Nujood Ali (نجود علي) (born 1998) is a central figure in Yemen's movement against forced marriage. At the age of ten, she obtained a divorce, breaking with the tribal tradition. In November 2008, U.S. women's magazine Glamour designated Nujood Ali and her lawyer Shada Nasser as Women of the Year. Ali's courage was praised by prominent women including Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.
Nujood Ali was nine when her parents arranged a marriage to Faez Ali Thamer, a man in his thirties. Regularly beaten by her in-laws and raped by her husband, Ali escaped on April 2, 2008, two months after the wedding. On the advice of her father's second wife, she went directly to court to seek a divorce. After waiting for half a day, she was noticed by a judge, Mohammed al-għadha, who took it upon himself to give her temporary refuge, and had both her father and husband taken into custody.
Shada Nasser agreed to defend Ali. For the lawyer, it was the continuation of a struggle begun with the installation of her practice in Sana'a, which she opened in the 1990s as the first Yemeni law office headed by a woman. She built her clientele by offering services to female prisoners.
Yemeni law allows girls of any age to wed, but it forbids sex with them until an indefinite time when they are considered "suitable for sexual intercourse." In court, Nasser argued that Ali’s marriage violated the law, since she was raped. Ali rejected the judge's proposal of resuming living with her husband after a break of three to five years. On April 15, 2008, the court granted her a divorce.
After the trial, Ali rejoined her family in a suburb of Sana'a. She returned to school in the fall of 2008 with plans to become a lawyer. Ali's memoirs were published in 2009, and royalties from international sales of the book were intended to pay for her schooling; but she did not attend school regularly. Because of negative world press coverage about Yemen resulting from the case, Ali's passport was confiscated in March 2009 and she was prevented from attending the ceremonies for the Women's World Award in Vienna, Austria. Media reports also questioned whether proceeds from the book were in fact coming to the family.
In 2010, Ali's family was living in a new two-story residence bought with the help of her French publisher and running a grocery store on the ground floor of the building. At this time, Ali and her younger sister were attending private school full-time. Because the publishers were not able to pay Ali directly under Yemeni law, they agreed to give $1000 a month to her father until she was 18 to provide for her and her education.
The English-language version of the memoir was published in March, 2010. Introducing the work, New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof praised the work done to raise awareness regarding such societal problems as terrorism, associated with polygamy and child marriage, saying, "little girls like Nujood may prove more effective than missiles at defeating terrorists." Indeed, publicity surrounding Ali's case is said to have inspired efforts to annul other child marriages, including that of an eight-year-old Saudi girl who was allowed to divorce a middle-aged man in 2009, after her father had forced her to marry him the year before in exchange for about $13,000.
In 2013 Ali reported to the media that her father had forced her out of their home, and has withheld most of the money paid by the publishers. Her father has also arranged a marriage for her younger sister, Haifa.
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- Untold Stories: Wedlocked Pt 2