04/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Saudi girl withdraws petition to divorce 80-year-old

The girl at the center of a child marriage dispute in Saudi Arabia has unexpectedly withdrawn her petition for divorce.

The 12-year-old told the court in Buraidah, Al-Qasim province, that her marriage to an 80-year-old man had her full agreement, the news website Okaz reported.

"I agree to the marriage. I have no objection. This is in filial respect to my father and obedience to his wish," she said despite earlier objections from her mother.

A bride's hands.  Picture courtesy of the Humanette on Flickr.
Picture courtesy of the Humanette on Flickr.

The story was brought to light after the girl's divorced mother reported the marriage to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and asked for it to be ended.

The man at the center of the row, who was featured in a picture interview with Al Riyadh - Saudi's national daily newspaper, insisted he had done nothing wrong and said the girl and her father consented to the marriage.

Reports suggest he won the girl's affections after he offered her toys and paid her father a dowry worth USD $22,700.

The latest twist was greeted with interest in the Saudi media, where questions were raised about what brought about the girl's change of heart, as the Saudi news website Okaz reported:

The new turn of events in the case which has become the focus of public opinion, has raised question marks. Attorney Salih al-Debibi who was hired by Mawadda, a charity organization, said that the mother never told him in person of her wish to drop the case and did not even inform the organization that adopted the case from the beginning.

وأثار التغيير الحاصل في مسار القضية التي تحولت إلى قضية رأي عام، علامات استفهام المتابعين لها، إذ أكد لـ «عكاظ» المحامي صالح الدبيبي والذي وكلته جمعية مودة الخيرية في القضية، أن الأم لم تبلغه شخصيا بالتنازل عن القضية، كما لم تبلّغ الجمعية التي تصدت للجمعية منذ البداية

One commenter to the website going by the name of Umm Lana was outraged that such a young girl could be held responsible for her decision to marry a man seven decades older than her:

this is marriage not a game .. I wish the decision was for the human rights committee and that her family had no power to change it .. I got married when I was 18, I was a child I do not remember anything about my first years of marriage!! How would such girl be wedded to a man who is 70 years older?!!!!!!!!

.دا زواج مو لعب .. ياريت الحكم يكون بيد لجنه حقوق الانسان بدون مايكوزن لاهلها اي قدره على تفيير القرار ...انا اتزوجت وانا عمري 18 وانا كنت طفله لا اتذكر من حياتي الزوجيه في بدايتها شيء !! كيف بهذي البنت الي زوجها اكبر منها ب 70 سنه

A Saudi user on agreed, suggesting men who opt for such marriages might be 'mentally disturbed' or 'deviant':

I am against this kind of marriage because marriage is about affinity and cordiality before it is about sensual pleasure. I think that those who go for this type of marriage are mentally disturbed and deviated from the right path and the higher purposes of marriage. It is unacceptable to use the pretext that religion permitted him four wives; there are conditions for polygamy.

أنا ضد هاذا النوع من الزواج لان الزواج ألفه وموده قبل ان تكون استمتاع جنسي واعتقد ان من يقبل على هاذا النوع من الزواج انه يعاني اظطرابا عقليا وفاقدا للصواب ومحيدا عن الهدف الاسمى لمعنى الزواج وليس مقبول مايتحجج به من ان الشرع احل له أربع زوجات فهناك شروط يجب توفرها لمن يريد الزواج بأخرى

But opinions on the case in Saudi Arabia are divided.  Though Al-Qasim province is often derided by city liberals as behind the times, the debate about child marriage reaches all corners of the Kingdom.

Also commenting on, a Saudi user called lxuslx showed  support for child marriage suggesting the greater social problem instead lay with violent husbands:

I am for marrying young girls. What's the problem with that? It's utmost pleasure actually, and this was what I had with my wife, and nothing went wrong. The whole problem lies in violence, so the husband can treat his wife gently, provided that he is much much younger than 80 years old. I guess 30 or younger would be okay.

أنا ممن يؤيد الزواج من صغيرات فما المانع مكن ذلك فقمة المتعة فيها فام زوجتي تزوجت وهي بهذا السن ولم يحصل شي المشكله تمكن بالعنف فقط لكن بإستطاعة الزوج ان يعاملها برفق لكن بشرط أن يكون الزوج أصغر من ذلك بكثير وليس عمره ٨0 سنه بل لا مانع بعمر الثلاثين أو اقل

Perhaps the most common view though relates to whether child marriages meet the requirements of Islamic law.  In this respect, a commenter on the Al Arabiya news site felt there was no room for debate:

The question that poses itself is: is there anything in our Islamic Shari'a that prevents this marriage? It satisfies the conditions of the marriage contract. We want proof from the Quran and the Sunnah, not from human rights laws.

السؤال الذي يطرح نفسه هل في شريعتنا الإسلامية ماينص على منع هذا الزواج طالما استكمل شروط عقد النكاح . نريد دليلا من القران والسنة وليس من قوانين حقوق الإنسان

Thanks to Deena and Nouran for translations on, a site for sharing and translating Arabic and English media about Middle East events.