Sunday 18 January 2009

Gently down the stream....

If you survived 2008, well done. Have a biscuit.

Every once in a while you come across something that simply forces you to stop in your tracks. I’ve been erasing my unused written memories of 2008 – a necessary January custom – and here, pared down from a 4,000 word rant, is one of my least favourite stories from one of my least favourite years:

A thirteen year old girl was raped by three men. The girl’s father accompanied her to report this crime to the relevant authorities. I don’t think you need to be either a father or a thirteen year old girl to understand that this scene in itself is almost unbearable, never mind the brutalising trauma that led them both to this point in the first place.

Amnesty International wrote its first brief report of the case on the 31st of October. A few days later, the press followed suit and the episode gathered momentum. The reason that Amnesty International became involved is that the girl, having told her story to these self-same relevant authorities, was charged with adultery and sentenced to death by stoning.

And the reason, if you can bear to use the word “reason”, that she was charged with adultery and sentenced to death by stoning, of course, is that the men who passed and carried out the sentence – members of the al-Shabab militia who control the port of Kismayo in Somalia – believe that this is what their god would have them do. A more obvious, less culturally-sensitive reason, perhaps, is that these men are terrible, terrible human beings.

Sanctified and certain, they dug a big hole and buried Aisha Ibrahim Duholow up to her neck. A truck filled with rocks was driven to the stadium for the occasion and roughly one-thousand people came to watch as a group of fifty men took aim and shattered her head.

For the sake of public relations, perhaps, the militiamen claimed that the victim was, in fact, ten years older than her father had claimed (the silly, forgetful daddy) - as if this, even if it were true, could ever possibly justify the manner and fact of her death. Under the laws they were trying to impose on their fellow citizens, you see, the girl might have been considered a bit young to have her head staved in for adultery. If you are inclined to feel in any way grateful for this tiny mercy, then it’s quite possible you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. 

During the stoning, attending nurses were asked to check whether the girl was still alive. They took her out of the hole and discovered that yes, quite miraculously, she was. And so they put her straight back in so that the men could end their task, the poor girl's life and their collective right to be considered full-paying passengers on this bus as it hurtles through space. 

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