Struggle. Love. Cry. Hope.
For Romanian click here.
A novel first published in Romanian (Eikon 2017), available in English (translated by Mihaela Alecu) on Amazon (click on the image).
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Ten years before, Ahad was a boy who lived a life somewhat peaceful and even happy, as much as one could in poverty, next to his family, parents, three brothers, and two sisters. He was almost ten years old when a group of men with faces covered up to their eyes with black bandanas attacked his village, killing all the men, raping the women, before killing them too and kidnapping all children from five years up. They did not keep the younger ones, as they did not want to care for them and the ones older then twelve as well, because they could already create problems. Therefore, they killed them all. Ahad, his brothers and sisters escaped the executions, having the right age, and so they were taken prisoners. Unfortunately for them they were separated, each one taken by a different group. Ahad was taken somewhere in the mountains, in a military camp, next to the other 10 to 11 years old boys, in the middle of men whose main feature was cruelty.
He was beaten every day, he learned to say only: “Yes sir!” and “Allahu Akbar!” It was only then that he was prepared to start to be instructed.
Preparations would start at dawn, at five A.M. Accompanied by the rebels’ cries which were agitating the sky, the boys were taken to the training field, where for one hour and a half they were conducting extremely difficult body training. Only afterwards they would receive a slice of bread and a drop of water, as breakfast. Afterwards, until 2 P.M. wrestling would follow.
The boys were made to fight each other. There was no room to fudge, because the looser would then be beaten by the rebels, to fight better and to make him want, at all costs, to win the next day.
“Only the best of you will continue,” the instructors would repeat daily.
“You have to be loyal,” was another reply. “You have to constantly prove your loyalty!”
After a short lunch break when they would receive the same type of food, military training would start. Knife fighting, gun shooting and all sort of similar fighting techniques. Until evening, when they would go back to their tents, where they would receive a third slice of bread and a mug of goat milk.
They trained every day, interrupting their training only for the five mandatory Salah, which always occurred, no exception. Day after day, week after week. After five years they had all become cruel and fearless warriors, and Ahad the toughest of them all. He would kill in the name of Allah, whomever he was requested to, ruthless, no regrets, without asking questions. He had sworn and he was ready to give his life for Jihad at any point.
But the leaders did not wish for him to become a suicide bomber. They appreciated a lot his readiness, his abilities and his loyalty, therefore two years later they made him chief of one group; at the border of Iraq. Ahad together with his people managed to shortly be among the most prolific assassins in the area. Wherever they would go they would spread terror and death!
It was in the hands of this man that Azade and her company had become hostage.
“Take them!” he commanded, by pointing to the other women.
His men grabbed them, pulling them wherever, tearing their clothes. Each woman was hold by two or three men, while another one would rape her. Then they would exchange places. They continued like this until the women’s shouts transformed into strangled cries, them groaning, and in the end nothing.
It was the same for Azade in Ahad’s hut. He took her first, and then he left her to his men, Aiman and Malik, whom continued for the entire night, before Ahad’s impassibly eyes. At dawn Azade had no more tears left, nor voice. Only her mind had left her inert body, flying to her beloved Zürich.
It was difficult to find rent in such a short time in Zürich. Therefore she looked nearby. She finally found a cute, big and lightly room, at an acceptable price, in Seuzach. A charming city, North from Zürich, approximately half an hour by train. There were two comfortable trains each hour, which travelled with Swiss precision. She would usually take S12 at 7.08 from Seuzach and would get off at Stadelhofen at 7.37. She was happy to descend in the same station where Carl Gustav Jung got off while practicing his famous psychotherapy method in Zürich. Then from Bellevue she would take T9 at 7.42 to ETH/ Universitätsspital, where she would arrive at 7.48. Just in time to get to the class which would start at 8.00 sharp.
She studied hard the first year. She didn’t want to waste any second for anything else. She didn’t go to bars or clubs, she would decline any invitations to parties or any other form of entertainment proposed by her colleagues. No wonder she received the nickname: the Hermit girl. But little by little, her warm and friendly character, altruism and intelligence, next to her stunning beauty, made her personality charm all those who got to know her better. And if at the beginning of the first year she started off like “hermit girl” at the end she had become the acknowledged and favorite leader of all, but even more so the favorite companion of all.
Her best friend was a colleague from Brașov, Ana.
“How come you speak such good German? Perfect, I might say!” Azade asked her once. “I envy you!” she continued smiling.
“Well, I speak it ever since kindergarten. I also went to school in the German section, until I finished high school. There was a strong German community in Brașov, ever since Middle Age. Germans are called ‘Sasi’ in Romania, Sachsen in German. Unfortunately almost all of them have left the country during the last years of Ceausescu’s dictatorship, of which I will tell you another time, and they moved to Germany, probably some of them to Austria. But there were a few schools left, like for example my school in Brașov, Honterus. Named like that after Johannes Honterus.”
