by Sydney Siaw
I attended my first honour killing when I was barely seven years old. The butcher’s wife, convicted of a crime I could not recall, was buried almost up to her chest in a ditch. All the males in the village - my father and I included - congregated that day to witness the stoning. The butcher’s white-knuckled grip on the stone betrayed his stoic composure - I could see that his steady façade masked an eagerness to proceed with the event, to restore honour in his family.
He drew his arm back, the muscles visibly tensing, and hurled the stone with all his strength, channeling the anger he felt at his wife - the shame she had brought to the family - into that throw.
I closed my eyes, and did not see the stone strike her - but I heard her cry of pain.
The stoning had begun. The stones had to be small enough to inflict pain but not large enough to kill. This would prolong the pain of the process.
Around me, men picked up stones and joined in. My father held two stones, each one no bigger than his clenched fist. He pressed one into my hand.
“Throw with all your might, Aziz. Aid them in bringing honour to their family.”
The stone was cold and smooth in my hands. I had glanced up at my father uncertainly at that moment, but he was looking ahead, showing no expression as he threw. I gripped my own stone, more and more tightly as the minutes passed. When the stoning was over, it remained in my rigid grip, slick with sweat. Turning away from the deceased woman to return home with me, my father saw the stone, still in my hands. The disappointment in his chestnut-brown eyes was palpable; the sigh that escaped his lips and the subtle, nearly imperceptible shake of his head told me that I should have thrown the stone, like a real man. That it was the right thing to do.
I had not fully comprehended the situation then.
But I do now.
The stone in my hand invokes a feeling of déjà vu, but this time I will have no hesitation.
The woman in the ditch - buried almost up to her chest, as the law dictates - shows no emotion, a refusal to expiate or even acknowledge her sin. I grip the stone harder. She had repudiated the man our father had chosen for her, instead eloping with someone of a lowly social status, with no money and no education.
“This is your second.”
I turn around at my father’s voice. His face is, too, hard to read - but I somehow know that we are both thinking about my first time - when I did not throw the stone.
“She has brought shame and humiliation to us. We must bring honour back to our family. We have been greatly disgraced.” The bitterness in my tone surprises me, but my father either does not notice or does not mind. He nods simply, then says, “Everyone is here. You can start.”
My gaze shifts to my sister. We share the same long eyelashes. She holds it steadily, still devoid of any repentance for her crime. An intense rage ignites in my chest - the ignominy she has caused us is unbearable. I have received contemptuous looks from passers by every day since the news of her wrongdoings broke out, and the fruit seller even refused to sell us her products. Just yesterday, an geriatric spat as he passed by me, his disdain almost tangible.
No matter - this disgrace will all cease in a few seconds.
My stone sails through the air and finds its mark on her forehead, drawing crimson blood that trickles like a rivulet down her face, like a serpent.
It is the beginning of the end.