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Joumana Haddad

Hana’ and her sexy chauffeur

“Vengeance” with a twist

Sweet, sweet vengeance. (Image via Wordpress)

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  Popular proverb 

 

Disclaimer: All the people appearing in the following story are real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is not coincidental at all. Only the names have been changed in order to protect the safety of the main character.

 

Hana’ is 36 years old, married with three kids. Her eldest son will be 21 this coming February, because her father married her to her cousin Salman when she was merely 14. The groom was 41 then, with two previous marriages and five daughters. The main purpose of the union was to give Salman the son that his other wives did not manage to deliver. Luckily Hana’ succeeded, and thus avoided the added humiliation of a fourth wife replacing her.

 

Hana’ is Saudi, by the way.

 

As I was going to see her in her hotel room in downtown Beirut last week, I did not know what to expect. She had sent me an email requesting a meeting, based on the recommendation of her aunt, who is one of my faithful readers and longtime friends. She said she was visiting the city for the holidays, and would love to have a coffee with me in private.

 

As she opened the door, she was nothing but a black shadow standing before me, greeting me with the sweetest, gentlest voice. But as soon as we sat down, she took off her full veil and I discovered one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. I was speechless. I used to make fun of the orientalist imagination that saw behind every Islamic veil the promise of a seductive, breathtaking, “heavenly” creature. This time, the orientalist cliché was spot on.

 

Then Hana’ started telling me her story, in full detail, with the precision of a brain surgeon, not omitting any element.  I was listening intently and passionately, a bit uncomfortable at times from the intensity of her candor, not knowing what to make of it. Why me? But soon I realized I was merely a receptacle: she needed to take those things off her chest, and I somehow represented the perfect opportunity.

 

Hana’ was raped on the night of her wedding. That is how she was introduced to sex. Before that day, she had no knowledge of what happens “between a man and a woman.” Love, to her, meant holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, and ultimately doing the undoable: that is, kissing. “I feel ashamed of the extent of my ignorance, but in my upbringing I was never exposed to this kind of information. My mother did not have any kind of proper conversation with me, and I had no sisters; only four brothers. My only aunt had been living in London since before I was born. She was rejected by the family for having married a foreigner and she fled the country with him. I discovered I had an aunt when I was 29, can you believe that? So when Salman raped me the first night, then repeatedly after that, I came to believe this is ‘it.’ That it was ordinary; that every woman on the face of this earth underwent the same pain and humiliation. And worst of all, that we deserved it.

 

“For the first 10 years of my marriage, I had no friends. Zero. I was entirely taken by my children. I was trying to take care of them the best I could, being an ‘interrupted child’ myself. Deepening my solitude was the fact that my loving husband didn’t allow me to mingle with his two previous wives, although we all lived in the same building. I was completely alone and on my own.

 

“When all three kids went to school, I gathered my courage and told him I wanted to resume my education. I had always been an excellent student and I missed learning. Obviously he objected. But my nagging got to him and he finally agreed, especially when I said I needed to, in order to help the boys with their homework. Our three sons were his biggest pride, and I was their privileged mother after all. I was 25 by then, and being able to go back to high school was like getting the Nobel Prize.

 

“It was out of the question – socially and legally – that I go alone, and he was too busy to drive me every day, so he hired me a chauffeur, someone ‘trustworthy’ recommended to him by a Moroccan colleague. That is how I got to know Najib.

 

“Can you conceive the absurdity of a society and culture where men and women are harshly segregated – my brother-in-law doesn’t even know what I look like –  and where females are not entitled to drive, but where a complete stranger can be in the same car with a woman all day in absolute impunity?”

 

Yes, I can conceive the absurdity of all that, Hana’.

 

Dear readers, I am sure you can picture the rest of the story. She fell in love. He fell in love. They both fell madly in love. And she finally got to know what really happens “between a man and a woman.” At one point, Najib – who was “sexy, handsome, and a gentleman” as Hana’ lovingly describes him – started regularly visiting her at home, dressed in an abaya and full head covering. It was enough for Hana’ to tell Salman that her friend from school was dropping by: he and her three sons would abstain from entering her quarters. So the lovers had all the time in the world to have extramarital sex unbothered. It’s been going on for 11 years now. Hana’ graduated from high school but was not allowed to go to college. “Enough is enough,” Salman told her. He still rapes her every now and then, but not as often as before.

 

Apparently, based on her accounts and other mouth-to-ear stories reported to me, Hana’ isn’t the only Saudi woman doing that. “Some call it Karma. Others call it vengeance. I simply call it our human need to experience love. With Najib, I finally discovered what it means to have a body, a heart, and a soul. Before that I was just a thing. We all have the right to love and be loved. Whether it is with our drivers, or other women even. I came to realize that many of my friends are lesbians by necessity, not by natural inclination. And the Saudi men deserve to be cheated on, to say the least. Not to mention that many of them practice sodomy together on the side. It’s like a sport to them. Then they go to the mosque and pray. What a sick society we live in.

 

Her words, not mine.

 

Well, maybe mine too.

 

I still don’t know why Hana’ trusted me with her story. But I am humbly grateful. And while I will not issue generalizations based on her life and behavior, I will allow myself to become even more convinced that prohibitions are the root of all the innumerable diseases afflicting this Arab region.

