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Yemeni girl set to read divorce memoir

New York, March 20, 2010

A 12-year-old Yemeni schoolgirl is set to read the read the story of how at age nine she was forced to marry a man three times her age, raped and beaten, then made Yemeni history by getting a divorce.

The memoir that drew international attention "I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced", that Nujood Ali is yet to read herself, was released in English in the US this month and is due to be published shortly in Arabic.

"I do not know what is in it, except what I have been told about. I am still waiting to read it in my own language," she said via e-mail through her Yemeni translator and filmmaker Khadija Al-Salami.

"But I guess it is important to have my story come out to the rest of the world.”

Publishers have plans to release the book, as told to and written by French journalist Delphine Minoui, in 19 languages after it first appeared in France last year.

Two years ago Ali was thrust into the spotlight after her ordeal as a child bride was first reported in the Yemen Times.

She traveled to New York as Glamour magazine's woman of the year, becoming an international symbol for women's rights.

The book reveals how when she was around 9, her impoverished father -- who had more than a dozen children -- agreed for her to marry an older man.

She says he took her out of school, drove her with his family to a village, and raped her the first night of their marriage.

"No matter how I screamed, no one came to help me. It hurt awfully, and I was all alone to face the pain," she recalls in the memoir.

When he eventually allowed her to visit her family in the city of Sanaa, she ran off and hailed a cab to a courthouse.

With the help of Yemeni human rights lawyer Shada Nasser, a judge granted her a divorce, making her the Middle Eastern country's first divorced child bride.

But the end of the book is not the end of her story.

Last year her school "kicked her out because she never showed up for classes" as she was too busy doing media interviews, says Al-Salami, who now monitors her education.

After hearing of her lack of progress, the book's French publisher, Michel Lafon, helped her poor family buy a home. Now Ali is trying to focus on schooling, which she is paying for with royalties from her book.

"My life now in Yemen is calm and I live like a happy middle-class kid, where last year I was having a miserable poor life," Ali said via e-mail.

Her case and that of other divorced girls who followed prompted Yemeni citizens push for a ban on marriage before 18.

The reaction from Yemeni citizens, if it is ever released there, remains to be seen. – Reuters




Tags: New York | Divorce | Nujood Ali | Yemeni schoolgirl | Memoir |

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