“This is a name that sounds good, I would even say resonant.”
“You are right. Honterus was an important erudite humanistic scholar at his time, around 1500. He studied in Vienna and, what a coincidence, he studied here in Switzerland, more exactly in Basel, the art of printing. We were very proud in school to learn that Honterus created in 1532 his famous Chorographia Transylvaniae Sybembürgen, which means the map of Transilvania. It was the first map created by a local.”
“Wow, it’s great what you are telling me! I could stay and listen the entire day…”
Azade’s joy to listen to others, her way of sincerely enjoying their successes, her feeling completely devoid of jealousy, the lack of negative connotations from her replies or any lack of hate for other’s success were qualities very appreciated by the others. Even more so, her curiosity, her will to learn from others, from the knowledge and the experiences of those around, were cherished by teachers and appreciated by her colleagues.
Azade and Ana became closer friends, therefore they decided to search for an apartment to share rent in Zürich. In two they had better chances, as rent were by no means low. Moreover, they had the mood and time, an entire second semester to find the desired house.
Azade woke up outside, on the cold and unwelcoming ground. She tried to open her eyes. They hurt. Keeping them open would hurt even more. Every piece of her body was a piece of pain. With huge effort she managed to control her sight. She looked around. The place looked like a war scene. There were drops of blood everywhere; female bodies were lying on the ground. Some were barely breathing, but they all seemed alive. The men were sleeping a few meters away, with their guns spread next to them. She thought that if she could move she could have reached a gun. “But what would I do with it?” she continued thinking. “I don’t even know how to use it… I must remain calm; I must stay alive!” her eyes stopped over the two women badly hurt. “They need me so much…”
A new though stopped the flow of her current thoughts, striking her: “Oh, my parents. My dear parents. The poor parents!”
She couldn’t stop a bitter tear, which difficultly made room through the hardened mud on her face. Even shading a tear made it seemed as if a knife cut was slitting her face. Azade groaned. She heard Ahad moving in his hut. “What if he comes?” she thought terrified. She held her breath, as if this could keep him away. Eventually Ahad made an entrance.
“Wake up you lazy scums!” he commanded.
His men jumped up, in a few moments ready to execute his orders.
“Take these women to the den.”
The den was in fact a whole drilled in a bank, a sort of cave, with a door of bars like weaving branches that seemed tick enough not to by broken by prisoners.
“On your feet!” he commanded the women, whom were slowly arising, trying to cover their nakedness with the remaining rags.
The men caught them in their arm, pulling and shoving them into the hideaway. Except for the two badly injured, Saadia and Dahab. They were not moving. They would only respond with groaning to the rebels’ feet kicks. One of the men asked the chief:
“Should we shoot them?”
Ahad answered hart whole:
“Yah, it would be better.”
Azade, without faltering, threw herself to Ahad’s feet begging:
“Please, don’t kill them! I am a doctor and I will–”
“You are a doctor?” Ahad asked, while his anger replaced his calm. “You are a stupid doctor and what?”
“I will take care of them, please!”
He signaled his men. They stopped, changing from a shooting position to a waiting one.
“Take this big mouthed one, and take out her teeth!”
Now his tone of voice had rose to strident.
“No, I will do it myself. I will teach her!”
Azade looked at Ahad frozen with fear. A few women started crying silently.
“No, please don’t!” Azade babbled. “No, don’t do this!” she begged.
This time Ahad didn’t wait for another second. He punched her so hard in the face that Azade’s mouth was instantaneously filled with blood. Azade fell flat in a cloud of dust, with blood springing out of her mouth, spitting her own teeth.
“Woman, how dare you say no to me?” asked Ahad with a terrifying calm. “You, telling me what to do?!”
He contended to hitting her with the boots in the stomach, in the chest, wherever he wanted, but at least he gave up the first idea, to take out with a clipper the remaining teeth. He only continued to say, every now and again:
He hit her for a while longer, blank and though minded, then he signaled his men:
“Take her out of my sight, before I beat her to death! Take them all to the den.”
Two took Azade by her arms, two others by her feet, neck and heels, inert. Others were carrying the other two. They threw them to the den, and then they bounced the door and locked the big lock that holded them prisoners. As long as they were locked in here, one of them thought, at least they weren’t in their hands.
Azade was now in a condition as critical as that of the two she had tried to rescue. The other women were suffering too, but Azade, Saadia and Dahab were half-dead. Azade agonized for the entire night which followed impassibly.
When pain reaches maximum intensity and settles there for a long time, it becomes the body’s second nature. The body gets used to it and ignores the other one, less intense. Until it cannot take it anymore and cracks.
The night is cold in the desert. But it seemed like that night was colder than any other one. Dahab died that night and there was no one there to save her. Saadia was barely breathing, but she survived the terrible night. Azade had fever, so intensely that her entire body was struggling in spasms. She couldn’t feel her body at all; therefore her mind went back in time again, free.
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