Married at 11, Saudi woman tells her story

Living in a poor neighborhood in Riyadh, she learned the hardship of life before she turned 10

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Um Sultan lost her parents when she was a child, resulting in her getting married before she left her teens and taking abuse from her husband, Al-Hayat reported.

Living in a poor neighborhood in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, she learned the hardship of life before she turned 10.

At 11, she had her first marriage in which she bore three sons and a daughter. Her husband passed away along with her sons and she was left with her daughter.

Um Sultan remarried at 17 and had eight children with her second husband. That marriage, which she described as “excruciating”, lasted 30 years.

She faced abuse from her husband because he would constantly insult her family and the fact that she had no parents or relatives, leaving her silently crying for many nights.

She thought of escaping from him, but any such thoughts were cut short because there was nowhere else for her to go but the street.

She said: “We live in a poor neighborhood. My husband worked as a driver and often we did not have enough money to feed us. We would rely on charity handouts.”

Um Sultan is now an old lady who suffers from many diseases due to the pressures she faced in life.

She has frequent epilepsy seizures and is unable to walk due to the amount of anesthetic the hospitals gave her during her numerous visits there. She divorced her husband and is living in a furnished apartment provided by local philanthropists.

She lives with her children and grandchildren and survives on SR800 a month from social insurance and donated clothes and food.

Her children have no jobs and are prohibited by their father to apply for social insurance and residency support because this would tarnish his reputation in his tribe.

After many years of trying to provide for her children and giving them a dignified life, Um Sultan is appealing to supporters and helpers in the community.

Her small apartment cannot accommodate her eight children and eight grandchildren from two daughters who are divorced.

This story was originally reported in the Saudi Gazette on Nov. 4, 2014.

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