Teaser 375: Aftermath of a Woman Violated in a Muslim Ummah
Our journey back to Niger was quick and uneventful and we were treated again to generous hospitality for our overnight stay. Some of the women in the “colony” were extremely concerned about something, but it had nothing to do with the “colony.” Few of the women who lived and worked at the “colony” were educated in any manner other than one or two years of often disrupted schooling, but a few could read and write and could definitely understand news reports from papers available from all over, though generally weeks before. There was no television in the “colony” because there was no broadcasting station within reach, so news from the outside world came in bits and pieces, from newspapers and other means and verbally. What disturbed these women—as they confided first to Lena and then Esperanza and Jinpa, so it was only between the women—is they had heard about a woman raped in southern Iran merely for displaying herself other than in traditional robe and scarf about the head. She had dared to appear outside her home in Western clothes, a blouse and skirt, but without a scarf covering her head. She had been considered by many in the community as trouble for quite some time and her parents had failed to counsel her properly, so a group of six men took it upon themselves to counsel her. Her gang rape was so severe and lasting for hours she was virtually left for dead and eventually died from an infection through a vaginal tear which bled so profusely that was the only reason the men stopped raping her. She eventually expired in what passes for a hospital in the remote parts of southern Iran, once she was brought there still alive, and which was nothing more than an overworked and understaffed clinic. Some of the men in the “colony” had read and heard the reports but no member of either gender shared it with the others. In cross gender communication in this part of the world events like this are never shared or discussed.
Lena, as you would imagine, told me immediately. “First, I must determine the truth from any embellishment, my beloved. Then, I will take the appropriate course.” Lena wasn't certain exactly what I was considering and she wondered what I did mean by “appropriate course.” I answered, mostly to calm her, “I can make a statement. I can bring attention to this travesty and people will listen, but I must know the truth first.”
Once we reached Jardin de la Paix I placed a phone call from their line. I didn't expect to reach him but I left a message it was urgent I talk to him.
I have learned over these many years I have been, in many ways, blessed to meet people in all kinds of circumstances, people who can help me in ways they never dreamed, and I always jumped on my computer or my phone after our meeting, which included exchanging options and methods of reaching and communicating. Instead of a journal, which I had only kept for a few short weeks in my young adulthood, I compiled a list of names, addresses, but most importantly, phone numbers to reach each and every one. This list had grown into the thousands, and this is how I arranged all those diverse people to work on Family Rifts. I made phone calls and recruited them. I also had numbers to reach many people in the media and reporting aspect. One was the Mideast bureau chief for AP. His office was the number I called and left a message. When he returned to the office late at night, out chasing a story but needing to edit and post other reporter's stories and set the schedule for the following day, his routine as bureau chief, he saw my message and eventually called me back.
It was well after midnight when he returned my call but I sat in the office all night. “Muhammad, I have heard about some young woman who was brutally raped in Iran, a rape so brutal she died from it. What have you heard?”
“Unfortunately, Al-Barrak, it is true a young woman was raped in so vicious a manner she eventually died from it. The reliable reports we have seen and heard say it was as many as six men and they subjected her to this assault for hours. They took her to a secluded location and left her there for dead. She survived the ordeal but died in a clinic two days later.”
“Where did it take place, Muhammad?”
“Al, you can't go there. I know what you've said. I heard you say it. If you go there you may never come out alive. Please, don't put this on my conscience.”
“Perhaps, I won't have to go there personally, Muhammad. Perhaps, I don't have to do anything myself. Have you considered it?”
Muhammad laughed. “You have no real standing in the Middle East, Al-Barrak.”
“No? How do you think I ended up with my own jet, Muhammad? How do you think I got through Iran and Pakistan by train? Is it because I am merely a crazy Westerner and nothing else?”
I could see Muhammad shaking his head, waiting, hoping I was only bluffing. I waited him out. “Fasa,” Muhammad stated with great exasperation, “it was near Fasa is where it took place.”
“Thank you, Muhammad.”
The jet was ready and waiting for us when we arrived at the airport in Bamako. We were in the air ten minutes after all were boarded and bags stowed, but the jet flew first to Munich and most departed from the jet and drove to their destinations arranged by Tanya herself. Not all of us left the jet. We refueled, the pilots ran through their thorough checklist, and Jacob, Jim and I flew to Istanbul, where we parked the jet in a hangar shared with other private jets, all pre-arranged, and the pilots were driven to hotel accommodations in the city. The three of us, instead, visited the Iranian embassy, received permission to travel by four-wheel drive to Shiraz and left for the border.
