Disfigured by acid, face of violence against Yemeni women
Married at 12, rejected at 16, then disfigured in an acid attack, the fate of Al-Anoud Hussain Sheryan is a shocking illustration of abuse in a society beset by war and poverty.
Now 19, the Yemeni woman has agreed to recount her ordeal at the hands of her abusive husband – a rare testimony in a country where domestic violence is largely hidden.
“He grabbed me by the hair and poured acid on me, laughing,” she told AFP as she sat with her veil framing a severely scarred face. assault last October which also left deep wounds on his body.
“I went through hell,” she said, describing her years of marriage, which she said she spent in shackles and often beaten.
When her father died, Al-Anoud’s mother remarried and then hurried to find a husband for her daughter.
“She wanted to protect me,” she said.
Having lived for four years as a “slave,” Al-Anoud was eventually kicked out by her husband, taken in by her sister, and began training as a nurse.
But her ex-husband decided he wanted her to come back, and when she refused, he took revenge.
After being hospitalized at a clinic where she had previously been employed, Al-Anoud is now waiting to undergo the three plastic surgeries needed to repair some of the damage.
Her doctor Moutawakal Chahari said the procedures would be complex and expensive, and even the bills for the first aid she received had not yet been paid.
Apart from that, he stressed the “irreparable psychological effects” of his ordeal.
– A grim statement –
Al-Anoud filed a complaint against her ex-husband after the attack, but he is missing and is still at large.
She hopes that someone, anyone – a humanitarian agency, one of the overburdened government departments or a grassroots nongovernmental group – can give her the financial help she needs.
“I want the police and the courts to punish the criminal who did this, but I also want my youth, my studies and my job back. I want my life back,” she said.
Child marriage is a hallmark of Yemeni society, but six years of war, which left the country on the verge of famine, has made violence against women more common and “dramatically increased,” said Tayseer Walid of the ‘Union of Yemeni Women in Sana’a.
Families are forced to “get rid of children’s expenses, especially girls, due to the poor financial situation,” she told AFP.
Many women’s and girls’ organizations had to close their doors after the war broke out, and those struggling to do so with limited resources to meet dire legal, medical and psychological needs.
When it comes to the status of women in Yemen, the numbers speak for themselves. A 2013 UN survey found that a third of Yemeni women aged 24 to 32 were married before the age of 18, and 9% of them were married before the age of 15.
UNICEF estimated that in 2020, Yemen had some four million married children, including 1.4 million under the age of 15.
– Shout for help –
In a 2020 report, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which deals with sexual and reproductive issues, estimated that 2.6 million women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence in Yemen.
He stressed that in the era of Covid-19, with lockdowns causing great tension, “cases of domestic violence are on the increase”.
The bitter conflict between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the government backed by a Saudi-led military coalition has left tens of thousands dead and millions displaced.
It has plunged the country – the poorest in the Arabian Peninsula – into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, which has expressed fears that some “16 million people will go hungry” in 2021.
While violence against women is one of the hidden facets of the humanitarian crisis, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has launched one of the few initiatives to combat this phenomenon.
With support from the Japanese government, he launched a mobile app to provide counseling to survivors of gender-based violence across Yemen, saying attacks on women and girls have increased 63% since 2015.
The application, first tested in the south of the country which is in the hands of the government, directs victims to protection and support services.
str-mah / mh / sls / hc / fz