Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘novel

Soltana and Dahbia: Our fathers are gone overseas

Soltana and Dahbia are half-sisters from the same father who immigrated to France. The youngest Soltana immigrated early to France while the illiterate Dahbia remained and married Djamel and has been behaving as a simple tail to her provider of a husband.

Dahbia followed the many relocation of Djamel to different cities and towns, along with her two kids, and she was never asked an opinion or any feedback: Dahbia thought that it was natural and normal to obey her husband. Dhabia thought it was her husband’s responsibility to be the provider and care for the family.

Soltana visited once her village (douar) during summer. She was single and was living in France and was welcomed as a lady. Soltana was apprehensive of meeting her married half-sister Dhabia and felt shy meeting the husband Djamel.

Dhabia felt restless and waited for the crowd to disperse in order to join Soltana and take her hand. The month vanished in a blink as in a dream for the two sisters. And Soltanan vanished back to France.

The day came when Djamel blurted out that the immigration of the family to France was imminent. Djamel has been visiting the French consulate and filling documents without ever thinking to ask Dahbia’s readiness for such a drastic move, as an exiled person.

This time her husband went overboard and Dhabia’s resentment exploded:

“If you want to leave, go. I’m staying with my kids. I live in my country and refuse to be an exiled person…”

Djamel is taken aback and tries to reason with his wife:

“What did your country offered to you since independence? After 50 years, we are still poor, vulnerable, despaired. Misery is growing steadily and injustice is flagrant. I feel totally powerless to overcome our situation. We lost courage to act. I’m like you: I dream to live in my country. If we stay we are as sure as dead…”

Dhabia retorts:

“I’m not dead and neither are the children. We are healthy and we are living together. I’m not about to repeat my father conduct. He preferred to immigrate and leave his family behind. Here I’m no stranger…”

Djamel says:

“Without you I’d be a madman longtime ago. We have not yet finished our voyage together. We have endured and suffered for so long. And I refuse for my children to suffer as we did. Our children should not feel victims of unfair circumstances…”

The illiterate Dhabia relied on her young  cousin Kaina to transcribe letters to Soltana: She needed badly to communicate to her sister her predicament and wanted Soltana’s counsel.

After a sustained correspondence, Djamel stumbled on the box of letters and got upset: What? His wife doesn’t feel close enough to him to express her emotions and her distraught state of spirit?

And Djamel ordered Dhabia to desist corresponding with her sister and summoned Kaina and the postman never to cooperate anymore.

The last letter of Dhabia to her sister was to inform Soltana of the impossibility to resume writing letters because she owes obedience to her husband.

What do you think could have been the last letter of Soltana if she could send it? Like:

“This correspondence showed me where are my roots. I lacked family. I’m no longer a free electron. I discovered the links that I missed. I rediscovered myself through your tenderness…I am no longer alone right now…?”

The follow-up post will present part of the main contents of these letters.

Note: Dalila Bellil lives in Parme and she is a kabileh ethnic of north Africa. The French book “Nos peres sont partis” is her first.

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Phoenicia: Who is Zenon of Kition?

The Lebanese author, Alexander Najjar, published a French novel “Phoenicia“.

I know most of the historical side stories of this novel:  It is an opportunity to disseminate what has been recounted of the siege of Alexander to Tyr on his way to conquer Egypt.

The mother of the philosopher Zenon was from Tyre, and his father from Sidon (City-States in current Lebanon, known as Phoenicia).  The family relocated to one of the Phoenician-built cities in Cyprus, Kition (current Larnaca).

The Phoenicians had built more than 70 coastal cities along the Mediterranean shores, from Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, to Libya…The merchant ships would follow the current going north to Cyprus, then westward to Sicily, Sardinia, before reaching Carthage and the other ports, and returning along the northern Africa coast of Libya, Egypt to Tyr.

For example, the City-State of Thebes in Greece was built by the Phoenician, 5 centuries before Athens was built:  Alexander destroyed completely Thebes, a preview savage act for eradicating the Phoenician civilization, culture, and language.

Actually, the Greek never attempted to translate the Phoenician manuscripts and plagiarized extensively their civilization.

(The Arabs did an excellent job translating all of Greek manuscripts, which saved Greek culture from oblivion…)

At the age of 30, Zenon was taking a cargo of goods to the Greek port of Piraeus and the boat was shipwrecked.  Zenon ended up in Athens.

