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ALI BADER

to speak. Usually, each of us was silently engrossed in her work. We worked, without any communication, in full view of the armed men who watched us. However, after siesta, I would give my mother an account of the women guards or the prisoners with whom the armed men took turns to have sex.

These young, frightened, terrified women were the ones who brightened the drab lives of the armed men who passed through the house. Some would go on a silent mission. They would be credited with a great event and their life would be coloured with the colours of a secret love or a tragedy.

I told my mother about it all. At times I would embellish some of the stories from my imagination. Yes, it was like that. But my mother soon discovered the invention. I once told you that my mother had an unfailing instinct for discovering the workings of my imagination. In the same way, she would discover information I was trying to conceal from her. Her refined common sense and understanding spurred me to learn everything that went on under the roof of that large house. I became keen to learn exactly what each one of the armed men was up to, with whom he slept, with which prisoner.

This is what I remember of that time after our town lost the bustle of its streets. Really, it lost everything, as though life were no longer present. The town became more silent and more hysterical. I would even say to you that it was no longer a town, but an isolated military base, a base dormant in fear, submission, and humiliation. Its soul was constricted in fear and terror of the extremists. Every sound of life went silent. Car engines, cassette players, the radio, car horns, barks, snarls, human voices, the chirping of the sparrows, all of them stopped. A hellish symphony began, composed of the sounds of bullets and the screams of those killed and slaughtered with knives and the silent sobbing of the female captives.

I tell you, the palm trees were no longer green, yes, they were no longer green. Their erect tops were set alight by the burning rays of the sun. I tell you, the pavements were not as before, but as if vandalised because of the many holes and piles of rubbish.

As for the women, what should I tell you, my friend? The niqabs covered the women from head to toe. Yes, the city became a city of black crows where the women walked in silence, not uttering a word. Not just that, but there was a familiar scene you had to see

BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015 15

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