Must See: Yemeni girl protesting her arranged marriage online goes viral

    9:46 AM, Jul 31, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CNN) -- A Yemeni girl claiming to be a prospective child bride roils social media.

    The video is that of a young girl stares defiantly into the camera, her question is shocking, and coming as it does from an 11-year-old: "Would it make you happy to marry me off?!" she asks.

    Nada Al-Ahdal accuses her parents of trying to get her married off in exchange for money. She doesn't want to be one of Yemen's child brides, she says. "Death would be a better option for me," she declares.

    The video is a passionate plea on behalf of girls in Yemen was uploaded to YouTube and quickly went viral; millions around the world have seen it.

    A few weeks later, CNN found Nada, living with her uncle in Sana'a. She said she had escaped her immediate family in her hometown of Hodeida. "I ran away from marriage," she explains. "I ran away from ignorance. I ran away from being bought and sold."

    Nada talked about the singing group she's a part of which is unusual for conservative, rural areas in Yemen. She also hopes to get access to a better school in a bigger city.

    Nada says she asked a friend to make the YouTube video so she could tell the world how tough it is for girls there. "I'd rather commit suicide than get engaged," she says forcefully.

    In deeply tribal Yemen, the issue of child marriage is extremely complicated. Human rights groups say more than half of all young girls there are wedded before age 18, most of them to older men.

    And while many activist groups and politicians have tried to change the law, a bill drafted to establish a minimum age for marriage was blocked by conservatives.

    However, soon after the video was made, questions began to surface. Did Nada's story add up? Was she really being pressured to get married? Acting with a leading child welfare organization, the interior ministry took nada and placed her in a women's shelter.

    A CNN crew gained exclusive access as the parties in the drama came face-to-face in a stormy session over the weekend. Facing her parents, Nada answers allegations her story may have been made up. "Why do you believe them and don't believe me?" she asks.

    The arbiter in the negotiations is one of Yemen's leading women's rights activists, Ramzi Al-Eryani, Nada's temporary guardian. "I don't care about what's best for the mom or dad or uncle," Yousef says, "just what's best for the girl."

    Nada and her uncle maintain their story is true. Her parents repeatedly stressed they have no intention to marry her off. Still, just where the truth lies is hard to determine.

    Then, in an extraordinary moment, nada asks for something few in the room are expecting: "In the countryside, there's no English classes, there's no computer classes," she says. "Please let me stay in Sana'a and study here."

    All she wants, apparently, is a chance at a better life. And she might get it: at the end of session, they have an agreement: the entire family, parents and uncle included, are going to move into the house of another relative in sana'a, to see if they can work it all out together.

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