He read the second book of Xenophon “Memorables” that included long discussions between Socrates and Aristippe on the themes of pleasure and temperance.

Zenon met the cynic philosopher Crates of Thebes and followed him as disciple.  Zenon also learned from Stilpon, Diodore Cronos, Xenocrates of Chalcedonia, and Ptolemon of Athens.

Zenon founded the Stoic philosophy.

He had many disciples such as Cleanthe, Philonide of Thebes, Chrisippe of Tarsus, Persee of Kition, and Apollonios of Tyr.   He recounted to his disciple Apollonios of Tyr the story of his mother during the siege of Tyr by Alexander.

Zenon was tall, slender, dark of complexion and led a sober life eating bread, honey, fig, and drinking a little wine on occasions. He gave priority to moral values and virtue, at a period people ceased to believe in Gods, in good and evil behaviors…

Thus, Zenon taught to submit to destiny.  He said:  “It is harder to hold a balloon filled of air under water than to change the mind of a philosopher if he is exempt of passion and vanity.

After defeating the Persian King in Issos (on the border of current Turkey and Syria), Alexander decided to conquer Egypt before tracking the Persian King in Babylon.  It is said that Alexander had to subjugate all cities and port-cities along the way to Egypt because the Persian fleet was dominating the sea and could cut his supply route and attack the read guard of his army.

All cities surrendered without fight except Tyr.

Powerful Tyr knew that Alexander’s goal was to eliminate Tyr dominance in the sea at any cost.  Why should Tyr support the savage and poor Macedonian conqueror when rich Persia lavished grants on Tyr and spared it any direct occupation?

Sidon and Byblos had surrendered without any fight to Alexander and even supported him by sea.

Alexander tried to build a land bridge to join land of Tyr to sea island Tyr, strongly fortified.  This land bridge was destroyed several times and Alexander was ready to give up after 7 months of siege.

Then, one morning, 250 ships converged to Tyr from Cyprus, Rhodes…to support Alexander, after they got news of the defeat of the Persian King.

Carthage declined to come to the rescue of Tyr because the emerging power of Rome was harassing its merchant routes and cities.

Alexander massacred 8,000 people in Tyr and totally ruined this proud city.

The attack; (continue #10 of fiction novel)

The night before the attack on the Capital Mtein, Antoun sensed the anxiety overwhelming his comrades and ordered to set up five bonfires and distributed the leaders to gather with the insurgents around the fires.  He refrained from meeting with his leaders in close quarters and repeated his address to the five encampments separately saying:

“The time is approaching to execute our decision for a better life, a life based on fairness in the laws as worthy equals in our society.  It is time to start erecting a society with the right to elect a government of the people and for the people; a government that understand the wishes and dreams of its people and has experienced the sufferings and injustices of the peasants and working people under the despotic and unfair feudal system.  It is natural to feel scared otherwise, I wouldn’t trust your courage and determination if you didn’t feel apprehensive tonight.  Our project is the life or death of our destiny tailored to our big heart. Our project is the dream and wish of many citizens in the towns and villages whom have been keeping these dreams burning deep in their compassionate hearts.  We know each other; we are friends and we will take care of one another as we had done for many years.  We have planned together our revolution to the minute details, as intelligent and responsible leaders of people should do, to succeed and win against the heartless and irresponsible feudal Cheiks, Beys and Emirs”.

“You all know by now that I don’t dwell much on abstract notions such as freedom, liberty and self-determination; we have discussed the meanings of these concepts so that we don’t abuse and short hand the intelligence of our citizens.  Opening and creating opportunities for learning and working go hand in hand with empowering the individual citizens to take bold decisions, fortified by laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, religion and social status.  That is how we give sense to liberty and self–determination and that is what our citizens should demand from us.”

He went on saying: “In a few hours we march boldly toward the Capital of the loathed executioners of our rights; who denied us the joy of life commensurate to our labor, sweat and blood.  Obey the orders and directives of your elected leaders and be steadfast in your fight.  I can see our flags fluttering in the morning wind at the top of the Castle. Victory is whispering sweet songs and the shout of Long Live the Revolution is already deafening my ears.  I can see hundreds of peasants gathering around you in the Capital’ Square and shouting in unison ‘Long Live the Revolution’!  Is Victory singing to you too?  I cannot hear you! Long Live the Revolution! Louder! Louder!”

