12-yr-old Saudi girl drops push to divorce 80-yr-old

RIYADH: A 12-year-old Saudi girl unexpectedly gave up her petition for divorce from an 80-year-old man her father forced her to marry in exchange for a dowry, Saudi media reported today.

Despite support from human rights lawyers and child welfare advocates, the girl and her mother, who originally sought the divorce,

withdrew the case yesterday in a court in Buraidah, in Al-Qasim province, newspapers said. The girl told the court that her marriage to the man was done with her agreement, according to Okaz newspaper.

“I agree to the marriage. I have no objection. This is in filial respect to my father and obedience to his wish,” she said. Saleh al-Dabibi, a lawyer supplied by a charity group to help the girl, said her mother did not inform him of the change of heart, Okaz said. An unnamed official

of the government’s Human Rights Commission, which was originally asked by the mother to help in getting the marriage annulled, told Arab News they too were surprised by the mother and daughter dropping the case.

The influential daughter of King Abdullah, Princess Adela bint Abdullah, expressed concern over the girl’s marriage.

“I, personally, and many specialists in social and education fields, share

the opinion” that it is in violation of children’s rights, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported. “A child has the right to live her childhood and not be forced to get married. Even an adult would not accept that,” she said.

According to reports, the girl’s father, who is separated from her

mother, arranged her marriage to the 80-year-old last September in exchange for a dowry payment of $22,667.

The case caused an uproar after Al-Riyadh newspaper first reported it in early January, saying the marriage had been consummated and quoting the girl as pleading to the journalist to “save me.” Her mother, who is unidentified in local reports, petitioned the

court to annul the marriage and charged that the girl had been raped.