When Amal was 15 years old, her best friend Jasmin stopped coming to school.
They were both freshmen at Fordson High School, in Dearborn, Michigan, home to America's largest and most diverse Arab community. When Jasmin didn't show up to their English-language learners (ELL) class that Wednesday, Amal assumed she was sick. But a day soon became a week, which quickly turned into a month. Amal tells me she suspected early on that Jasmin was not coming back.
"Her parents wanted her married," Amal, who is Lebanese, says. "She was Yemeni—they always do that very young." (Some names have been changed to protect privacy.)
Dearborn's Yemeni population has grown significantly over the past five years, largely due to an influx of refugees fleeing the ongoing war in Yemen, according to a spokesperson for the City of Dearborn. More than one-third of Dearborn's approximately 100,000 residents identify as Arab, and of those approximately 8 percent are Yemeni, which includes immigrants and Americans of Yemeni descent. Like most immigrant groups, the Yemeni bring their social customs with them.