Married at 13, abandoned at 30
When she was 13-years old, Salma (full name withheld) from Saudi Arabia was forced to marry a man aged over 60.
The man paid her father a dowry of SR250,000 ($68,000), but Salma says it was like she was actually sold.
Salma, now in her 30s, has no home and is deprived of seeing her six children following her divorce. When she tried to take them, she was thrown in prison for six months.
As if all this was not enough. After she was divorced and her children taken away, her father tried to sell her again - this would-be husband refused to offer more than SR100,000.
But it was her not her father who turned down that offer. Feeling that she had enough, she packed and fled her home.
“I was only 13 when this rich old man came and paid my father SR250,000. I was forced to marry a man who is as old as my grandfather… I was snatched off my fifth class at that age,” said Salma, from the central town of Makkah.
“He took me to his home in Madina and there I found that he already has three wives… I then started to spend my time playing with his children as I was a child and had no idea about marriage life.”
Salma, now in her 30s, said her marriage lasted around 17 years, during which she gave birth to four daughters and two sons.
“During my marriage to this man, I suffered from torture and very bad treatment… I then fled to my family’s house and stayed there with my children for nearly three years, after which I was divorced.”
The Saudi Alikhbariya newspaper said Salma first refused to give back the children to her ex-husband, prompting him to go to court.
“Police arrested me and I was jailed for six months… when I was released, I went back to my family and stayed for a while before another old man came and paid SR100,000 to marry me,” she said.
“I refused and fled home… I have been staying at mosques and parks all this time. My ex-husband still refuses to let me see my children. Sometimes I go to take a glance at them while going or leaving school and I could see clear marks of violence on their bodies. I think they are being tortured at home.”
The paper did not say where it met Salma or whether she has a home now. But it quoted a Saudi human rights activist as urging the woman to come along and present her case.
“If she comes and proves that her children are subject to torture by their father, then will we will talk to the police. We will also ensure protection for her and her children,” said Mohammed Kalantin, member of the Saudi Human Rights Commission in Makka.
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