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Australia Investigating Stunning Claim Involving 9-Year-Old Girl and the Middle East

Faith

"We tried to have another conversation with the girl, and she actually disappeared."

Photo: Shutterstock

Australian officials are investigating the possibility that a 9-year-old girl was sent to the Middle East for a forced marriage after an immigrant advocacy group discovered that she had been sent overseas with no plans to return.

The Immigrant Women's Health Service said that after receiving a tip it sent representatives to the girl’s home where they learned from the mother that her daughter had flown out of the country Monday.

Eman Sharobeem, a psychologist and director of the group, told the Sydney Morning Herald that suspicions were raised when the girl – whose parents’ country of origin was not reported by Australian media outlets – said on an earlier visit to her home that she was going overseas and "wasn't coming back."

“She said, 'I'm going to go to my country and I'm going to stay there, I'm not going to come back to school. I hate school,’” Sharobeem said.

The girl further told the advocacy group’s workers that her parents had told her she would be “happier there.”

"We tried to have another conversation with the girl, and she actually disappeared," the group’s director said after the visit of her colleagues on Monday. The mother did not tell them that her daughter was being sent off for an arranged marriage, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"In cases like this, many girls disappear from the radar and we don't know anything about them, and then we are surprised with them coming back married or already pregnant,” Sharobeem told the Sydney Morning Herald.

AFP reported that Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the Australian government was investigating the report.

“Forced marriage is an insidious and hidden crime,” Keenan said. “We’re very keen to… make sure that if somebody is to come across this type of crime that they know how to go about helping that person to report it to authorities so we can do something about it.”

The investigation into the reason behind the girl’s travel came as the Australian government launched a program to help girls report efforts to place them in forced marriages.

"We're making sure that we have materials out there to educate the community about what to look for and so these crimes can be reported and then the appropriate authorities can go and prosecute them,” Keenan said.

But Sharobeem, the immigrants’ advocate, suggested the government plan would be ineffective.

"Forced marriage and child brides happen among the culturally and linguistically diverse communities, those communities will not go to the website and will not share glossy papers to see what's written about legislation in the country," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "It breaks my heart to see that we're trying our best to save lives and yet the government is printing glossy paper."

Not specifically addressing the reports about the girl, Khaled Sukkerieh, chairman of the Islamic Council of New South Wales, told ABC that under Islam, "that's not acceptable.”

"[W]e don't know anything about the case, but on the face of it a 9-year-old hasn't got the mental capacity or the age to marry herself off or to consent to a marriage," he added.

Featured image: Shutterstock.

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