The insurgent detachment headed by Antoun descended from Baskenta toward Mrouj with 150 fighters while Mustafa and Hanna accompanied by Elias headed for Falougha, in currently the Chouf County, with 200 insurgents. They were advancing at the pace of caravans and looking very much like trading caravans with a few women prominently exhibited and some well know caravan regular leaders perched on their ornamented mules. As soon as the two groups reached their first destinations they would descend on Mtein at sun down helped by the moon light. They were to wait for the combined attack at 5 o’clock in the morning after the peasants had left their homes for the fields.  Supporters in the Capital were ready to guide the insurgents to the residencies of the strongmen and powerful landlords in and around the town.  The insurgents were successful in capturing the targeted noblemen and entered Mtein with no major resistance.

At the same time, two dozen fighters were guarding the entrances to the Bishop Atanasios’ residence, waiting for the fire signal to elevate over the highest hill to enter the residence and have the Bishop and his monks under house arrest.  At every entrance and exit passageway, a handful of guards with an officer disguised as a monk regulated the traffic of civilians and clergy.  People coming in to pay a visit to the Bishop were discouraged to resume their trip because of a special conclave for the clergy and the impossibility of meeting anyone for a couple of days.  The peasants working the land of the monastery or traders were allowed in and retained there.  Gergis was leading this group of partisans with the mission of striking a deal with the Bishop after Antoun’s insurgents enter Mtein.  Elias was behind the project of this necessary house arrest coup but was instead assigned another task because he was still officially excommunicated and for fear that his zeal might foil this important mission.

Gergis’ task was to convince the Bishop and his associates in the clergy that the takeover of power was not the work of ruffians and outlaws but of learned gentlemen, citizens concerned with the status of lawlessness and injustices which was fueling a feeling of restlessness among the population of believers.  To convince the clergy that this revolt sought the approval and leadership of their Patriarch, Gergis promised that they will receive the proper documents very shortly.  Gergis insisted that he was ready to deal fairly and squarely on behalf of the leaders of this popular movement of believers.

In the mean time, Bishop Atanasios agreed to say mass in the Capital Mtein next Sunday with all the official ceremonies befalling a highly important personality.  The two parties were not duped in their respective intentions but they implicitly agreed that this negotiation was the business of politicians awaiting better circumstances.  The Bishop was convinced that this movement, like other previous revolts, would not survive long, and that life as usual would return under the full control of the clergy and the feudal old political structure.

The official mass was to be held at nine o’clock and the leader was outside by 8 am accepting the congratulations and respect of the town people and dignitaries while anxiously keeping an eye on the horizon waiting for the Bishop to be sighted.  At twenty to nine, a small group of pedestrians wearing black cloaks and following a person perched on a mule was sighted, plodding at an average pace.  Antoun who had become mainly a city man and, relatively removed from the customs of the mountains and the declining economic status of the clergy, did not pay this group much attention and was scrutinizing the horizon for dust generated by a cavalry accompanying the Bishop in pageant procession.  When the black clad group, many bare feet in dirty cloaks, was thirty meters away Elias nudged Antoun and shouted: “The bastard has come”.

The leader briskly faced Elias and waited for an explanation to his rude comment when someone raised his voice saying: “Let peace be upon you, Antoun my son “.  The Bishop was directly confronting him from the top of his mule with a thin smile across his lips and hard eyes piercing toward the inattentive leader of the peasants.  Antoun was taken aback in total surprise and fumbled down his mount, helped the Bishop to dismount and then kissed the proffered hand.  Elias was beside himself and was ready to wriggle the neck of the Bishop as well as Antoun’s for his vile humility toward this despicable high placed clergy and shouted to the Bishop: “Atanathios, remember me?  I am waiting for you to publicly recant your excommunication of me and everyone in the Metn.”  The cunning Bishop seeing an opportunity to reclaim his power replied: “Son Elias, I am glad to admit you back into the flock. You have already suffered enough and the church is forgiving to human weaknesses”.  Elias was about to retort but was taken away by a gesture of impatience from Antoun.

