A chilling wind ripped through the streets of Kabul. Before the war with the Soviets, before the Taliban occupied the city, this would have sent shivers down Lira’s spine. Clouds eclipsed the city as Lira remembered a time when Kabul had been carefree and safe, when she could walk down the street alone and look into the eyes of a male employee at a coffee shop and not be whipped for it. Darting into her family’s house, she watched the dancing rain hit the pavement and flood their tiny yard. Earrings swung from her earlobes and her sari was clinging to her heaving body. Fear coursed through her as her front door slammed open. “Get down!” a rough voice called, and she was thrown to the floor. “Have you any idea what you’ve done?” the soldiers who had stormed into the house shouted. Immediately, Lira’s husband rushed through the door and elation flooded her stomach; if anyone could, he would save her. Jalil Sahar was an imposing man whom many were afraid of. Kaleidoscope eyes and a black handlebar mustache framed his proud face and haughty smile. Lira was the only exception to his impenetrable pride; she was a delicate flower to whom he would never harm and would do anything to protect. Marriage had been the obvious choice, for a beautiful girl of sixteen in war-ravaged Kabul. Now, he bore no resemblance to the peaceful man Lira knew he was. Omniscience marred his handsome face and she felt all of her hope flee her now bound body. Perpetually damning her, he uttered the most dreaded of phrases in an Afghan woman’s vocabulary. “Quit struggling, Lira jan,” Jalil said, mocking her, “I know you’re sleeping with another man!” Resisting the calloused hands of her captors, she looked Jalil in the eye; “I did no such thing,” she whispered and looked at the ground, knowing it was hopeless. Suddenly, she was being dragged through the cobblestone streets towards the soccer stadium. Terrified and helpless, Lira listened to the bloodthirsty cheers of her neighbors and friends as they waited for her. Uselessly, Lira tried to grab on to something as they dragged her through the streets, her nails coming off in bloody pieces. Viciously, they pulled her into the center of the stadium and one of them produced a steaming branding iron in the shape of an A. Wickedness plagued their faces as they pushed the brand into her stomach, whispering “Adultress…” as she screamed. Xanthocroic figures pulsed around her as they tightened the coarse noose around her slender neck. Yelping in pain, Lira was hoisted above the ground, her legs kicking and her face coloring violet. Zinnias, floating down from sympathetic females in the audience, unwilling or unable to help, tickled her cheeks as the box was removed from under her feet and her scarred body swung amid the cheers of the spectators.
The Sympathy of Kabul
July 21, 2011