Sunday, November 3, 2013

Inter/Sect: The making of a "terrorist" by Tarek Chemaly (Part 7)

Based on Tawfiq Yusuf Awwad's seminal novel "Tawahin Beyrouth" (or "Death in Beirut" as it has been translated), we will follow the story of Tamima Nassour a Muslim Shiite girl from the south of Lebanon as she goes to Beirut - a Beirut already in turmoil (the novel was published in 1973 and saw the war coming).
Tamima ends up joining the Palestinian Fidais (or Kamikaze). In a world today where "terrorist" is slapped on anyone and everyone these series of 12 monologues aim at recounting Tamima's story backwards, as if from a police investigation with protagonists who knew the victim. And with these 12 facets, we shall know or try to understand why is that someone so young and beautiful would end up taking such a desperate measure.
Called “Inter/Sect” these monologues collectively refer to Tamima’s relationship with a man from a different sect, but also talk about the intersection of the destinies of all these people orbiting around that central elusive character after the fact.


She was six or seven, I lifted her dress on that rock on the way to the fields in Mehdiyyeh and I rubbed her incessantly. I throw her down. Then that idiot guardian comes rushing in beating me on the back. Even then she showed potential, that whore. I saw her one day, must have been August already, sitting on that rock. I go ask: “Where is Jaber?” and she says: “You know where Jaber is better than I do.”
“What do you think of the Fidais? They have camped in the outskirts of the village.” “I have no opinion” the whore says. “Jaber has two great projects. The first is to enlist with the Fidais, and the second…” I clamp her in my two arms tightly as she tries to get up and I force a kiss upon her mouth. She slapped me: the whore. Slapped me. Me, Houssein Kammoui. Women die over me. She slapped me the whore. I laugh my head out. I know she wants me but is too afraid to let it show.
Jaber had by now travelled to Guinea and I was the custodian over her and her mother. She never felt it, but I was always on her pace. Always knowledgeable about her acts. She’ll see the whore, she’ll see! Then was the day she attended that debate about “Sectarianism: then and now” and we listened to the survey that Outlook magazine from the American University of Beirut did. There were two questions: “Are you with or against marrying someone from a different religion?” the second was “Are you with or against civil marriage?”
I came between Tamima and the one they call Hani Rahi. “Names, names – we want names” the crowd shut me up. The speaker announces “the quasi majority, males and females, support marriage between people from different religions and the overwhelming majority agree to the civil marriage even if percentages differ among religion and gender. 78.6% are in favor of civil marriage and 21.85% are against.”
I wouldn’t let go: “I want to see the heads. I was to know the heads that such thoughts go into. I want to see faces not numbers. I want to know each student with his full name, and that of his father and mother and I wish to ask him the question and then I would want to see the answer.” And then I pointed out at Tamima: “You, for example, the Shiite Moslem from Mehdiyye, would you marry Hani Rahi the Maronite Christian from Deil el Mtoll?”
“Take your hand off my shoulder” Hani Rahi tells me.
I wait for her on the 27th of December as she goes out from the room. That same room I know she goes into with that poet, Ramzi Raad. I lurk by the shadows. With a well sharpened razor blade I hit her on the face on the right cheek from underneath the eye till the ear. She managed to avoid the second which got caught in her coat. I think I must have hurt her wrist. “Next time I will kill you, you bitch!”
On the 29th of December Lebanon was waking up to learn about the tragedy. During the night, an Israeli commando backed by air force stormed the airport and destroyed thirteen grounded civilian planes on the runway in what it says is a retaliation to the two Palestinian Fidais who have hijacked an Al Aal plane in Athens and who were supposed to have been based in Lebanon.
I went to another one of those silly meetings the students organize. Ramzi Raad, Tamima’s lover, inflamed them with his words.
“Long live the Arabic unity!!” not everyone agreed to that. “Long live the free sovereign and independent Lebanon!!” not everyone agreed to that too. Fine, “long live the Fidais!” I screamed. Everyone goes after me in unison.
The crowd was about to disperse: “Close down all the foreign institutions including schools and universities for they are nothing but dens for spying and manufactures for agents!” – that took care of it. Someone disagreed with me naturally, I start throwing him punches. Good for him. That idiotic peacemaker Hani Rahi comes in to break the fight apart. He recognizes my face now.
But he didn’t see my face when I followed him and that whore to the corniche in the Fiat in early February. Tamima did. She glanced at the side mirror and suddenly gave panicking gestures. I took photos of them. I only got them from behind but she is recognizable enough. Jaber will love them. Me – the custodian – who has proofs of his sister soiling the family honor.
24th of February Jaber is back. He said he slept the first night in Mehdiyyyeh. He stayed at “Palm Beach” with the red thunderbird awaiting us at the door. A convertible for everyone to see us. And saw us they did. The daytime for the show-off and the prestige, and the nights for the brothels and the casino. His chip on the roulette for a hundred liras. With me on the other side of the table to catch luck by both ends. But Baccara was his favorite, pursuing the opponent for thousands. And the “artistes” the politest of names for a different profession, he would steal them away with the power of my gifts. He loved to trash other men as a proof of his might.
The run goes for three weeks and then Jaber leaves the hotel. I spent the whole day in Hamra Street until I finally located the house of the woman they call Madame Rose Khoury. A maid opens the door and answers in the negative when I ask about Jaber.
Two more missives: The first signed “the red hand” to Hani Rahi. The second: “Watch out Jaber, watch out for your sister! Your sister puts her honor and that of the family in the mud – signed: A faithful friend.” The second one in secure post and comes with the photo I took at the corniche of that whore and the Rahi guy. But I had already warned him verbally: “You will not like the behavior of Tamima if you knew about it. I shall let you see with your own eyes.” Sure, I never reveal everything, I am just milking the cow dry for the moment, at his expense. I follow him from “Les Caves du Roy” to “Cabaret Eve” from a whisky bottle at the Phoenicia to an Arak shot at Raouche, from one artiste to the next.
Three days after that goat who works at Rose Khoury’s house threw herself from Raouche. The taxi is at the beginning of Abdel Aziz street. I tilt my head towards Jaber and point to the Chrysler. He says: “So the big lawyer has moved his Headquarters from Rose Khoury’s to Mary Bou Khalil’s! Miss Mary. Miss Mary the nurse. That so and so! A nurse pimp! This is how the legal pimps should be – legal nurses! And if Madame Rose played her cards like Mary does none of this would have happened.” I have already told him that Tamima was struck by a blade during a fight between Ramzi Raad and someone for her services. “If you can’t take her red handed just see beneath her left eye close to the ear, she covers the wound with make-up and powder. Ask her where she got it.”
Late March now and already night. “Watch out, I shall go before you. I shall leave the taxi for you. And wait for you where we agreed.” And I stay in the shadows waiting for him. I want to make sure he does it. What’s with the false donations to the Fidais, my back is not secure any longer.
But he chickens out. I was still at “Pension Rivage” next to the UNESCO but had not spent the night there. I was with Jaber hiding him in a hashish den and we spent the following day at Antoinette’s, a whore on Al Moutanabi Street. I am her lover and her protector. She spends on me ever since I came down from Mehdiyyeh. Jaber used to call me “husband of the queen” – and who wouldn’t want someone like that looking after him? We fought again about my share of the proceedings. Shouts and hits and as always we reconciled in bed. Jaber lay down in the next compartment next to a “sister” of Antoinette she had picked for him. It was paid for in advance courtesy of Houssein Kammoui. Simply because I wanted him under my eyes to make sure he was going to do it. 

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