Baby burkas and pre-teen marriages: what's happening to the region's young girls?

Published February 15th, 2013 - 13:06 GMT

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Sheikh Abdullah Daoud
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Image 1 of 8: Outraging Muslims on the net, Saudi Sheikh Abdullah Daoud, decided you were never too young to start veiling. The cleric tried to issue a fatwa, putting babies in burkas to “stop them getting assaulted”.

Mohammad al-Arifi
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Image 1 of 8: Don’t blame the men! Crazed cleric, Mohammad al-Arifi, has said daughters shouldn’t sit alone with their dad’s in case they “tempt” their vulnerable father figures. Still, the same fellow did also claim the MBC channel was for ‘atheists’.

Child brides Yemen
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Image 1 of 8: Although banned in most of the region, child marriages are still epidemic in some places. Over half of Yemen’s girls are wed before 18, meaning you’re less likely to find an adult bride than a child.

Saudi child marriage
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Image 1 of 8: Not content with staying a bachelor forever, one Saudi decided to wed at the ripe old age of 90 to a bride 75 years his junior. The Kingdom’s activists called it child abuse and the unhappy wife escaped soon after.

Syria refugee child marriage
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Image 1 of 8: Living in desperation, many Syrian refugee families have married off their young daughters to get them some security. Never mind the legal age in either Syria or Jordan, these 12 or 13-year-olds are heading down the aisle.

Morocco girls veiling
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Image 1 of 8: Fighting the trend, Moroccans have launched a campaign against girls as young as 3 being forced into the veil. Campaign teams say not only do pre-teens not understand the meaning of the hijab, but that it leaves them in “darkness”.

Project chastity Algeria
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Image 1 of 8: Much like the darkest reaches of the United States, Algerians decided this year to launch “project chastity”, a campaign to get pre-teen girls covered up. Activists said it left the question: why do 10-year-olds need their virginity protected?

Lama Saudi torture
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Image 1 of 8: The new wave of Sheikhs are criticized for sexualizing young girls with their radical fatwas. Some say Lama, the 5-year-old tortured to death by a father who ‘questioned her virginity’, is the only logical outcome.

For a decade or more, Western society has been made to take a serious look at what is happening to their children. With g-strings for the under 10s and pre-teen heels, it is frightening to think what the eventual outcome of this could be.

But in the Arab world, a more traditional culture has been seeking to protect young girls and keep kids as kids. For most Muslims, girls up until adolescence have no need to don the veil - something designed partly to  shield them from prying eyes.

However, a new set of Muslim preachers and groups are looking to veil younger and younger girls, leaving the question: what do kids as young as 8 or 9 have to “conceal”?

Some say these Sheikhs are just sex-obsessed or perhaps reacting to the kind of Western culture that puts young girls on stage in revealing outfits. But many in the region are worried about what this trend means for their young.

After all, by veiling 8 or 9-year-olds surely it will alert them to a sense of sexuality far beyond their years? And it’s not just the veil that’s causing controversy, with so-called “child marriages” hitting the headlines and cases of abuse that hint at girls being treated as adults, the region’s young girls are in crisis.

Here we take a look at some of places where the new found clerics have had their say, putting children in the hijab well before puberty ever hits.   


Should pre-teen girls be wearing the veil? Is it a sign of their devotion to God or just a way of controlling them? Tell us what you think below.

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