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I don’t know what had been more painful, the razor-sharp knife cutting through me or the sight of my mother watching indifferently.
Trigger warning: This post contains details of female genital mutilation which may be triggering to survivors or certain readers.
The envelope lay on the table, unopened and ignored. I had received that letter a week ago. Even without reading it, I knew the contents.
Tring trrring! The incessant ringing of the phone shattered the silence. It was Khaled, my husband.
“My decision is final, you filthy woman,” he barked, before banging the phone or even letting me respond. As the raindrops pattered on the roof, they muffled my cries as tears trickled down my face, bringing with them harrowing memories.
The strongest women from the village of Qasr Quadin had come, at the personal request of my father, Ibn Ul Sallalah. Being the village chieftain’s daughter, I deserved the best.
I cried and begged to be left alone. All my pleas to be spared fell on deaf ears. My aunt Halima howled, “If she is not cut her sexual desires will bring shame to the family.”
A neighbour shouted, “If she is uncut, the food she cooks will be poisonous.”
“Don’t you know, only a cut girl would fetch more cows,” another aunt screamed, as I felt her slap sting my cheek.
After all, tradition dictates that a woman must be sexually ‘pure’ before marriage. And so, at the tender age of 13, I was ‘cut.’
I winced as strong, rough hands pinned me down on the stone table. Tough experienced women hurriedly tore my clothes, spread my legs apart and pressed them hard.
My cries were drowned by the sudden ululating of women. Trembling, I watched as a woman entered the room with a knife. Before I could react, I had been cut.
Aamira’s cries brought me back to the present. My precious 2-month-old baby girl. I held her in my arms and clutched her to my bosom. As she suckled and calmed down, I looked around the room. It was warm and cosy unlike the other which held me years ago.
In the other room, years ago, firm hands clamped my mouth as a gruff voice forbade me from shouting. Horror-struck, I saw blood-soaked rags being thrown into the bamboo bucket beside the stone table. That was the last thing I remembered before I blacked out.
When I regained consciousness, I was petrified at finding myself alone in that dark room. My legs were tied and my lower body was covered with thorns, which rendered me stiff and impaired any kind of movement. This left me with was a lifetime of horrendous memories.
Back in the present, I gently placed a sleeping Aamira on the mattress beside me, “Oh, my darling, Mamma loves you so much.” As I looked at my little one, innocent and full of life, I strengthened my resolve, “Mamma will never let you down my baby”
I don’t know what had been more painful, the razor-sharp knife cutting through me or the sight of my mother watching indifferently. My daughter would never undergo the same pain. I will protect her always, even if it meant going against Khaled, his family and the community.
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Ishq Subhan Allah
Editor’s Note: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still a prevalent practice in several communities across the world. It is a process that involves partial or total removal of a female’s external genitalia or other injuries to female genital organs for non-medical purposes. The practise has no medical benefits for the women and only causes several issues to them. From bleeding to trouble in urinating to cysts to infections and trouble during childbirth are some of the issues women go through.
While WHO has called this regressive practise a violation of human rights, it is still prevalent in several countries. You can read more about FGM here and here.
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