Inside the Middle East
August 28, 2009
Posted: 944 GMT

From CNN Correspondent Paula Newton,
Special to In The Field Blog on

Looking back at my first impression of Nujood Ali and her incredible act of defiance, I was very naive.

Nujood Ali rebelled against culture, religion and government.
Nujood Ali rebelled against culture, religion and government.

Like Nujood herself, I thought the mere act of demanding a divorce and getting one would ‘fix’ her life and allow her to return and remain in the embrace of her family.

The complexity of Nujood’s life is quite daunting to fathom now. At the age of 10, she defied her husband, his family and crucially, her own family to divorce her husband and return to the innocent life she so missed.

But after following Nujood’s story for more than a year now, it is far from a simple portrait of victory and triumph.

The key to Nujood’s life now is that she lives very much like an outcast in her community. The fame and the media attention have made her a choice topic for gossiping neighbors.

The fact is, some in Yemen see nothing wrong with marrying off a 10-year-old girl. And so what she did, and the notoriety that followed, was seen by some as a threat to how things are and how they should stay.

While we in the Western media celebrated Nujood’s courage, some in her own extended family questioned her rebellious act.

Nujood has said that her father, her brothers and her uncles have all expressed their displeasure at having her story exposed and publicized.

So where does all this leave Nujood now? I’m not quite sure. CNN producer Schams Elwazer has followed Nujood’s story now for months.

In repeated calls to concerned human rights campaigners, lawyers, the judge involved in the case and government officials there has been precious little clarity about Nujood’s future.

Apparently, there is some type of a scholarship fund set up for education, but Nujood’s school attendance has been sporadic in part because, her attorney says, her family has not supported her education whole-heartedly.

It’s clear Nujood and her family believed being famous would earn them a fortune. It hasn’t. Some have said to me that Nujood has been victimized twice by her family.

First, Nujood was forced into an early marriage she did not want and later into a publicity frenzy that her family believed would make them thousands of dollars.

Whatever the truth, Nujood has been hurt and very little in her life has changed for the better.

This has been a difficult but important story to tell for all these months. Verifying the facts of what happened to Nujood has been daunting but it has been insightful.

At its core, though, this is a real and gritty story about what it means to rebel against cultures, religion and government.

Nujood is very confused and angry and is far from living out the childhood all young girls deserve.

Posted by:
Filed under: Human Rights •Yemen

Share this on:
Neda Jafar   August 28th, 2009 1:43 pm ET

I saw the story on CNN and I was trying to get access to the video but it says its no longer available. I am a United Nations employee and work on gender statistics in the Arab region at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and would appreciate connecting me with her lawyer and provide me with the videos related to her story. I have a meeting coming up on violence against women and would like to use some of CNN videos for advocacy in my future meetings, if that is possible.
Appreciate your assistance, and many thankx for an excellent exposure of facts.

jasmine from Iran   August 29th, 2009 2:56 pm ET

Neda Jafar,

Finally I come across someone who is interested in making a change and is aware of the issues and the problems that women / girl face in majority of Islamic countries.
This is just a small example of the brutality and abuse that women face in legal and cultural matters. I can name 10 other just from top of my head.
Such as Stonning of women at this day and age , Honor Killing and.....

My surprise is how is it that majority of Muslim Women do not take part or not interested in changing this . And they are offended when you even suggest change. And they start thinking that you are evil and are against religion and if you go public with your opinion you could get prosecuted legally and culturaly.

But when lets say france try to Ban Burka's the muslim women around the world raise against France. Which makes me sick to my stomach for their hypocracy and not identifying the real issue.

Recently i heard there is a movie called " The Stonning of Suraya M. "
ofcourse this movie is not shown in here and I can't wait to travel to US and be able to see this movie.

