The 8-year-old girl who was rescued by the Yemen police from a forced wedding in the Al Souhoul area of Ibb district. The minor girl’s mother initially opposed the wedding, but gave in when her husband threatened to divorce her. Image Credit: Yasser Ubbad

Sana’a: Yemen police jailed a man for six days after he attempted to marry off his 8-year-old daughter to his relative in the northern province of Ibb, local security official and two activists told Gulf News on Wednesday.

Last Thursday, independent website Al Masder Online reported that an 8-year-old girl, Iftikhar, was about to be wedded to her cousin on January 23 in the Al Souhoul area of Ibb district. Local activists urged police and human rights organisations to intervene and stop the wedding.

Responding to the appeal, the chief security of Ibb district, Brigadier General Mohammad Al Qudisi, sent an armed vehicle filled with soldiers to the area to stop the wedding.

“The police arrived in the nick of time. The wedding preparations were in full swing,” Al Qudisi told Gulf News by telephone.

When he heard about the police’s arrival, the father locked the would-be bride and her mother in the house and fled.

Al Qudisi said: “The police threatened to break the door when the mother refused to open it.”

The mother initially opposed the wedding, but gave in when her husband threatened to divorce her, according to Yasser Abbad, a local journalist and activist who first contacted the police.

“The policemen were cooperative and immediately agreed to send forces to stop the wedding. We risked our lives to help stop the wedding. We were afraid that we might come under fire from the father,” Abbad said.

The police took the girl out of the house and handed her to her uncle, who had contacted the activist when he heard about the wedding.

“The girl’s uncle was angry when he heard about the marriage, but was unable to stop it. So he contacted us a day before the wedding,” Abdul Yousifi, a local activist said.

“The girl is a primary school student and was unaware that she was getting married.”

The police shortly managed to round up the father and questioned him about his motives for trying to marry off his daughter.

“The father said that he gave a tribal pledge to his nephew to marry his daughter when another man did not accept his marriage proposal,” the official said.

The official maintained that they did not keep him in prison for long “since he confessed his fault”.

“We did not want to destroy his poor family as he is the breadwinner. Also we released him when he admitted his fault and pledged not to marry her off before she reaches the legal age of marriage.”

Child marriage in Yemen jumped to the headlines in September in the wake of unconfirmed media reports about the death of an 8-year-old child bride on her wedding night. The ministry of interior urged activists and citizens to be out the lookout for any child marriage in the country. The ministry’s officials managed to foil many underage marriages across the country last year.