I was stunned this morning to learn of the death of child bride Elham Mahdi. She died of internal bleeding following intercourse three days after an arranged marriage to a man more than twice her age. There are many news reports. you can read a CNN report here, and a Canadian charity report here.
I was born a woman in a time and place where many women are not safe. I grieve the loss of a spirit sister. Ms Mahdi has had her life stolen. I grieve for the children and grandchildren she will never have.
In the killing one person, the whole world dies.
What alarms me about Ms Mahdi's death perhaps most of all is that the political discourse has focused on child marriage rather than the right to say no to unwanted sexual intercourse. CNN offers this quote from UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. "Her death is 'a painful reminder of the risks girls face when they are married too soon,' Kaag said Thursday."
Ms Mahdi's death must not serve only as a "painful reminder", but a call to anyone with a beating heart to take action. The issue is not just about protecting children from premature marriage but also protecting girls and women from rape. Although Ms Mahdi's husband has been arrested following her death, he may yet go free. Yemen has no laws to protect women who are raped by their husbands.
When even one of us is oppressed, no one of us is free.
I will write Ms Mahdi's name on a bright yellow shoe lace to carry during the race. May I have courage and honor her memory in my effort to be the best I can be.
Below is the Rotterdam mosque.