My dream is one day for a female director / writer to be bale to show at least 20 of the injustices that happens in courts / hospitals and write a book about it. And then turn it into a movie. Someone with enough knowledge of Sharia Laws practiced, Culture of the countries and awareness of Quran to show that what is being done is not what is being practiced.
Such a book / Movie would have to be done by someone with courage and no family ties to these countries. Since as you know anyone who questions faces death and execution of maybe even family members. Such as the case in Iran

Ali Dahmash   August 30th, 2009 10:40 am ET

This story is crazy, it is not a common conduct in the Middle East or our culture, but it happens. We all need to address such problems especialy with minors and child abuse. I hope people like Queen Rania (whois very active) and Shikha Mouza of Qatar would work jointly on this. One of the major serious issues we have in Jordan is Honor kiling.

Hope   August 31st, 2009 1:35 am ET

The poor soul..If I could just scoop her out of that mess. Watched both videos, what a remarkable courage's kid. We need to be exercising more compassion towards victimized girls. Blowing the whistle on child brides is good..but not enough. Tribal societies are steeped in traditions..This is a long uphill battle for these young girls. Lets hope she gets her life back together, stays in school, and the media off her back.

ge in baltimore, MD   September 1st, 2009 4:12 am ET

it takes a foreign media to shad-light on this brutally toward (not women) young girls, just a baby have not yet seen experienced child-life.
however, this is not a new story to be told , kids been sold as brides to rich absent minded old Arabs ,all Arab state do practice this primitive tradition, is shameful on anyone to use Islam as way-out of this practice...Arabs are lacking intellectual muscle to treat kids as kids and exercise their minds to batter their future.
a community will never agree in error ,if you are not blind to see a woman as woman and kid as a kid...unless you are limited intellectually.

Deonte' Lang   September 3rd, 2009 11:50 pm ET

In the middle east defying your husband is big issue, in this case the 10 year old divorcee is exploiting her innocence to the whole situation. I feel as though every female should have control over their lives. In this instance the 10 year old explains how she is angry by the idea of being frowned upon in her commnity. Her father is even disclaiming her from the family which is wrong. Many reporters don't know how nujood is living now.

Jasmine from Iran   September 4th, 2009 9:42 pm ET

Thanks you everyone for being aware of some of the issues women face. There are many the legal and cultural issues that women face in many Islamic countries. But i guess Muslim women are more busy protecting their right to wear Burka in European countries.

1- Honor Killing
2- Stonning of Women, many times for crimes not commited
3- Women being considered as half a man in all legal matter
4- Men allowed legally to marry four times. But if a women is even thought of caring for someone other then her husband she will be stonned
5- Women not being able to ask for a divorce. It has to be initiated by a man in majority of countries
6- Majority of women not getting their children in divorce cases
7- Women not being allowed to drive in some countries
8- Women not being able to persue an education
9- Women being married of by parents
10- Women being treated unequal in inheritance cases

And many many more legal issues

Lilian   September 6th, 2009 9:23 am ET

The caption beneath the Photo says,
:Against Culture, Religion and Government"

I agree,its against culture and government but religion?...?

Its sad how our own muslim brothers and sisters ISLAM..
Islam does not allow minor s marriage...

why has this been declared an islamic act?

I am a theologist,i am not an extremist disturbs me to see at least 80 of the world making sure that they corrupt the scientific,logical and peaceful religions...All the religions,first by mixing it with culture and secondly getting down to conclusions and judgements without any research.

Kaerynn Klokman   September 7th, 2009 12:05 pm ET

Thi child should be adopted by a family in the US that can educate and care for this child. Idiocies perpetrated by the males of the Middle East is just a form of control for they fear their women. The case of a 75 year old women who is to be beaten for talking to 2 men in her home right now infuriates me. Then their is the case of the women who wore pants and is to get 40 lashes.

Religion is between a person an their God, not a political division of a government. As an American VOTING woman, I propose that these rules are all removed before we send one more soldier or one more dollar to these neolithic cultures.

Jasmine from Iran   September 8th, 2009 4:17 am ET


I am not sure what you mean when you say this is against Islam?

I believe our prophet married a 9 year old girl as well.
And in Islam a women is declared a sexual being as soon as she gets her menstoration , which is ranging from age of 9-12 in this part of the world. That is why a muslim girl is suppose to be covering and wearing a Hijab from that age.

