Joumana Haddad killed Scheherazade. I read the book, sat and listened to Joumana explain how she spilled Scheherazade’s blood and I wondered: Who’s going to kill Shehryar? Will a man step forward from the audience, from the past, the present, or the future and say: “We’ve had it with the image of this ruthless misogynist ruler who was on a genocide mission to exterminate all virgins, and I’m up here to kill him.”
History does not prosecute kings and it turns a blind eye to the crimes of men.
Therefore, I will sole handedly take Shehryar to The Hague and charge him with the following:
(Not sole handedly, no. I’m dragging Joumana into this with me. She will be my witness, my historian, my ally, and together we will be the voices of those nameless one thousand and ninety five virgins slaughtered on their wedding night by one of the most (in)famous characters in literature.
I put the “in” in brackets because who else besides me have thought of Shehryar’s guilt? Have we not marveled at his transformation and paid little attention to his crimes? Why does he still scare us? Why do we abide by his law until this day, all the way from Indonesia to Morocco, where men who kill in the name of honor emerge as heroes, where not to kill is cowardly and shameful, where women’s lives are trivialized, bartered with, and ultimately forgotten?
Therefore, these are the charges against Shehryar: He is to be charged in
1) the names of all the unborn daughters conceived during those nights of bloodshed.
2) the names of mothers weeping helplessly as they dressed their daughters in their shrouds and sent them off to marry a murderer.
Unless Shehryar gets to face the court, injustice against women will not cease.
This and other things.
Three years. During those years, Shehryar killed 1095 girls, his first wife and her lover, plus an undisclosed number of maids.
Except for the murder of the first wife and her lover, a crime of passion, so to speak -crimes nontheless – all other killings were pre-meditated, carried out in cold blood, and would have continued had Shehryar’s vizier not had an intelligent, well-read daughter named Scheherazade (who would be killed by Joumana Haddad a few centuries later).
The rest is now the fairy tale story we embellish, censor, abridge, translate, and adorn with images; the story hakawatis tell and movies are made about.
Those innocent souls that were murdered mercilessly: who’s going to get them justice.
How many of those 1095 conceived on that first and only night of matrimony?
How terrified they must have been, knowing that it was their last night on earth? And why?
Did they get to plead with him?
And their names? I wonder about their names. The length or their braids, the color of their eyes.
What kind of dreams did they have growing up?
Let’s start from the beginning.
Because Arabian Nights started one night, or day, when Shehryar found his first wife in bed with a slave.
Let’s just kill Shehryar.
Let’s imagine that the slave was quick, got up, and killed Shahrayar.
We wouldn’t have Arabian Nights then? And Joumana wouldn’t have had to kill Scheherazade?
How many of us would prefer that? How many of us care?