every day: a couple of barefooted and half-naked men stretched out on the ground being flogged. You saw only the whips rising and falling on their backs and the bright colours.
A town struck by a plague, my friend. Without law and without order. A wasteland losing its identity, plagued by people from the desert and with monsters for neighbours. A town invaded by armed men where the biggest battles were over stealing property – houses or flocks of animals. It was the epitome of vice. They halted work and ruined our religion with their demonic incantations, They turned the town into ruins emanating the stink of sewerage.
I, however, was in another world! You smile. The niqab was unable to restrain the defiance of my still youthful body. It was unable to threaten my blossoming. But what with being busy in the big house with my mother since the arrival of the armed men, my attention to the sad stories of those miserable women, my hearing the sound of their crying, and my acquaintance with many miserable details, did make a chill appear in my fresh soul and did affect my enjoyment of life.
Yes, everything changed for me. To begin with, I felt my womanhood was a flower opening inside me, but that was soon repressed by unparalleled force and violence. What I remember of those days, for example, was how entranced I was by the tone of my words when my voice changed. I started listening to my voice as though I were listening to someone else. I loved it. I felt I was a woman. I knew I had left my childhood behind for good. But afterwards I grew afraid of it. Being a woman meant being desired and wanted by others. I felt this would make one of the men that surrounded me greedy for me. So I hated the transformation and the change to the sound of my voice and the way I spoke. I even started to hate everything around me. I began to live in anguish because of my fear of my body, my fear of my womanhood. No one could endure in the face of the viciousness of those men, bodies without souls. Their mouths were like the mouths of predators. Their voices were loud and annoying like drumming on a metal box. Their hands were rough and carried whips and guns. When they looked at me I felt as though they had murder in mind.
I would walk the streets quickly so none of them noticed my firm backside. I easily recognized their depressing faces and brazen looks. They walked around in groups to monitor the enforcement of the
16 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015