The new leader was received as the avenging hero who will strengthen the force of order and prevent violence, injustice, and anarchy. He could deliver his promises since the outlaw men and deserters were part and parcel of his well organized army.

Latifa; (continue of the fiction novel))

Latifa was a looker and an impressive lady that discouraged the weaker hearted eligible men from courting her. By the time her brother Antoun came to riches she could not avail herself to woo gentlemen whom she considered beneath her potentials.  Latifa was in her late twenties and, by the standard of the time, was considered too old to marry.  To preserve her dignity, she circulated a rumor that she had taken a vow of celibacy.  Her status increased among the town people and was given the nickname of Sit Al Forsan (Lady of the knights) and carried herself accordingly.

Latifa was in with the secrets of Antoun, or at least what he directly wanted her to know because he made sure not to connect her with his important partners;  she gradually suspected his intentions from her frequent visits to him in Beirut but was unaware of the timing, the seriousness, or the magnitude of the insurrection. Actually, Latifa became his eyes and ears in the mountain region where she received many visitors and received inputs from her benevolent activities in the neighboring villages.

Antoun mother, Jamila, started sending her eldest daughter frequently to Beirut after he was exiled to stay with her brother for a week, about once every three months in the first two years, to cater for his household needs, in keeping his place neat and well maintained, cooking for him a few of his favorite meals, supplying him with whatever her mother knitted for him; but basically, she was her parents’ reporter on Antoun’s well being.  As Antoun’s status and wealth increased and thus, did not need as much attention, Latifa’s visits to Beirut dwindled to about twice a year, mainly to do some shopping for herself and her family and to forward her mother’s good business advices and recommendations.   On the third year of his exile and after learning that Antoun has purchased a house in Beirut, his mother and two daughters descended to Beirut and stayed five whole weeks after a noisy argument with his father Youssef.  The latter propagated the drastic excuse that this extended trip was related to an unusual health case that Antoun succumb to.

Once, Antoun decided to build for his father a luxury carriage but the idea was deemed too outlandish and dangerous in local politics.  Instead, his father, at the instigation of his wife, accepted liquid money to buy more lands, expand the family business in the countryside, and fulfill Youssef’s promises to his wife Jamila to remodel her residence with new amenities, furniture, and additional rooms that boosted an atmosphere of a higher social standing.  The remodeled house was outlandish within the walls but the exterior was kept blending harmoniously with the neighborhood environment and dwelling.

Before the final preparations for the insurgency, Antoun paid a visit for two weeks to his house in Mrouj; he pretended taking care of family business and being social.  Then he vanished with his son Adhal, supposedly to return to Beirut.  Antoun headed instead to Baskenta to direct the insurgency activities.  Adhal was delivered to the care of Mariam and her team of volunteers because his son had to learn life from a different perspective, in the fresh mountain air and also to link friendship with different kinds of kids.

Before the general order to advance at the capital Mtein, the leaders of the insurgent groups met to decide on the list of noblemen that have to be rounded up and the locations of their incarceration.  It was relevant that a number of important noblemen became summer lords: they showed up to town when the climate got hot at lower altitudes;  theyhad residency in the coastal towns and villages at lower altitude and outside the Metn jurisdiction; they rarely visited their properties in the mountain but to collect their rent twice a year.

It was decided that a group would be in charge of locating these summer noblemen and surreptitiously transferring them to the incarceration areas in the outlawed areas, immediately after the Capital fell in the hands of the insurgents.  The coastal guards were bribed to check on men traveling by sea until the group of insurgents could identify them before boarding. A most important decision was to refrain from executing or unduly torturing any prisoner until due legal process was carried out individually.  It was apparent that Antoun had a vested interest in knowing first hand each noblemen and deciding on his worth for helping him tighten his grasp on power later on.

During the war with the Emir of Aleppo, the insurgents infiltrated the rear guard of the army with a few agents to keep updated on the evolution of the war outcome against the Turks. Antoun got his insurgent army ready for a decisive attack as soon as news of a defeat was imminent.  Indeed, the armies of the Viceroy of Damascus were badly reduced and, while the remnants of the army was retreating in disorder, Antoun attacked from two fronts and aimed directly at the Capital Mtein where most of the remaining Emir’s strongmen where located.

