"Najib took the girls to Sadaa province so they could beg in the border of one of the villages and the neighboring country, he subjected our little girls to danger and hard living conditions, they did not even have food to eat".
The story according to little Iman
Father forced us to beg from people and cars under the sun, he wouldn't care if Aman and I ate or not as long as he got his qat money. We didn't have a place to sleep in so we would alternate between the door steps of several shops including a barbershop. One day the barber felt sorry for us and gave us a blanket and some money, my father told him "take my daughter Iman as a wife and pay a small dowry", I did not understand what he meant that time, but soon the barber came back and gave my father 600,000YR (1000$) and took me. The women designed my arms with black henna and dressed me up, I was scared. He was 30 years old, he took me to his brothers house... ***Iman went silent and covered her face out of embarrassment, fear and what seemed like the beginning of a panic attack, we later came to know it was because she remembered the instances where the 30 year old predator would flash his genitalia at the minor child, she would cry, tell him to wear his clothes, be decent, and 'seek refuge from satan' as she thought she was in a nightmare, he raped her for 25 days, she couldn't walk at a point, and had upper urinary tract infections***
He used to tell me to be a good wife and wear the adult clothes *lingerie* he would bring, and when I refuse he would beat me up, my left ear is almost out of hearing because of his slaps. A few days after the wedding, he called his brothers wife to the room and they both stripped me naked and tied me up, she left the room while I pleaded with her to help me, he put me on the floor on my stomach and got on my back, it was really painful after that and I don't remember anything, but I woke up wrapped up in a blanket without my clothes and soaked in water, my stomach, hips and back were hurting, I can't remember anything.
He continued to hurt me for 25 days, I couldn't call Um-Zaid to come and rescue me, they did not let me touch their phones. I went to the hospital once because I couldn't walk properly and my sides were hurting. One day before he went to work in the morning he threatened to kill me if I don't do what he says at night without crying or refusing, he said I have till that night to think. I was so scared, I wanted to die, when he came back at night he asked me if I have decided to do what he says or would I rather be killed. I thought very quickly and told him I'll do what he wants but I need to go get the clothes he got me from the roof because I washed them, he let me go to the roof in the second floor...I gathered all the strength I had and jumped down, I ran and ran in the dark, I couldn't see anything but I just ran till I found a house and told them my story, they helped me get to Sana'a, where I called Um-Zaid and she came to take me back home.
My husband found my father in Sana'a and told him I ran away, and that he wants his wife or his money back, father simply offered to give him my sister Aman who was 7 years old that time. When Aman refused, he hit her with a concrete block and her eyes and ears are affected now, she can't see properly anymore, but Aman ran away to Um-Zaids house before they got her married to him.
I see him in my dreams, I see him everywhere, he scares me, I just want to get a divorce, please get me divorced...
The Yemeni Law
The Yemeni Law allows a father to marry off his daughter at any age he deems suitable, in Iman's case she is not eligible to file for divorce herself till the age of 18. However, she may be married off under 10 to a man more than 3 times her age. In order to get a divorce, the husband must take back his dowry money.
Iman's story made it out to the light, but there are 12 million still unnamed, unseen, unheard of. Our girls are not your brides, amend the patriarchal justice system that allows for the sexual exploitation of underage children in the name of marriage.
We asked Iman to make three wishes, she said," One, I want to stay with Um-Zaid forever. Two,I want to go back to school. Three, I want to become a doctor"..
The only solution to a chronic problem like child marriage which is protected by religious extremist groups and tribes who consider it as their basic human right to marry and sexually assault a child is for governments to create extreme punishments, penal codes must be amended to be more strict and intolerant towards the violation of children's rights.
By Dr. Feminist