Monday, December 3, 2012

Did I see what I really saw?

It was so surreal, crazy, bad, good and a day that made me heart heavy.

It started that we were invited to a demo in Zharawa which is about 2 ½ hours away. The prime minister of Iraq, Malaki, has trained and just last week put into the disputed cities, Mosul and Kirkuk, a huge armed force. These two cities are full of oil, thus, although they are in Kurdish area Iraq will not let them go. There was a referendum promised years ago that still has not happened so the cities are still in limbo with a lot of violence.

 This  is very disconcerting to the Kurds as they have  very recent memories when Sadaam brought forces into the Kurdish area and committed genocide.

Anyway we were asked to attend this demo. It is unique in that it was organised by a woman’s group and a teacher’s group. We said that we would go as observers.

Zharawa is also home to one of CPT IK’s longest friends, B. We had not visited for a long time so phoned him to say we were coming.

 So Lukasz, Garland and I drove to his house and when we got out we noticed that something was up. There was an Asaisch (security police) vehicle with many officers outside his gate. We went in and were seated. He came into the room and said that a young man and woman from Iran had fallen in love and run away to this area and were secretly married. 25 days before.  B is known in the region as a very wise man.The families came to him as mediator and they were dealing with this in the next room.

 We had been invited for lunch but when we were seated our host apologized  for the lack of food. He had been unaware that all these people were coming and they had eaten most of the food prepared for us. He then left again into the next room for more negotiations..  As we sat around the tablecloth on the floor I noticed a very old women seated by the wall. Soon B’s wife and daughter came to her and helped her to her feet. I realized then that it was a very young woman. She looked so dreadful. They walked with her into the negotiation room.  About ten minutes later B came out and told us it was decided that they would be divorced.

Then a switch happened when the families and young women went into another sitting room and we went into theirs for tea. The young bridegroom was in there. He spoke with us and one thing he said struck such sadness in my heart. He said, “I don’t mind not being her husband, but I hope that they don’t kill her.”

A while later some men came into the room to say goodbye. Our translator, A., said to us,”don’t stand up, don’t stand up”. He reminded  us later that standing is a sign of respect. He did not want us to show any respect for these men who did such a horrible thing to their children and he did not know how they would treat the young woman.

That night I did not sleep well. My sleep was invaded by images of the young woman and fear for her future. I woke up and read and then wrote a poem. I came to our team worship the next morning very tired and  emotionally distraught. I found out at check-in that Lukasz and Garland were feeling similarly to me. We did not understand.
The next day I spoke with one of our partners who works with violence against women. He told me that this situation is common  and is one of the things that they are working to educate people against doing.
The next day our advisor and translator Mohammed spoke with B. He told us the story was very different than we had surmized during our visit. The young couple had married 25 days before but the woman had called her family to come to get her because she wanted out. So the negotiations were about how to deal with her desire for a divorce. This was decided on and the family took her home. B. had spoken with her and the family stated that she was doing well.
So, maybe my poem (below) was not for this young woman. But as our partner says, there are young people who face the wrath of their families who disagree with their choices.
As I thought about this I realized that similair things happen in my culture. Young women are thrown out of families when a pregnancy is discovered. Young men and women are thrown out of homes when they have the courage to tell their families that they have fallen in love with someone of the same gender.  And so on... Families in different cultures dealing with children in cruel ways.
November 24, 2012
The Woman With the Dark Sorrowful Eyes
I cried into my pillow last night
Thinking of the woman with the dark, sorrowful eyes.
She sat by the wall in the room where I ate normal rice and chicken
My eyes saw an old dapir/oma/grandmother
Hunched over, shawl covering all
As two other women helped her stand, one on each side
I saw that she was so, so young.
Yet buried, burdened with a load that no woman should carry.
Her load? A love, a journey, a vow to cherish and stay until death do them part.
Yet today the parting comes
Her family decrees a separation, a divorce
She shall return to the home
He shall return to the home
Never more to cling to each other
Twenty-five days- now decreed over for ever.
She carries this load and the burden of being a scar, a disgrace, an unwanted woman.
I cried into my pillow last night thinking of the woman with the dark sorrowful eyes.









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