My Sunny Levant 

(Rainbow over the Levant)

Antonios (1346-1381)

Chapter 1: Genesis of family from the Metn district

After his wedding, the minor landlord Youssef Fares spread the word that his first born boy would be named Antoun.

His wife Jamila was a proud and steadfast person and made her young husband promise to expand their one large-room home to include a private bedroom with door by the time she gives birth to a child. Jamila also wished not to have to step outside for bodily needs and washing, as was common, because she had a deep sense of privacy and propriety.

The stone house was a tad larger than the neighbors’, but resembled them by the lack of modern amenities. At night, bedding were removed from a special drawer to replace the cushions that spread around the room.  The tiny kitchen was located on the north-west corner.

Eleven months later, Jamila gave birth to Latifa, a girl.  It was too early for Youssef to despair and his immediate second attempt produced Youmna, a girl, thirteen months later.

Within fifteen days of Youmna’s birth, Youssef went ahead with his project for a large family and was stopped dead in his track.   The strong headed and shrewd Jamila sent him packing to the fields to work harder and give priority to feeding his growing family.

A year went by and Youssef’s male friends and relatives smirked at him and nicknamed his eldest daughter Antouneyeh which precipitated Youssef in a state of isolation, shunning friends and acquaintances.

Jamila sensed that business was deteriorating and the atmosphere in the house darkening and so she decided to give the nod for Youssef to resume his cherished project of producing a boy and crossed her fingers that destiny would turn more clement: Jamila did not believe in large families and mocked the traditional economic viability that feeding more mouths is the panacea for riches and life’s security in advanced age.

Jamila hired a helper to salvage the energies of Youssef and economized in everything except on substantial breakfasts and suppers, understanding that destiny had to be catered to if enterprises had to be successful.

Jamila would boil water in cold weather to warm Youssef’s feet after a day’s work and rub his back and shoulders with a warm wet cloth; everything had to contribute to begetting a healthy boy who should be called Antoun.

Youssef Fares was a wreck when his wife was pregnant for the third time and could no longer appreciate the jokes of his close friends, attributing the successive birth of females to his weak virility and the dominance of his wife in family affairs. The whole community knew that Youssef wanted to call his first-born son Antoun and so he was nicknamed Bou Antoun (father of Antoun) immediately after his marriage.

Youssef had driven Jamila to the walls in the last nine months, ordering her to pray more rosaries than needed, spending plenty of money on religious donations and making her submit to all kinds of traditional requests that would guarantee giving birth to a baby boy this time around.

In 1346, the big three kilograms baby Antoun showed up in his entire splendor.  Many exhaled a deep sight of relief, especially Latifa his eldest sister.  Jamila was drained from every ounce of energy and experienced a period of baby blues that lasted two weeks; she directed Youssef not to receive visitors while she was sick and to delay any major celebration until she could be ready to participate fully in the baptismal ceremony.

For the first time, scared to see his strong wife in such a state of depression and weakness, Youssef reluctantly postponed the grand celebration and sent word to the neighbors to temporarily guard his house from well wishers until Jamila was up to the task of honoring guests.

Jamila tried to breast feed big baby Antoun for two days and gave up this arduous and ineffectual endeavor, so that Youssef had to find surrogate mothers for the frequently and ever so hungry Antoun.

The house allowed only breast-feeding females to enter in the first week and then Bou Antoun had to carry his new-born son to different houses, at least four times a day, and suffer accidents and the humiliating caprices of little Antoun until a permanent deal to breast feed the gluttonous Antoun was arranged.

One night, Youssef confided to his wife his apprehensions about the baby boy; it seems that while he was carrying his boy to a feeding mother the baby constantly tried to rummage through his chest, proving that he was unable to be discriminating in a hungry state.  Youssef failed on the spot to describe his own embarrassment, but when he realized the purpose of baby Antoun,  in a weak moment, he revealed to Jamila that he felt his neck independent of his body, his head revolving in all directions for signs of any witness to Antoun’s behavior, his face scarlet hot with shame.

These two weeks of personal tending to his baby son’s needs proved a wealth of direct attachment and close bonding that not many fathers experience in their life time.

Bou Antoun threw a grandiose banquet for the occasion of baptizing his son and he entertained his audience as the supreme king sneering at his friends and threatening them for dire consequences if any of them dared any worn out jokes about virility and lack of authority.