This is not a "Rare Situation" in Middle Easter and some African Muslims nations. Its a common practice in Nations that abide by Sharea Law, where there is no age limit on marriage. There are many cases also in Saudi , Sudan, Afghanistan and....

So let us not be in denial about it

Hope   September 8th, 2009 4:58 pm ET

Jasmine from Iran

Internet Censorship is large in Iran and China...To be freely bloging from a conservative country, under the pretext (fighting for muslim women's aspirations), but taking it to a level of–trashing ones own religion– unleashing anger on muslim women for not barking loud enough–listing (promoting?) extremist if, it is practiced as a Predominant ideology all over the muslim world, is a bit too overridden...Anyway, maybe Iran is not as bad of a place after all..If one is capable of vocalizing such loose self expressions, then obviously Iranian Internet censorship is a hoax. Good luck, I am all for women's empowerment, but not in such an insensitive catalyst way.

jasmine from Iran   September 8th, 2009 9:20 pm ET


Why do we Muslim women insist that we do not face inequality in muslim countries. I think it is because we have been abused mentally and physically and emotionally that we have started to think that this is reality and we are have many right.

Are you comparing your rights to women 1500 years ago or are you comparing your right to that of Christianity 1500 years ago?

Or maybe until now you and your female family members have very fortunate to not have faced any inequality of any form from your male family members , culture or legal system.

Or maybe you live in a Western country in which case you can't be the judge that Women in Islam are not considered inferior.

Barry   September 14th, 2009 11:16 pm ET

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I saw the headline “Yemeni girl, 12, dies in painful childbirth” in the gym this morning, and haven’t been able to get it out of my head all day. The story of Fawziya Ammodi, the girl in question, is terribly sad, and appalling on so many levels. Fawziya came from an impoverished family, and because of financial hardship was forced to drop out of school last year (she was in fourth grade) and married to a 24-year-old man. She died of severe bleeding on Monday, after a three-day labor. Her baby didn’t live.

Fawziya’s death brings up the dual issues of child brides, which are very common in Yemen (more than half of girls are married off before the age of 18), and the quality of maternal health care, not to mention limited birth control education and resources. Dr. Ana Langer, the president of EngenderHealth, has a great post up at HuffPo about how planning pregnancies can save women’s lives (she encourages all of us to contact our legislators about a spending increase in the FY10 Foreign Operations Bill – if you’re interested in learning more, check out this link).

And then we’re confronted with the horror of women who are forced to get married because of poverty, or because women are considered a burden to their family after a certain age. Regardless of conversations about the appropriate age for marriage in any society, I think we can all agree that 12-year-old girls should not be forced into sexual relationships with men twice their age. It’s unclear as to why Fawziya’s family encouraged (or forced) her to marry, but there are many, many circumstances where young women are essentially sold to older men. This was the case last year, when 10-year-old Nujood Ali escaped from her new husband, who raped her within weeks of the ceremony. In February, members of the Yemeni parliament tried to pass a law raising the minimum age for marriage to 17, but the initiative was blocked by hard-liners who argued that it violates Sharia law.

For me, the causes behind the tragedy of Fawziya’s death are very hard to pin down, mostly because there are so many. And I’m afraid that it’s going to be turned into yet another conversation about why Islam is bad for women, which is so often oversimplified. Obviously, the men who are using Sharia to block a minimum marriage age are propping up a patriarchal system where women can be bought and sold, but I don’t want the child bride issue to be the only thing that comes out of this conversation (although it definitely needs to be discussed). The horrible death of this little girl was also because of poor prenatal and maternal care, and an inability (or unwillingness) to access or use contraceptives. It was also because of her family’s extreme poverty that she was married in the first place. The forced marriage of young girls is a human rights abuse, and it’s really horrifying to think that there are more issues at play in Fawziya’s death. But I hope that more comes from this tragic, tragic event than a simple condemnation of extremists in the Yemeni government.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

This blog has now been archived and commenting has been switched off. Visit the Inside the Middle East site for news, views and video from across the region.

Read more about CNN's special reports policy