A crime against my neighbor in Algeria. June 1986
Sara was 20, just finished her first year of collage in Batna. She was in love with a boy from school. But as her father had arranged a marriage for her with a Muslim man. Sara was to be married as soon as she turned 20 to this man who was 53 years old. His wife had died giving birth at home.
Her mother, still holding on in secret to their Jewish roots, would tell Sara of her ancestors, the Chawi Berbers of Numidia.
The day came for the marriage of Sara to General Djbar. Sara was preparing herself in her room, crying the whole time. Her mother was tormented that she had no say in her daughter’s marriage or life because Sara’s father had already arranged the marriage.
Sara’s mother went down to start to prepare the henna for the festival. Sara packed her bags and jumped out the window. She ran to our house, where I would transport her to Constantine. I drove so fast, I felt like my heart was going to explode. We met her lover in the center of the city, where he had gotten papers for him and Sara saying they were married in order to get Sara into Tunis and then into France. They papers were forged, but were the only way we could get her out safe.
I drove home so that no one would miss me. It was a good 3 hour drive back to the mountains of Aures. Once I arrived everyone questioned me. I used the excuse that I went to get a gift. They saw the gift in the auto and did not question me any more.
But then I heard screaming coming from Sara’s house. Everyone went to see what happened. We found Sara’s mother black with bruises on her face and arms. Her husband had beaten her because Sara was gone. How was he going to explain this to the family and the man whom she was to marry? It was a disgrace to his honor.
Sara’s brother started to ask around. They found out from a friend that Sara was with her lover from school. With the help of the police and military, they found Sara and her lover in the hotel that night in Constantine. Her father wrapped the rope around her neck and killed her. Her lover was shot for being in the same room with her while not married.
All of this went unreported. They held the funeral 3 days later and buried her a month later.
Sara’s father killed his wife on the suspicion that she was the one who helped Sara escape. He did this to clear his family’s name in the society.
I would never be the same again. It was the first time I would witness a honor killing, at the age of 16. I feared also for my well being.
I dream of a place where poets can sing their minds and hearts
and the songs of love are in all hearts….
Sara sang her song this night while the ground was still thirsty with blood….
I do not believe in peace anymore while bullets still rape the innocent of this night…