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ALI BADER

women were either Christians or Yazidis, or the wives of Muslims they called apostates.

Those rooms grew big with women. It was a simple matter, as they said! As soon as the armed men saw someone with a beautiful wife, they would accuse him of non-belief and apostasy. Next he would be murdered. Then they would help themselves to his furniture and carry off his wife to the large house for one of the armed man to sleep with before selling her to another. That’s what happened to Hamid the grocer. Once he badmouthed the armed men. He was unhappy about the stoning of the infidel adulteress, and in the evening they came for him. They took him to the square, accused him of apostasy, tightened his shackles, and shot him. The next day they took his wife captive. The armed men slept with her, and bought and sold her, and she stayed among them being bought and sold.

His wife was called Naeema. I observed her once in the afternoon when I was walking along the dusty streets of the village. I peered into one of the windows of her house, which was open to let in the breeze on a hot afternoon. Her husband Hamid came up to her from behind. She was sitting on the sofa, sewing a shirt. He emerged from behind her. He was half-naked, wearing a white vest over his brown body. He went up to her as she was leaning over her sewing. She raised her eyes to meet him with a beautiful smile. Hamid put his hand on her shoulder, then lowered it to her chest. She did not move. She raised her eyes towards him with a dreamy look. I don’t know how I felt his hand, it was as if it were touching my shoulder and chest. From a distance I noticed the look of desire he gave, Naeema’s compliant hands, the intimacy between them, the surge that joined them in an awesome secret. I felt a sweat break out on my forehead and a tingling in my hands. I could no longer breathe. My heart was like a frightened cat between my ribs. I sensed a tingling in my fingertips and felt a surge of heat from my body.

*

The big event that year was one of Radi’s sons coming to visit his father. He was a handsome youth, and beardless. He wore modern clothes. He was a student at university. The armed men questioned him, then left him to see his father who had bribed them to let him do so.

BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015 19

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