Zana Muhsen

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Zana Muhsen
Born 1965 (age 51–52)
Birmingham, England
Occupation Author
Subject Non-fiction
Notable works Sold: Story of Modern-day Slavery, A Promise to Nadia

Zana Muhsen (born 1965 in Birmingham, England) is a British author known for her book Sold: Story of Modern-day Slavery and its follow-up A Promise to Nadia.[1] The books narrate the experiences that she and her sister Nadia (born 1966) went through after they were sold into marriage by their father, Muthanna Muhsen, a Yemeni émigré.[2][3][4]


In the books and in interviews, Muhsen states that she and her sister had been sent to Yemen under the assumption that they were going on holiday to meet the paternal side of their family. Muhsen asserts that neither she nor her sister were aware of their father's plans, although her sister Nadia says that her father showed her a photograph of her future husband, Mohammed, in the UK, and that she knew she was going to be married.[2]

On their arrival in Maqbanah, Zana, 15 and Nadia, 13 learned from Abdul Khada that she was the spouse of a teenage son of the father's friend. Zana lived in a town called Hockail and Nadia lived in Ashube. Their mother, Miriam Ali, an English woman, appealed unsuccessfully to the Foreign Office for assistance, but was told that the Yemeni government had stated that as they were now married to Yemeni men, they could only leave the country with their husbands' permission.[2][5]

In 1987, an Observer journalist, Eileen McDonald, visited the girls and wrote a series of articles portraying the Muhsens as cruelly-treated slaves. The girls begged McDonald, and her male photographer, to help them leave the country, and the media coverage provoked an outcry in the UK.[2][6] This led to the Yemeni government giving the Muhsens permission to leave the country in 1988, but forbade them from taking their children (Zana had one child, Marcus,and Nadia three, Hassan and Tina are two of them).[2][5][7]

Zana Muhsen remained in England and in 1992, wrote Sold: Story of Modern-day Slavery with the ghostwriter Andrew Crofts, describing her experiences.[8] It became an international bestseller and was dramatised by BBC Radio 4.[9] The picture of a veiled woman on the cover of Sold is Nadia Muhsen. In 2001, Zana Muhsen and Crofts wrote a follow-up, A Promise to Nadia - the true story of a British slave. Nadia Muhsen gave an interview to Melanie Finn, a journalist for The Guardian, in 2002 in which she stated that she was happy with her life, saying, "It was never in my mind that I wanted to leave. It's just my sister, she wasn't comfortable."[2]


  • Sold: Story of Modern-day Slavery (1994)
  • A Promise to Nadia' (2000)[10]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Father tricks daughters into far-off marriages". The Lewiston Journal. Jan 6, 1988. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Finn, Melanie (2002-04-01). "Nadia's choice". The Guardian. Guardian Newspapers. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  3. ^ Ware, Vron (December 1992). "Moments of Danger: Race, Gender, and Memories of Empire". History and Theory. History and Theory, Vol. 31, No. 4. 31 (4): 116–137. JSTOR 2505418. doi:10.2307/2505418. 
  4. ^ "The danger of westerners being slaves to arrogance". The Herald - Glasgow. Apr 2, 2002. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Nadia Muhsin : The Mystery Unveiled". Yemen Times. 2000-01-31. Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  6. ^ "Unwilling Brides From Birmingham Stranded In Yemen". The Sydney Morning Herald. Dec 22, 1987. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Tears as the 'slave brides' see mum". Evening Times. Jan 5, 1988. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Walker, Duncan (2004-05-21). "I'm a celebrity, get me a ghost writer". BBC News Magazine. BBC. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  9. ^ Crofts, Andrew. "Sold". Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  10. ^ "Zana still suffering the sins of the father". Independent (Ireland). Retrieved 9 April 2013.