 

If you’re one of the many Salmans of this world, consider yourself warned.

 

Joumana Haddad is author of many books, among which “I Killed Scheherazade.” Her latest book, “Superman is an Arab – On God, marriage, macho men and other disastrous inventions” (Westbourne Press, London, 2012) is now available in Lebanese bookshops and on Amazon. Follow her on Twitter @joumana333

Sweet, sweet vengeance. (Image via Wordpress)

"With Najib, I finally discovered what it means to have a body, a heart, and a soul. Before that I was just a thing."

  • JanaJina

    Hana could instead of commiting extra marital sex take her Salmam to court and divorce him because he rapes her, yeah that is true, saudi court system is one of the finest in the middle east, definitelly way better than so called democratic but extremelly corrupt Lebanon, as saudi Legal system is bound by basic islamic shariaa which really protects women right and not just a propaganda.. and saudi judges in all feilds are known for their unbias and eir absolute fairness in the face of harsh tribal forces and an extremely corrupt hay'at l'amr bil ma'rouf wal nahi 'an il monkar aka mutawa'a Instead of being spouse of her beloved driver and living with him inethical and moral matromony which is her basic human right, she decided to persue he forbidden fruit.. Anyhow, I must say that in such closed society and a husband raping his wife, presence of unveiled female would force him and probably his horny Saudy teenage boys as well to try to take a peak on this misterious woman visiting Hana, which would probably expose thewhole thing as early as day one.. Just thinking out loud. I am an educated (very fortunate) Saudi woman, belong to a middle class open minded family, I was married at age 23,and at age 32 I asked my first husband to devorce me for the simplest reason that he decided to remarry, he tried to deny me my request at first but I was finally able to convince him to do divorse me without dragging to court because he knew that with my education (I hold. a bachlor degree in islamic law)I was determined to go for the full extent of the idlamic law, stating to the judge that I disdane being with him (a reason acceptable by a judge to making devorce me).Although he comes from a highly influencial family and a very large tribe, while I come from a middle class small family with no wealth but our education. After my divorce,I went for my masters degree, met my 2nd husband and the love of my life. I have two boys and a girl from my 1st marriage, and 1 girl from m

    October 2, 2014

  • minouchh1

    Hana is such a weak woman, but going beyond her being abused to cheat her husband is also awful..i would appreciate that she asked for divorce rather than leave a happy adultery life..every day being scared to be caught..away from cheating she is muslim and this is offensive...

    January 10, 2014

  • koert.tijdens

    People can be trapped in a religion. Especially when the religion is a bit oppressive and violent.

    January 18, 2014

  • exitshadows

    Nothing new here. It's the wealth of these men that parents are after when they give off their daughters to such men. There's another worry that I've came to learn about that has nothing to do with lesbianism and sodomy. That of child sexual abuse. It's on the rise. And the keeping hush hush within the family is the problem.

    January 10, 2014

  • bogomile

    In Omani society there is a particular status. Young Men can not afford the expesnses of marriage as the MAHR. So old rich men marry young prides while young men go for sodomy until they are rich enough to marry ! So in OMAN there are a lot of young widows that get remarried with rich old men and they are happy about it !

    January 9, 2014

  • bogomile

    The blame is on men when it should be on Patriarchal society as a whole ! Some men are so repressed by their father so they marry virgin as their wife ! How many men lives a life of misery because they are not successfull or not so rich ? How many wifes leaves their husbands in the east to wealthiest men ? Patriarchal society crushes men as well as women !

    January 9, 2014

  • @peterclifford1

    Interesting story - and the abuse is all too common I fear. By suppressing women these societies are wasting almost 50 % of their valuable resources. And as a psychotherapist in the west of 32 years standing, I can unfortunately imagine all too well the consequences of rape and the continued abuse of women and young girls which ruins entire lives and will have serious consequences for their children too.

    January 7, 2014

  • otout

    Not only limited to GCC countries like you said. You can find this kind of stories anywhere even in France and United states

    January 6, 2014

  • muhami

    I doubt a 14 year old girl can be forced/pressured to marry a 41 year old man (with former wifes and children) in France or the US. I believe this happens primarily in communities where women have no rights or very few.

    January 7, 2014

  • Phil؟

    It does happen in some secluded communities in the US. (...)

    January 7, 2014

  • otout

    The story of a girl who was forced to marry a 41 year old man is just an example. The idea -- oppression and its consequences -- which the writer want to give can be given by an other completely different story and if a saudian girl can be forced to marry a 50 year old man, I have heard and seen a story about a French girl who was imprisoned by his father to prevent her go out of her house. In this sense I said KIND OF STORIES.

    January 7, 2014

  • calebpowell

    @OTOUT - Your comment is absurd. In Saudi it's legal, in the US and France it's illegal, in one country it is culturally accepted, in the US and France a cult minority must hide to practice what would be considered statutory rape. In places like Yemen and Saudi and Afghanistan over 20% of women are married at age 15 and have children before they are 18, in the US and France this is rare. What's your point? You have exception/rule dyslexia.

    January 12, 2014

  • JBY

    Not only limited to Saudi. This also goes on in other GCC countries like UAE.

    January 6, 2014