Agence France-Presse

Nada al-Ahdal, 11-year-old Yemeni runaway, rejects child marriage in YouTube message gone viral (VIDEO)

Girls stand in al-Mazraq refugee camp near the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa'ada, Nov. 12, 2009, after fleeing battles between the army and Shiite rebels in northern Yemen. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)
Credit: Khaled Abdullah

An 11-year-old girl's defiant rejection of child marriage has gone viral, with millions captivated by the young Yemeni's outspoken condemnation of the practice in an online video released by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on Sunday. 

In the video, Nada al-Ahdal says she'd "rather die" than be forced into marriage at her age, asking: "What about the innocence of childhood? What have the children done wrong? Why do you have to marry them off like that?"

"I'm not the only one," she tells viewers, adding: "It can happen to any child."

It should be noted that MEMRI has been accused of propaganda that portrays the Middle East, especially Arab countries, in a negative light.

The Guardian's Middle East editor told the founder, "The items you translate are chosen largely to suit your political agenda. They are unrepresentative and give an unfair picture of the Arab media as a whole."

However, that does not change the fact that child marriage remains a common practice in many countries — so common that the World Health Organization estimates 39,000 underage girls are married off every day.

In Nada's homeland, 14 percent of Yemeni girls are wed before they reach 15 years of age, according to Human Rights Watch

"The barrage of statistics we encounter on a daily basis can be desensitizing, but when a little girl looks determinedly into the camera and clearly states: 'I'd rather die,' the impact is undeniable," observed Luisa Rollenhagen on Mashable.

Nada says she ran away from home when she learned her parents were trying to marry her off. She has fled to her uncle, who had intervened to prevent Nada from being married off before, reported The Huffington Post, citing Lebanon's NOW News.

“When I heard about the groom, I panicked,” the uncle told NOW, referring to the first would-be marrige. “Nada was not even 11 years old; she was exactly 10 years and three months. I could not allow her to be married off and have her future destroyed, especially since her aunt was forced to marry at 13 and burnt herself."

Nada, said to be a "gifted singer," is one of eight children, according to NOW.

She is now permanently under the protection of her uncle and has filed a police complaint against her parents, said the Huffington Post.

Watch her on MEMRI here: 

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