Violence against Islamic Women in Jean Sasson’s: Mayada Daughter of Oraq

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Violence against women takes many forms and shapes in social, political cultural and it has diverse forms such as domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and many other forms of torture. Especially Muslim women have been prone to double marginalization in a patriarchal society. Honour killing becomes the most prevalent Patriarchal order, especially during the reign of Sadam Hussein in Iraq. The novel portrays about the violence and extreme crucifications of innocent people in Iraq especially innocent Muslim women. ’Islamphobia’ practiced in Baladiyat prison made live potrayal of electrifying horror punishments in Iraq.

Mayada was the protagonist of the novel. She was born into a powerful Iraqi family yet she can’t escape from the brutal punishments. When Saddam Hussein seized power in 2003, Mayada found herself alone in Baghdad, a divorced parent. She was dragged to the notorious Baladiyat Prison, for falsely accused of printing anti-government propaganda and thrown into a cell with seventeen shadow women. Jean Sasson is a well known American Writer, whose work mainly concentrates on the violence and suppression of Islamic woman. Jean presents the intimidating details of cruelty and agonies which a common Iraqi had faced in Saddam’s era. It’s been a never ending trauma. Jean Sasson becomes the voice for middle eastern women.

Keywords: Violence, agony, patrichy, culture, torture, marginalization of Islamic woman.

Jean Sasson uses Mayada’s Imprisonment to tell the stories of torture in Baladiyat prison. Mayada lived a privileged life in her past and an isolated grim life after Sadam Hussein seized power. Sasson gives a glossy picture of Iraq before the reign of Sadam Hussein. She throws light to the world to know about the doomed pitiful, authoritative turbulent rule of Sadam Hussein in Iraq during 2003.

It was a confronting biography of Mayada Al-Askari who comes from a powerful ancient lineage. Despite of her powerful connections she is arrested by Sadam Hussein secret police. It was a despairing novel that demonstrates about the brutal, tyrant ruling system of Sadam Hussein during 2003. Jean Sasson depicts about the doomed plight of Iraq people through the lens of Mayada. The story is a daunting potrayal of Mayada and seventeen other shadow women in the torturous Baladiyat prison cell no.52. These women, who were crammed together in the cell under terrifying circumstances, envisaged the enormous malice and underwent cruel, wild punishments.

“They took me away from my home
They slapped me when I cried out for my children
They imprisoned me
They accused me of crimes that I have never committed
They interrogated me with the harsh accusations
They tortured me with her cruel hands
They stubbed out cigarettes on my flesh
They cut out my tongue
They raped me
They cut off my breasts
I wept alone in pain and in fear
They sentenced me to Die
They staked me to the wall
I begged for mercy
They shot me between my eyes
They dumped my body in a shallow grave
They buried me without a shroud
After my death, they discovered I was innocent” (MDOI 178)

The above lines portray about the violent torments that Mayada and other dark shadow women went through the Baladiyat prison. The systematic uses of rape, electrifying, chopping off the body parts, crucifications, Were the common treatments in that Iraq prison during Sadam Hussein’s period.

Jean Sasson presents the intimidating details of agonies and cruelty that a common Iraqi faced during Sadam Hussein Period. The author have finely distanced herself from the subject, she portrays the gripping revelations faced by the common Iraqi women. She opens the gateway to the Democratic world to know about the veil and closed doors of a repressive Islamic society. This novel is an eye-opener that had given some awakening and an extra sense of urgency to the world to know about the violence against women and about the threat of world terrorism, and about the lack of humanity and kindness and about the lack of rights in some Islamic countries.

The sad ironical part is that, the innocent women of Islam become the prey for the devastating monsters and political leaders during Sadam Hussein’s period. Forced Marriages, Rape, slavery, electrifications, and honour killings were the outrages and abuses set against the women in both royal and common background. These women have intense wounds in their heart and mind which makes their life a never ending trauma. They are imposed to vulnerability and brutal violence. Mayada becomes the voice for these oppressed victims who can verbally articulate but they become emotionally numb because of the tyrant rule of Sadam Hussein.

Women have been subjugated in a patriarchal society from the early ages to the contemporary period, “women were treated as mere parasites”, and Especially Islamic Women .They had rigid and fiercful costoms to be followed still today. Mayada and seventeen other shadowed women were feeble at the beginning but at the end of the novel they turn as a radical feminist. These women went through all the brutalities, tortures, and evilness under sadam’s custody and at the end they emerge as strong women with a transformed consciousness. Mayada and other seventeen other women in the prison can also be compared with ‘phoenix bird’, because they rise from the all the obstacles and glow in life from the ashes of predecessor. Mayada transforms, regenerates and reborn into a new life at the end of the novel.

Women have versatile roles in a society. She has a role of daughter, sister, wife, and mother. She has been tapped by the traditional norms of the society, she have never been acclaimed her own individuality. She has urge to break free from the patriarchal constraints of the society, but she has to sacrifice herself to the demands of the customs. Women are self-denial, sacrificial, devotional and quiet sufferers.

