Al Asha, Yemen: The family of a 12-year-old Yemeni girl who died after being sexually violated by her husband a few days into her arranged marriage is demanding his execution.
Elham Assi died last Friday, five days after marrying Abed Al Hikmi, 24, in a case which has again brought into sharp focus the plight of Yemen’s so-called “brides of death”.
The medical report from the main hospital in the Hajja province, north of the capital, said she suffered a deep rupture in the genitals.
“I demand the implementation of Allah’s law. I demand punishment,” the mother of the girl, Nijma Ahmad, told AFP, referring to execution, which is the penalty for murder in the Muslim country.
In the hut village of Al Asha the mother said her daughter had been “fine and full of health” when she got married.
The husband’s family in a neighbouring village told her a few days after the wedding that her daughter “was sick, suffering malaria, and that the spirits have possessed her in the wedding”.
“I responded: Have fear for God. My daughter has no problems,” she added.
The brother of the girl, Abdullah, who had married the sister of Al Hikmi on the same day as part of the traditional custom of Sheghar, or swap marriage, accused his brother-in-law and his family of killing his sister.
“They have killed her: her husband and his family. They tied down my sister and killed her,” he said, standing next to his hut where he lived for less than a week with his bride, who is now back with her family.
His in-laws called back his wife, saying that her mother was ill, after they discovered that his sister was dead, he said.
Al Hikmi later went to the family of his bride telling them that she was ill.
“When we got to her, she was motionless,” her mother said.
The family of Assi is now refusing to take her body out of the hospital’s morgue in Hajja, near Al Asha, around 220km northwest of the capital. They want the husband to be punished.
Al Hikmi meanwhile remains in custody and according to a police report has admitted forcing himself onto his wife when she refused to have sex with him.
In September, a 12-year-old wife died along with her baby during a difficult delivery. “This proves that the law and the state will not be able to protect the young girls from early marriage unless there is an awareness campaign combined with penalties for those who break the law that we demand to be ratified,” lawyer Shaza Nasser told AFP.
A law setting a minimum age for marriage at 17 for women and 18 for men has stirred controversy in Yemen and failed to reach implementation despite passing in parliament after conservative MPs demanded that it be revised.
The lawyer, who in 2008 succeeded in obtaining divorce for Nojud Mohammad Ali, married at the age of eight to a man 20 years her senior, said she will take the case of Al Ashi’s family and “demand execution” for Hekmi.