Many Yemeni bloggers, blog about the revolution in Yemen. But I will be focusing on the suffering of Yemenis for a bit, so the world can see how much this country needs change and deserves change to a better life.
Today, it will be about a child bride who still played with a doll...
The first time I return to Yemen for a visit since I came to the UK, I saw Yemen just like I knew it was before I left it... back in our village, I saw many things but, one thing that really can’t leave my mind, stuck on my mind and never will I ever forget.
I was in the dewan (Which is a long, cushioned seated Room, basically a long room, like a living room to sit in).... this dewan, would be packed full of women coming to visit us... as we seated down, talking... and drinking tea... a small little girl, with long dark black hair came walking through, as she came closer, I noticed her wide light brown eyes, she shyly smiled... coming straight up to my mum saying hello. And passed her welcoming message from her mum. My mum talked to her for a bit, asking how was her mum doing etc. After the chit-chat ended, the girl moved to sit in the empty space by me... a women beside my mum, lead closer to my mum speaking quietly about this young girl , I briefly over heard.... WHAT???? I screamed out loud, everyone heard me! Though that wasn’t my intention... I was just shocked. Too shocked. What? How? Who to? Why?? Where my questions. I turned, to this unknown child... is this true? I asked. Are you really getting married to someone more than 15 years older than you?
She half smiled, her eyes getting watery... not knowing what to say. But she understood why I was shocked... she ran out of the dewan without a word. Joining the rest of the little girls who were playing with a doll...
I was in disbelief, not knowing what to do, anger ran through me, I was angry. I was going through mixed feelings. Guilty for humiliating this girl. I was 12 years old, still a child myself; I didn’t know how much my loud questions would upset her.
I walked out to check this girl... I saw her sitting down with the rest of the girls, not much different from them. Giggling and laughing... I knew right then, this girl was not mature, this girl still plays with dolls, this girl was innocent, her smile, laugh and eyes where innocent. This girl was not ready for marriage. This girl was nothing but just a child... And that innocence will be taken of her.
I walked up to her. I asked what her name is. "Ashjan" she replied quietly, seemed she had already forgotten what I did inside the dewan... "My sister is called Ashjan too" I said. She smiled and said "that’s nice" ...how old are you Ashjan "10" she said, this time her volume voice raised a bit. She was too small; her body was not of a 10 year old. Maybe she is just naturally small, or maybe she didn’t know her exact age. (Many Yemenis don’t know their real age, due to the reason of not being educated.) ...She felt at ease after I talked and played with her... her laugh, is still stuck on my head. This girl was different, different from the other girls around her. Her white skin stood out from the girls who were getting dark from the sun... I was told she was kept inside the house all the time, preparing her for her wedding, as in not wanting her to be burnt by the sun; they wanted her to stay beautiful.
Ashjan, is the second oldest child in the family, she has a brother who is older than her... and also 3 younger sisters and also 2 younger brothers. They all live in a mud house, which consist of 2, only. The family is very poor. The reason Ashjan, was getting married this young is because the rest of the family can live, so the family can husband to promise not to touch Ashjan until she reached puberty. As if that’s any better!
Ashjan's visit was coming to an end, she went to say bye to mum. My mum was feeling sorry for this child and does not know what to do about it. She gave Ashjan money to pass on to her mother... I gave Ashjan a big massive hug, suddenly a tear ran down my cheek, couldn’t help it. "Thank you" Ashjan whispered down my ear... I stopped hugging her and looked her in the eye. "For what" I asked... "For being a wonderful friend" ...I couldn’t talk, I didn’t know what to say. I was a child myself, I didn’t how to help. So I smiled instead... That doll, she played with was my cousins, I managed to convince my little cousin to give it to Ashjan after promising her I’ll get her another one. She agreed. Ashjan was so happy! ...My sister came along and told her "your called, Ashjan and your pretty, all pretty girls are called Ashjan" my sister joked, looking at me, pointing that I wasn’t pretty just because am not called Ashjan... My sister wanted to make Ashjan better. I knew it. So I jokily argued back... Ashjan was entertained, she giggled and said "Every one is beautiful" ...She hugged me again, tightly this time. Then grabbed her younger sister and walked off... skipping along, her black curly hair danced along as she skipped... She disappeared into the distance. She went. She was gone.
From that day, I never saw her again. I don’t know anything about her; all I know was that she was married, a few months later.
Ashjan is someone I can’t forget. So this is why I want the world to hear the Yemeni people’s voice. Because they are saying enough. They are saying enough to child bride, enough to poverty, enough to many things.