Rapist husband held in Yemen
Al-Asha - The family of a 13-year-old Yemeni girl who died after being sexually violated by her husband a few days into her arranged marriage is demanding his execution.
Ilham al-Ashi died Friday, five days after marrying Abed al-Hekmi, 24, in a case which has again brought into sharp focus the plight of Yemen's so-called "brides of death."
The medical report from the main hospital in the Hajja province, north of the capital, said she suffered a deep rupture in the genitals.
"I demand the implementation of Allah's law. I demand punishment," the mother of the girl, Nejma al-Ashi, told AFP, referring to execution, which is the penalty for murder in the Muslim country.
In the hut village of Al-Asha - a striking example of abject poverty in one of the world's most impoverished countries, the mother said her daughter had been "fine and full of health" when she got married.
Had no problems
The husband's family in a neighbouring village told her a few days after the wedding that her daughter "was sick, suffering malaria, and that the spirits have possessed her in the wedding."
"I responded: Have fear for God. My daughter has no problems," she added.
But her daughter, the latest victim of the widespread custom of under-age marriage in the tribe-structured society, had been in trouble for days, according to medical staff who had seen her earlier in the week.
An Uzbek gynaecologist at a medical clinic, Zahra Makyayeva, said she saw Ashi on the second day of her marriage, after her husband brought her in asking to "tear her hymen" - proving that they had not consummated their marriage.
The doctor said she refused because "it was forbidden" and advised the husband to go to a government hospital, pointing out that the girl, who was too shy to allow the doctor to check her, appeared frail.
Wanted to drug the girl
But instead of going to a hospital, Hekmi stopped at the clinic's pharmacy asking for sleeping pills or tranquilisers, but when he failed to obtain such pills, he asked for a sexual performance enhancer, which he got.
"We realised he wanted to drug the girl," said Sheikh Ali al-Huda, the owner of the clinic.
Three days later, Hekmi took his wife back to the clinic, where she was diagnosed with urine retention and found to have vaginal injuries and infection, according to nurse Fathiya Haidar.
"We gave her medication and she left. The morning after we heard she died," she said.
The brother of the girl, Abdullah, who had married the sister of Hekmi on the same day as part of the traditional custom of Sheghar, or swap marriage, accused his brother-in-law and his family of killing his sister.
'They killed her'
"They have killed her: her husband and his family. They tied down my sister and killed her," he said, standing next to his hut where he lived for less than a week with his bride, who is now back with her family.
His in-laws called back his wife, saying that her mother was ill, after they discovered that his sister was dead, he said.
Hekmi later went to the family of his bride telling them that she was ill.
"When we got to her, she was motionless," her mother said.
The family of Ashi is now refusing to take her body out of the hospital's morgue in Hajja, near Al-Asha, around 220km northwest of the capital. They want the husband to be punished.
'We want punishment'
"We will not take the body. What shall we do with it? We want punishment for the killer of my sister," said Ashi's other brother Mahdi.
Hekmi meanwhile remains in custody and according to a police report has admitted forcing himself onto his wife when she refused to have sex with him.
In September, a 12-year-old wife died along with her baby during a difficult delivery.
"This proves that the law and the state will not be able to protect the young girls from early marriage unless there is an awareness campaign combined with penalties for those who break the law that we demand to be ratified," lawyer Shaza Nasser told AFP.
A law setting a minimum age for marriage at 17 for women and 18 for men has stirred controversy in Yemen and failed to reach implementation despite passing in parliament after conservative MPs demanded that it be revised.
The lawyer, who in 2008 succeeded in obtaining divorce for Nojud Mohammed Ali, married at the age of eight to a man 20 years her senior, said she will take the case of Ahsi's family and "demand execution" for Hekmi.