Yemen has barred a former child bride from being honored in Austria, saying she is too young to travel alone.
When she was less than 10 years old, the girl was forced to marry a man at least three times her age. After being raped and abused by him, she successfully filed for divorce and traveled abroad to talk about her ordeal.
Thursday evening, the girl will be commended for her courage at an awards gala in the Austrian capital. But she cannot attend because Yemeni authorities have confiscated her passport, saying she is too young to travel by herself.
Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said Yemen's ambassador in Vienna told him a 10-year-old was not allowed to travel alone within Yemen or anywhere else.
But Georg Kindel, the founder and organizer of the Women's World Awards, said the girl's father, brother and uncle had all offered to travel to Austria with her.
"We definitely don't understand this," Kindel told reporters. "She is with us in our hearts and we will watch very closely what will happen to this girl."
The girl's name is not disclosed in this report in line with Associated Press policy on sexually related cases. Conference organizers said she is now 10. Kindel told reporters she was forced to marry when she was 8.
Kindel said Yemeni customs officials took the girl's passport when she returned home from Paris, where he said she had spoken "very openly" about what she went through.
Actresses Monica Bellucci and Claudia Cardinale _ who will also receive awards at Thursday's gala _ were among a slew of celebrities who voiced their dismay at the girl's absence.
"Out of her country, she can be dangerous and say things that maybe are dangerous for her own country _ that's why she's not here," Bellucci said at a news conference in Vienna.
Actor Christopher Lee and Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams called for a protest outside the Yemeni Embassy in Vienna.
Experts say thousands of underaged girls have been forced into marriages in Yemen, an impoverished tribal country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
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