Yemeni officials and journalists are saying the reports that an 8-year-old girl allegedly died of vaginal tearing on her wedding night are false, according to a report in Dubai-based news site Gulf News.
“When I heard the rumors [of the girl's death], I called the girl’s father," the local director of Criminal Investigation, Mosleh Al Azzani, told Gulf News by telephone on Monday. "He came with his daughter and denied the marriage and death of his daughter. I have the photos of the girl and will show it to anyone.”
Gulf News also quotes a local journalist and a children's rights activist in Yemen's capital who say they've investigated the story and believe it's false. "Some people create these stories to get publicity and attention and aid from international organizations," said activist Ahmad Al Qurishi of the SEYAJ Organization for Childhood Protection, a nonprofit volunteer organization.
Reports that the 8-year-old girl had died of internal wounds on her wedding night went viral online after Kuwaiti news site Al Watan published the story on Sunday, citing local Yemeni newspaper Al Mashhad. The Al Watan report said the girl, Rawan, died of "vaginal tearing" after being married to a 40-year-old man in the northwestern Yemeni town of Haradh, according to a Huffington Post translation of the Al Watan report.
The story quickly gained international attention, getting picked up by major news sites from Australia, London and the United States, where Fox News and Glenn Beck's The Blaze both featured it on Monday.
In the spring of 2010, UNICEF and a local human rights group reported that a 13-year-old Yemeni girl died of internal injuries just three days after having intercourse with her husband, who was twice her age.
The United Nations estimates that one in three girls in Yemen are married before they turn 18, often to older men who offer the girls' families financial relief from the strain of taking care of their children.
Mohamed Omar contributed to this report.