Women from the early ages have been discriminated by the classicism, racism and sexism. Women become the victims of domestic violence, sexual, physical violence and she can’t escape from the hegemony of a society. She is struck in the traditional ties, and family responsibilities, hence she is unable to make decision of her life. The conscience of typical women is therefore suppressed by the traditional and cultural norms of a society and she feels guilty and afraid to break those traditional laws. The vulnerability against woman centered by the society. To overcome and reduce the violence, firstly women have to be ‘educated’ and should give awareness about the rights and equality given to women in the society.

Simone de Beauvoir was a French philosopher, novelist, and essayist, the lifelong companion of Jean-Paul Sartre. Beauvoir’s two volume treatise, “The Second Sex” is the most widely read feminist work. Her own life she documented in a monumental, four-volume autobiography.

When we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy that it implies, then the “division” of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.(Beauvoir, second sex)

Beauvoir argued that “one is not born a woman; one becomes one”. Women are “the other”, the sex defined by men and patriarchy as not male, and consequently they are less than fully human her views about misogyny in myth and literature have been extremely influential. Beauvoir writings unfolds the blur distinctions that exist between the personal, the political and the philosophical. The Second sex grounds its analyses in Beauvoir’s experiences as a woman and in the concrete situations of other real women. Where the ethics of Ambiguity speaks of mystification in a general sense. The Second Sex speaks of the specific ways in which the natural and social sciences and the European literary, social, political and religious traditions have created a mystified world where impossible and confliction ideals of femininity produce an ideology of women’s “natural” inferiority to justify patriarchal dominations.

Simon de Beauvoir in her feminist text ‘the second sex’, describes the history of how women treated in a society. She begins by tracing the ways in which primitive societies already mistreated women and regarded them as inferior to men. She then explains how the women used as an advent private property to men and she is pushed towards men and became their object of sex as well. Simon de Beauvoir then acknowledges that religion have also shaped men’s treatment of women by giving them moral excuses to limit women. In the recent era women in the society was largely enhanced by the women activism and supported by the feminist movements that have grant them greater rights. These rights make women to be liberated in a society with equal rights.

Simon de Beauvoir concludes her text by arguing that genuine equality between the sexes has not yet been achieved in her society, but would be beneficial and a good balance for both genders. She describes how the independent woman, still faces greater challenges than men do because traditional values regarding marriage, reproduction, and femininity continue to marginalize her still today. However, she also ends on the more optimistic note that if women are given equal opportunities, they can achieve just as much as men can.

She emphasizes the mutual need for a willed coexistence in both male and female, Simon de Beauvoir rejects the psychoanalysts view of women as alienated from their biological and psychological destiny and frustrated in a vain attempt to be men. She sees alienation for both men and women as an existential dilemma precipitated by the burden of self-determination and the exercise of free will. She rejects Engels’ theory that the oppression of women is merely the result of men acquiring private property with a subsequent profit-oriented need for slave labor done by women. Instead, she traces women’s enslavement to the invention of tools, which became the exclusive province of men.

The invention of tools brought about a profound change enabling man to settle and to liberate himself from the uncertainties of his environment. The new life-style eliminated the need for women to function as the incarnation of the secrets of nature; women, transcends. Woman is led to make herself an object. In developing consciousness, we project ourselves into an object, onto something. We make that thing our other. But woman already is considered as the ‘other’. We concluded, in our discussion of psychoanalysis in Beauvoir, As Beauvoir writes, “the most mediocre of males believes himself a Demi -God next to women.” We agreed that the kind of masculinity that hasn’t properly grown or embodied itself always need to degrade women more; but that when you realize, as one of us remembered happening to her in her late twenties or early thirties, that the ones who are arrogant or aggressive toward you are the ones who have the worst inferiority complexes. Simon de Beauvoir concludes that, the problem of women has always been a problem of men. Men dominate culture, women reflected as a prey, and caused a double consciousness. ,

“To the dispersed, contingent, and multiple existence of women, mythic thinking opposes the Eternal Feminine, unique and fixed; if the definition given is contradicted by the behavior of real flesh-and-blood women, it is women who are wrong: it is said not that Femininity is an entity but that women are not feminine.” It’s true! One of us exclaimed.(Delve 16/7)

The removal of the systemic, universal devaluing of women is the fundamental step to eradicate the male chauvinism in the society. It would be dynamic if women give equal opportunities to succeed .women empowerment develops a sense of social awakening, autonomy and self confidence that would liberate and enhance women in all walks of life.

Works cited:

  1. https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/secondsex/summary/
  2. https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/secondsex/summary/
  3. http://satishstha.com.np/st-jml/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63:women-as-other&catid=35:arts-ba-english&Itemid=57″ satishstha.com.np/st-jml/index.php?option=com…id…women-as-other..
  4. http://routledgesoc.com/category/profile-tags/woman-other” routledgesoc.com/category/profile-tags/woman-other
  5. https://literary-arts.org/2018/…/delve-seminar-summary-simone-de-beauvoir-second-sex…
  6. https://literary-arts.org/2018/…/delve-seminar-summary-simone-de-beauvoir-second-sex…


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Violence against Islamic Women in Jean Sasson’s: Mayada Daughter of Oraq. (2020, Sep 09). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/violence-against-islamic-women-in-jean-sassons-mayada-daughter-of-oraq/

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