Burned Alive is the story of a 17-year old girl who calls herself Souad, uneducated, beaten and victim of honor killing, from one of the villages in the West Bank region.
Written in simple prose, Souad tells us the story of life in their village. She talked about how women are literally worth less than animals and that men hitting their wives and daughters are a normal occurrence there. Women are not allowed to speak and think for themselves. They’re not allowed to look at men and if they do, they’re branded as whores or “charmuta” in their language.
At 17 years of age, Souad was already considered old to not be married yet. The father has to arrange the marriages of his daughters from the eldest to the youngest. Souad hoped to get married as soon as possible but her sisters have to be married first. She soon fell in love with a man who took advantage of her believing he wants her, too. She then got pregnant and the man disappeared. Sex (and getting pregnant) before marriage is a grave dishonor for some (if not all) Muslim countries. And in places like Souad’s, it is punishable by death. The man who does the killing is considered a hero. And in Souad’s story, it was her brother-in-law. He poured gasoline on her and set her on fire. It’s a miracle that she survived with 90% of her body burned. And even more miraculous to have given birth all alone later in the hospital where she was left to die.
I’ve known a little about honor killing already since grade school so this subject is not really new to me anymore and I find this book as something that describes the difficult life of Muslim women in places like the West Bank. Despite the advances in women’s rights nowadays, there are still many who suffer from inequality all around the world. Many argue about the realness of this story but I’m of the opinion that this really happened, that these atrocities are real. There was a part in the book where Jacqueline, the humanitarian aid worker mentioned that she was told not to involve herself with Souad’s case because it is family matter and that honor killing is part of their culture/tradition and that they should respect that. But I think it’s facetious to say so as in this case because it is clearly an oppression disguised as culture/tradition. How can anyone, man or woman, accept such barbarism as “tradition”? Come on, stand up for yourself, argue with your parents, strive hard to make a living, fight with your boss, work your ass to achieve your dreams, at the very least, you’re free!
This is a quick read. It does shed light to the issue of honor killing in the West Bank. How very harshly and cruelly women are treated by men, even family. Culture is culture, traditions are traditions. And I know it’s difficult to change that. But I still think, it all still depends on the mentality of the people involved, regardless of gender.
“Something in me is broken but people don’t realize it because I always smile to hide it.”
“The only way to help me stop suffering was to help me die.”
“Although I am able to walk about freely, I am a prisoner in my skin.”
“They tell me that I’m going to live but I do not believe that and I wait for death. I even beg for it to take me. Death seems preferable to this suffering and humiliation.”
“I was ashamed to still be alive, although no one knew this. I was afraid of this life but no one understood.”
Rating : 3.5/5 stars