During the festivity, Bou Antoun would dart flaming glances at Jamila and the only responses received from her steel cold eyes he correctly interpreted as saying: “Forget it.  Wipe it out of your mind.  You got what you wanted and do not expect any further special attentions.  Just sit tight and wait if and when I give any new signals.”

Youssef spent his energy expanding his business and planning for Antoun’s future who grew up comfortable among women; a great deal of self-esteem sharpened his mind under the watchful eyes of his strong spirited and hard-working mother.  Antoun was officially weaned within 18 months but he knew his surrogate mothers and felt at home attempting to breast feeding from anyone he was familiar with.

The next four years opened many neighbors’ doors to the growing Antoun who used to help himself to double and three portions at each meal when food was being served, his being most welcomed as a member of the family.

Jamila was obliged during the many special occasions to cook extra portions of sweets to be offered as gifts to the multitude of surrogate mothers in order to repay the favors of her neighbors and as compensation for the ravages done to the neighbors’ depleting pantries.

At 8 of age Antoun was sent to a nearby religious school to learn reading and writing in both languages of Arabic and Aramaic, and some elementary arithmetic. He was also introduced to the rudiments of the French language from a learned monk.

In the afternoons, Antoun helped on the family farms and ultimately was responsible for the accounting.  During religious holidays his sisters and he used to memorize whole sections of the Bible and then act scenes to entertain the family and guests assembled before dinner.

Since girls were not to go to any school outside their homes, his eldest sister Latifa would hang out with Antoun and share his school lessons on pretence of keeping an eye on his scheduled school assignments.

One day, Latifa overheard a disgruntled man cursing saint Anthony because he donated some money for the Saint in order to recover a precious lost object to no avail. Latifa put a twist on the saying and her mom heard her chanting: “Mar Antoun of Mrouj, big thief and far gone senile.”  Latifa was to ask forgiveness on her knees in front of the saint’s statue and wear a male St. Anthony frock for a month.

Falling in love with Saliha; (Apr. 21, 2010)

            I was on assignment in Baghdad that lasted for two years.  I got acquainted with a fallen Indian monarch named Ikbal who decided to settle south of Baghdad to a ruined city that used to be the Persian Capital Ctesiphone.  Ikbal was receiving yearly stipends from the British goverment and he wanted to settle far away from any British presence.  A few visits to Ikbal strengthened our friendship and I would dine and occasionally sleep over.  One night after dinner, we were lying down on couches on the balcony when I heard the tenderest voice singing the story of Antar, a pre-Islamic war hero in the Arabic tribal Peninsula. My visits to Ikbal increased and the Prince sensed the main reason for my new zest.  Songs varied every night but I loved best the melody of song of Antar.

            I found out that this lovely voice was emanating from a cluster of tents outside the walls.  Nomads were parked there for the summer.  One night, I ventured to a nearby forest between the castle and the tents very curious to get a first hand meeting with the voice.  A well was within this little forest of cypress.  A young girl was sitting outside her tent pounding wheat for tomorrow fresh bread and singing all the while.  Then the girl carried a rope on her shoulder that ended with a heavy metal implement, sort of a Rawlplug used on camel feet when not attached to trees.

            The girl walked slowly and steadily to the Tiger River bank then dropped the metal implement on the shore and ventured in the river holding on the other end of the rope to avoid drowning in the fast current of the river.  She removed her robe and head gear and had a bath; then she returned to her tent.  I was hiding behind the castle wall watching the scene. The girl was tall, slender, and had long dark hair.

            A few days later I waited by the well wanting to meet the lovely girl. She arrived and calmly answered a few of my questions. Her name is Saliha and living with her father Mahmoud; her two brothers are married and moved away; her other sister is married to a rich Hussein.  I got to meeting her very frequently by the well and we talked extensively.  Saliha was the most beautiful girl I have met and her calm attitude expressed confidence and intelligence.