Shiraz is a large and relatively modern city, barely a hundred miles from Fasa. We could, without any serious repercussions, travel that far from the city and still remain within our “zone” of permission. We were tourists.
Persia is a land of history thousands of years old, as old and perhaps older than what the Bible can deport from Moses forward, though maybe not as old as Egyptian history. Remember, Egyptian history, as a complete narrative, barely extends 5300 years, when north and south Egypt became somewhat united. Before then it was strife and no different than elsewhere in human conclaves. Persia, though, developed a language still used today, Farsi, and the height of the Persian empire comprised much of what is considered Iran today. There are no educated Iranians who consider the history of Persia insignificant. All consider it a source of pride and there is an ongoing, probably never ending, desire to bring forth forgotten gems of Farsi prose and poems. Many of the Sufis who came to prominence or some modest recognition once the prophet, peace be upon him, passed on, wrote their greatest, if not all, of their works to be left behind in Farsi, the Persian language. I knew this, most historians of any note know this, whether they teach you or not. Persia, and now Iran, is full of unimaginable history and beauty, much conveyed in Farsi. I needed a Farsi interpreter, and we soon had one by the name of Javad.
Javad was twenty-one years of age, a student at a university, and a careful Muslim. We met him, all three of us, at an outdoor cafe, as he sat at a table next to us with two of his friends, and he made several statements in English and turned to the three of us when he said them. We merely nodded and made no other acknowledgment, until his two friends rose, hugged him with their goodbyes, and left. Javad sipped his coffee in no apparent hurry.
I turned to him and stated so he could hear easily, “You speak English very well, my friend, and since I'm an English writer of modest repute, I should know.” I lifted my coffee cup. “Salute.”
Javad lifted his toward me and drank from it. Since I wore my traveling clothes, he stared at them in disbelief. “Should I...know who you are?”
“Al-Barrak, my friend, though I was once known as Gregory Hess. He was awarded an American Oscar for best screenplay, which really needs to be written in English, since most of those screenwriters who vote can't really read anything but English.”
Javad smiled knowingly. “You have made a name for yourself.” He lifted his cup to me.
Without following the tradition, I waved my right arm to him and back to us. “Come. Join us. We don't bite. We're not snakes.”
Javad laughed, scooted his chair, rose and sat down in the open chair at our table. Once all were properly introduced we chatted in English for a half-hour or so. Javad asked us, then, since he was trying to be accommodating and not wanting to be rude, “What brings you to Shiraz, may I ask?”
I explained the three of us enjoyed experiencing the many and varied places of the world and all which each provides. We had a desire to venture to Fasa but we heard it may be of considerable advantage if we engaged an interpreter of Farsi, a sort of guide to accompany us. I, of course, would pay such a guide well for taking a long trip with us. “I have been told there is much of rich and unique Persian history in and around Fasa, and anyone who understands human history, surely knows how deep is Persian history, with one of the oldest and most continuous languages still in use. How can anyone ignore that?”
Javad committed almost immediately and we arranged, since he had obligations the following day, to meet up with him two days later. I think you know what I was going to do. If you know me from what’s been reported about me and only that, you know I'm not leading an innocent into something for which they're unprepared, especially when I hid it from them. We met two days later and before I gave him his initial share for his services I told him our true aim, by asking him what he knew about the woman's rape near Fasa.
“Why would you ask me that?” he asked, somewhat dumbfounded since everything to this point had proceeded smoothly.
“Because I intend to find out everything about it, Javad, so I'm asking you now before you even leave Shiraz. If you think it's all going to go smoothly when I ask around, you're not the one I need. You live in a dream world. I expect everyone to round up together and try to hide the truth of how vicious and brutal and sadistic the whole event took place. The people in Fasa are not going to welcome strangers asking about it, and you will be considered a stranger. I'm not going to ask you to put your life on the line when you're not willing, so this is your chance to back out now and I'll think nothing less of you than you have your own life and your own dreams to consider and they're not mine. I won't make you do what you're unwilling.”
Javad stared wide-eyed at all three of us, specifically taking long looks at Jacob and Jim up and down. He knew they both possessed weapons of some sort, and they're not difficult to procure in even foreign countries since you'll be checked at the border, but he finally, and very emphatically, stated, “What those men did to that woman is inexcusable. This is not the way of Islam and was never any teaching from the prophet, peace be upon him.” He stopped and stared at each one of us separately with an expression of dogged resolve. “What you choose to do once you know the full truth is none of my concern, but I will help you learn the whole truth. This is what the prophet, peace be upon him, taught, truth is like a diamond in the rough. It is hidden, inside men and their hearts, but once you root out the truth, all are rewarded. It may be dangerous, this truth seeking, but it is completely worthy.”
