Layla.

Sixteen days. Sixteen stories about Her from my diary. 

Day 1: Layla

Once I conducted a research at the rehabilitation centre in Erbil, also known as The Women’s Prison. In three days I interviewed over 12 women. The women in my interview came from different parts of Iraq and were caught on different cases including crime, murder, prostitution and adultery. The women were all together, they shared a very large room with beds, and a garden, many had young children with them. Some NGOs did activities or seminars on the days I went for the interviews. it is was, After all, a rehabilitation centre.

Layla stood out to me. She was dressed in a long maxi, with a timid smile and she barely made any eye contact throughout the entire interview. 

Art work by Raz Xaidan, you can find her here and here

She explained how she was caught in her home by her husband in an intimate moment with another man. In that instance, for the husband it was either a bullet as a fair ‘punishment’ for her adultery, or for the law to take care of her.

Layla was considered lucky her husband did not take matters to his own hands in the name of ‘honour.’ In the view of the law and the local culture she had committed a crime, and for her it was better to be alive in prison, then shot dead, if not by her husband, then by her own family.  

Layla continued her illegal relationship after the marriage

Sixteen Stories. Sixteen days. This is Layla’s story.

Something wasn’t right. I could feel it. Her presence compared to the others I interviewed was different. I closed my notebook and I spoke to her almost as I would to a friend. I asked her to tell me about the person who she was with on the day her husband came home. 

It was her teenage love, a young man from her neighbourhood who she had loved for various years. Her family had refused the marriage and married her by force to the first suitor who came. Married to a man who she had no emotions for, Layla continued her illegal relationship after the marriage, from one that was based on communication to a more intimate one, she said “I was no longer a girl anyway.” 

For the husband it was either a bullet as a fair ‘punishment’ for her adultery, or for the law to take care of her

Sixteen Stories. Sixteen days. This is Layla’s story.

Layla was too meek and harmless to be in a hall among terrorists, criminals and a few murderers too. I drove back that day, thinking to myself who would guess, right across family mall (which is the centre for the hustle and bustle of my city) there are tall walls and barbed wires, The Women and Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre. In it, is a woman who could be holding the hand of her lover happily in the shops of family mall… I thought, had she married her love, had she married the young boy from the neighbourhood who she shared feelings with, had her family listened to her, had her family not wed her to a man she was not fond of, would this be her place now? 

In my society, dearest reader, 16 days of activism needs to become about interventions for prevention.

#16DaysOfActivism #16Days #ViolenceAgainstWomen #HerStory

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