“The Zar Tales”, Chapter VII

"The Zar Tales", published by Lulu.com, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by Lulu.com, 2010

Zar Dancer

CHAPTER VII

“You have been accused, Shakira Arsan, of holding the zar in this village for the women. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Shakira sat on a chair in front of the three visiting Mullahs. This was no investigation. They had jumped to a fast trial. The mullahs sat behind a long, covered table, and she was like a specimen displayed in front of their dark, accusing eyes.

She was dressed in black robes and covered her head with a scarf, something she did only when required. She knew the charges were serious and she could be imprisoned for violating the religious laws.

It was whispered the mullahs were concerned with how the women would react. Already Leila had been listening to her husband talk to the visiting men through the door, her ear pressed firmly. They were aware the Mayor would have his hands full if proceedings went hard on Shakira. The women would show their heels and the men would suffer. How much, was not known, but the men’s comfort seemed a factor in their concerns. As to the women, well women were made to suffer, blessed be the one God, Allah! He restored the balance on Earth and ruled the Universe with his wisdom, Shakira thought sourly.

Shakira talked with Ali before this encounter with the Mullahs. She was nervous and agitated and Ali did what he could to placate her nerves. He told her if she was stoned to death, he would claim her spirit and together they would ride the clouds and float over mountains for eternity. This was little solace to Shakira, and she rolled her dark eyes at him in disgust. Ah! Men were a torment in life, but Demons reached far beyond with their needling.

Ali was little comfort to her and she did not raise his anger with more questions. She saw how he reacted when she pressed him, and avoided discord where she could. He seemed pre occupied, spent hours smoking his hookah, silent except to answer her stares with a wry smile. He disappeared frequently, coming in at dawn. The smell of hashish was like a vaporous ghost clinging to his own wavering spirit. He was plotting something, but Shakira finally had the good sense not to ask what.

Since word had gone out that she was to be called before the Mullahs, many women would walk past her house with their eyes cast to the ground. Only Leila, her kinswoman, would visit her and commiserate. Leila was the best source of what was planned, but had very little knowledge. What Shakira did know was from the gatherings of eavesdropping, and that was little enough for comfort. She had never felt so alone and abandoned, and the disembodied spirit of Ali did not give her enough substance to placate her fears. He tried to comfort her in the usual ways, but his efforts in bed did not calm her.

She was brought back to the present by the voice of one of the mullahs.

“Shakira Arsan.”

Shakira’s eyes focused on the mustache of the speaker. It looked surreal, like a snake had crawled up under his nose, twitching with his words.

“Allah the One God is the Merciful One. It is not our intent to destroy you but to reclaim you for the One true religion, which is Islam. These villages in the mountains have a long history of pagan gods. You fall into their hands when you hold the zars. Plus, you corrupt the women in the village and turn them from the true face of Allah. Your crime here is far reaching, but we are merciful men, thanks be to Allah, who guides us in our work and judgment.”

There was a moment of silence before the mullah spoke.

“Do you have some final words before we pass sentence upon you?”

Shakira’s eyes were studying the floor before her. She was scared, because, regardless the tone of the mullahs, they represented the religious authority of the country.

Oh, Goddess Nut! Protect me in my hour of need! Save my life and let me continue the work among women! We are besieged upon all sides by their One God and the men. Give me your blessing and protection I beseech you, Blessed Mother!

Shakira shivered, though the room was hot and the flies circled her head like she was already a dead carcass in the sun. What could she say to these men? How could they possibly understand the needs of women? How could they be sympathetic to the status and comfort and dignity of women who were less than donkeys to these men?

Mother Nut! Give strength to my tongue. If these men refuse to see with their eyes, let them feel with their hearts. Let my tongue give truth and grace to my words. If nothing else, let these words live after my death.

It was not clear to Shakira whether the Goddess Nut heard her words, but her tongue was made bold. She took a deep breath, and trance-like, narrowed her eyes and let them unfocus. No longer were four old men before her, but the wall opened up and she saw the valleys and mountains. She heard the comforting babble of the brooks as they ran into the river, and smelled the sweet smell of grasses in the valley. The caressing fingers of the evening wind surrounded her.

In a trance, brought both upon by fear and comforting habit, Shakira spoke.

“The women of this village have many problems. We toil in the fields for long hours. We keep house and bake the bread and prepare the meals. We weave the cloth and make the clothes that cover our families. We give birth to children with only an old midwife to attend us, with no medical help when things go wrong. The mountains isolate us from our relatives and many of the younger people have left for the cities for a better life.”

The men seemed to be listening carefully to her words.

“Ah! Life is hard for men and women, but especially hard for women. We have little to sustain us. The weddings, births, funerals are all we have. The Zar rituals are a time for us to find joy in life, to find song and laughter in our souls. These rituals fill the holes deep within our hearts. They answer the pain we women feel. They sustain us for further life. They answer to the suffering that is the lot of all women, even if only a little part of it. These small Zar festivals lift our souls to Heaven and reunite our hearts with our dead children.”

Shakira spoke from the authority of her many years in this village, and though she did not focus on their faces, at least the Mayor’s heart was moved. Tears formed in his eyes, and his features softened. Ah! This woman before them had the heart of a poet!

Though she be just a woman.

The visiting mullahs were not so impressed. They had no connection with Shakira Sheikha and to them, she was a bothersome woman. The lead mullah spoke with some impatience in his voice.

“Shakira Arsan. You have turned the eyes and hearts and minds of these women from the one source of comfort, the One God, Allah! For this, you have not only disregarded the law, but you have also encouraged the other women here in this village to do the same by your example.”

Shakira fell back in her chair. Ah Goddess Nut, soften the hearts of these men! If not to save my life, save the lives of the other women who stand accused as I
am!

“Stand and hear your sentence, and remember that Allah is the Merciful God!”

Shakira stood on her feet, but felt she would swoon. The words came to her ears, but they seemed so far away.

“Shakira Arsan, you have been condemned before the authority of the Mullahs, representing the Religious Laws of Islam, the Shari’a authority, which charges and condemns you for following false gods and influencing other gullible women. Your sentence is merciful, for we take into account that you are a woman and not to be judged with the severity of a man, for you are ignorant and weak as Allah has made you. Therefore, you will be taken within three days from this village and you will be imprisoned in the Women’s Prison in Ankara for the duration of ten years.”

A buzzing filled Shakira’s ears. It seemed time had stopped.

“May Allah have mercy on you!”

It was too much. Shakira’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she fell in a dull, black heap before the Mullahs. The only mercy in the room was this, and it was small comfort.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014, “The Zar Tales” published by Lulu.com, 2010

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