Javad is not his real name, and I have not, nor ever will share his surname. What Javad did provide us was the most excellent interpreter we could ever hope to find. We discovered the whole truth, and we even met those who had no delusions of glory about what these, in total, six men had performed. We found each one. It wasn't difficult. Some bragged about it.
Over two days all six “disappeared” for a while. They re-appeared almost simultaneously but would never discuss where they went or what happened. There were rumors, gossip of the primarily feminine type. All six men were suddenly missing a certain appendage. It was never confirmed, in Fasa. All six dismissed the contention. It was reputed the Imam, the mullah of the largest mosque and Muslim assembly in Fasa, and which all six regularly worshiped, received a box sent from the Turkish border, containing six separate castrated peni, my contention as the proper term for “multiple penis.” The Big Chief, weeks later, stated his disappointment with what took place in Fasa during the period when it was confirmed I was in the area. The speculation ran rampant and I, in conjunction with those accompanying me, was the strongest suspect but no crime had been committed because there was not one “wronged victim.” It didn't stop the Big Chief nor others. I can assure you, if there were wrongs committed, they were strictly of a vengeance type, completely acceptable in a Muslim community. Men may have been subdued, relatives of the deceased woman may have met these men, and vengeance was enacted. There is no doubt in my mind this is what took place. To this day I still consider it deserved, should it be true.
Muhammad from the AP called me before I could leave Istanbul. “There isn't anything to substantiate, since it seems to be very hushed, Al-Barrak, but what I've heard is that all six of these men suspected of raping and killing the woman in Fasa have all experienced castration recently. Of course there's no corroboration. No one seems to want to talk about it.”
“Muhammad, it seems to me a very simple thing to resolve. They merely pull down their pants and show nothing but a scrotum, no penis whatever. That would resolve it, I think.”
“You know none of them will ever do it.”
“Ah, 'tis the oddity of human beings. A woman doesn't expect to be raped and killed for merely projecting herself and men don't anticipate being castrated for merely participating in a brutal, sadistic, and deadly act performed by their peni only, but what goes around, comes around eventually. Once each of these men has been rendered nothing more than a eunuch, they're not really going to reveal their newfound status, unless they're recruited for a well-paying position as guardians of a harem. It's kind of an Arab, possibly Muslim thing, isn't it? I have five wives. Maybe I should hire one of them to guard my harem.” I was not sympathetic. Why should I be? Each got what was coming to them and so did their Imam. He never changed his teachings. He thought he was right. Others in the Fasa area disagreed. He left one day for a big Muslim religious gathering in Tehran and never arrived. Like Emilio Benvenuti, the Imam from the largest, most established mosque in Fasa, disappeared and was never heard from again. I chalked it up to the will of Allah, and, as I've written before, you can't fight it.
I was only coincidentally suspected with what may have happened to the six men in Fasa. I and my associates were in the area. It was known but that was the extent. Since my prestige was of unlimited magnitude with those of the rather downtrodden of humanity, few of them questioned it. Kitana called me a few days after we arrived in Munich. Kitana, you must understand and perhaps many of you do, is a devout Muslim. She would never parade her feminine body in any visible manner, and she truly holds faith to Islam and her concept of a respectful Muslim way. Still she had no regard for any Muslim man who would even consider brutalizing a Muslim woman in such a manner as took place in Fasa. It was something non-Muslims, disbelievers, infidels, would consider.
Kitana told me she had heard what happened and I couldn't definitively be placed at the scene but none of it concerned her. What she did tell me revealed a little more of why I had always thought, from the moment I met her the first time, she was a worthy partner. “When I think of you, Al-Barrak, I truly think of a man who is faceless, nameless, of no description whatsoever, and who, because of it, can never be linked to any group, so he will stand up to all groups and proclaim in a very loud voice, 'This is wrong!' And you will never let those who do such wrongs escape the punishment they deserve and you will even risk your own life to ensure what is right is made and kept right. I didn't recognize it from the beginning, but as all the years have passed and as much as I have discussed it with Alfred, too, we both know who you are and what you are and we both consider it a great privilege to know you and have worked with you to see not only your dreams come true but ours too.” Kitana laughed. “Mother and Father know it even more than we here. When we travel to Bamako to visit, she tells Alfred and me frequently, 'Oh, you young people. You have so much to learn. To be presented with such an open and willing heart, ready to be ripped apart only to protect you, you do have much to learn.'”
I told Kitana to tell her mother my only regret was I had no real way to make her my wife because I did have to honor her father, who secured your mother's love and honor first, and first is what matters here.
- Just Desserts, Segment Forty-Eight “Payback” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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