            One day, Ikbal sent me a poem to Baghdad telling me that the bird had vanished.  I arrived hurriedly to find the tents all gone.  Saliha didn’t warn me of her impending departure and I spent many months distracted and melancholic.  Then, early next summer, Ikbal dispatched me another poem: The bird is back.  I waited by the well; Saliha heard my horse and calmly laid down her water container that she carried on her shoulder and ran toward me, hugged me and kissed me. We agreed that she would leave with me next night.  I had three horses ready and we rode to Baghdad:  I learned from Saliha that her father would never agree to marry her to a city dweller.

            I spent the most exquisite five months with Saliha:  She never felt out of place and assimilated the new environment.  One day, Saliha’s father paid me a visit: one of the servants of Ikbal had told him my location.  He wanted to talk to his daughter in private. After the father left, Saliha was crying; she refused to tell me the cause of her sadness and knew better not to insist. A month later, a servant fetched me from work; Saliha had left with her father.  At night, I found a bag containing long hair in my bed and a piece of paper saying: “I will mourn you all my life”

            A year later, I was on inspection tour to a dam under construction in southern Iraq. I saw Saliha carrying a small child. She told me that her father had summoned her to care for her dying sister and the kids.  Saliha’s sister died and her dad passed away a month ago. Her father made her promise to marry her brother-in-law Hussein. That is what she did. Before quitting Saliha asked me: “Will you love me forever?” I said “yes I will.” Saliha smiled and never turned back her head.

Note: this story, one of many, was told to a German diplomat in Turkey by Osman Hamid Bey when Osman was in a government assignment in Baghdad in 1869.  The French translated book is titled “An Ottoman in the Orient”

Cycle of life orf Hostages; (Apr. 14, 2010)

French reporter Philippe Rochot published “Within Islam’s revolts” that describes his reporting jobs in many countries (over 40 States) most of them in conflict and civil wars.  Rochot had visited Lebanon many times for reporting purposes before and during the civil war.

In 1985, against his best judgment, he agreed to revisit Lebanon to report on a new French hostage Michel Seurat.  It was a period when sympathizers of Khomeini were on the ascendance.

France of President Mitterrand had sided squarely with Saddam Hussein of Iraq against Iran and shipped all kinds of fighter jets and sophisticated armaments to Iraq (Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were guarantors for the open credits of war materials).  This war  lasted 8 years leaving a million casualties on both sides and many millions of seriously injured handicapped persons.

Rochot was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1985 for 8 months and a long chapter describes his captivity.

Rochot writes:

“My life cycle revolved around two bottles: one bottle for drinking and the other one to urinate in.

I was chained to a radiator and allowed to piss once every 10 hours. I was not given a razor to shave and the length of my mustaches was a serious handicap for eating the fast food of hamburger kind.  I ended up pulling out the hair one by one; it was a painful act but efficacious.

My long beard reminded me of my reporting assignment in Afghanistan in 1980 when I purposely had to grow a beard to blend nicely with the people. I got into the habit of smoothing down my beard.”

Every 10 days, the abductors would bring a newer set of cloths; mainly sweat pants and T-shirts. (Probably the kidnappers had no washing machines or didn’t feel obligated to washing prisoners’ cloths).

Once, a “designated” photographer took pictures of the captive to dispatch to the French Embassy and the original cloths were dumped in front of Philippe to wear for the occasion. He was permitted to write a single line to his wife and two daughters “I am in good health”.

There was no correspondence or any kinds of messages arriving from the outside.  Occasionally, radio was brought in for specific events.  When Ronald Reagan of the US bombed Libya two British hostages were killed: The US bombers crossed Britain airspace.

It seemed as if the kidnappers in direct contact with the hostages had a day job: they showed up at nightfall for the night task of watching over the prisoners; sort of gaining extra money to make ends meet.

Rochot dreaded most to fall sick. Many captives died out of sickness because the kidnapping faction had no official links with a hospital or any kinds of health practitioner.

One night, the area of captivity was bombed and one of the militia was injured.  Rochot could hear the injured person in the next room and the kidnappers were at a loss what to do with their comrade.  For example, hostage Michel Seurat died of liver cancer in captivity; the kidnappers claimed to have killed him in retaliation for some kind of France political position.  Seurat was moved to another room to cry out his pains and sufferings.

The other French captive could hear Seurat moaning all the time for many weeks before death relieved Michel. (Probably, the kidnapping faction was not addicted to drugs as the Christian militias were, or it had not the means for purchasing drugs to relieve Seurat from his pains).


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2019
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