I am old enough to know that the world can be a pretty cruel and crappy place at times, but fortunately, I'm still young, or perhaps, foolish, enough to still dream that it doesn't have to be. Like most teenagers, I tend to think that tragedies only happen to other people. Somewhere in the back of my mind, though, I know that such things can happen to anyone of us, and eventually my day, or that of my family will come and we will have to confront some heartbreaking catastrophe no matter how hard I might wish otherwise.
Anytime I hear that something terrible has happened to someone, I try to push from my consciousness just how tenuous our hold on life can be. Invariably, however, there is a little voice inside my head that whispers, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Sometimes the tragedies people face in life are very private as is the suffering which they must endure in sorrowful solitude. Other times the tragedies which befall us are widely known to the world.
Sometimes the tragedies come in the form of natural calamities like the earthquakes in Bam, Pakistan and Indonesia, or the tsunami which devastated countries from Asia to Africa. Other times tragedies come as the result of cataclysmic events caused by human negligence, malfeasance, or maleficence like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, or the devastating nuclear reactor meltdown at Chernobyl twenty years ago. In either case there is a widespread and shared sense of universal grief.
Finally, there are tragedies that are so utterly terrible in their nature, so shocking to the human psyche and so monstrously hideous and grotesque in their wickedness that they are able to traumatize the sensibilities of individuals who have no direct connection to the victim(s) of the tragedy, or to the circumstances of the tragedy itself.
This is how I feel right now. I feel emotionally traumatized and violated by something that happened to someone I never knew and to circumstances to which I had no connection, whatsoever. I keep asking myself why I feel so badly, but so far I have been unable to answer this simple question.
About a month ago, I began reading stories about a child that was severely abused physically, mentally and emotionally. I never met this child and so, to my way of thinking, she should mean nothing to me, but I just can't seem to push her out of my mind. Notwithstanding the fact that I know bad things, can and often do, happen to good people in life, there is something about her story that I find so utterly shocking and repulsive that it has even haunted my dreams since I first read about what she endured.
This is a true story about a little girl; a little nine year old girl named Ghosun. Although Ghosun had no connection to Iran or Iranians, I'm sure that in her physical appearance she looked very much like millions of sweet little nine year old Iranian girl. In my mind's eye, I can imagine that Ghosun probably liked to play with dolls like other little girls do, she probably liked to sing songs and play games like other little girls do and she probably craved love, security and affection from the adults in her life like others girls do. I am also sure that she doesn't crave any of these things anymore because little Ghosun is dead.
Anytime a child dies prematurely, it is a tragedy, but the circumstances of this child's death are exceptionally sickening because the intimate bond of love, trust and security that any child ought to rightly feel toward his or her parents was savagely shattered and desecrated in little Ghosun's case. To make matters worse, many people in positions of authority had repeated opportunities to intervene on her behalf before it was too late, yet no one came to her rescue. Everyone that could have and should have moved heaven and earth to save this child while there was still time failed her and condemned her to the hell of a painful and tormented death by turning their heads the other way and ignoring the agony that engulfed her during the last year of her life. Here is her story. Ghosun was a little girl from Saudi Arabia.
By all accounts, the first eight years of her short life were happy. Ghosun's mother and father were divorced before she was born because her father was a physically violent and abusive man. In return for her husband's consent to the divorce, Ghosun's mother had to return the money he had given her as a bridal gift at the time of marriage, plus an additional undisclosed amount. After her birth, Ghosun lived with her mother and her maternal grandparents. She rarely saw her father during her early childhood. Around the time Ghosun turned seven, her mother remarried. Ghosun's stepfather turned out to be a kind and decent man who accepted her with love. Throughout the years that Ghosun lived with her mother, Ghosun's father failed to pay even the smallest of child support payments.
At about the same time that Ghosun's mother remarried, her father remarried as well. When Ghosun turned seven years of age, her father began demanding full custody rights to her in accordance with Islamic law. His demands were not based in any affection which he felt for his child, but rather in the vindictive feelings he felt for his ex-wife. He knew that if he took custody of Ghosun that it would emotionally wound Ghosun's mother. He hated the fact that his ex-wife had married a prosperous, hardworking and successful man, for it made him feel bad about himself; a man who had made nothing of his life.
Furthermore, he knows that once he had custody of Ghosun that he could extort money out of his ex-wife and her new husband in the future in exchange for custody rights to the child. In essence, he felt that he could sell Ghosun back to her mother if he ever found himself in a financial bind. Ghosun's mother begged him to allow their daughter to remain with her, but her anguished pleas had no affect on him. He filed a for full custody in the family court of Makka and was summarily awarded full custody of Ghosun in accordance with Islamic law. That is the day the bottom fell from little Ghosun's world.
Immediately upon moving into her father's home Ghosun discovered that her stepmother was not merely jealous of her, but that she was a wicked and cruel woman also. She tortured Ghosun relentlessly. On the rare instances that Ghosun was able to visit her mother, she told her mother how horribly she suffered at the hands of her stepmother. When the stepmother discovered that Ghosun was telling her mother about the abuse, she convinced her husband, Ghosun's father, to torture the child as well.
For the whole year, the child was in her father's custody, she suffered unrelenting physical abuse. She was starved for days on end many times throughout the year; she was punched in the head, arms, legs, stomach and back to this point that her little body resembled one big bruise; she was slapped in the face and burned with cigarettes for the most minor of alleged offenses, she sustained factures to her ribs on more than one occasion and she had her front teeth, both upper and lower, knocked out of her mouth.
If all this isn't enough to make you want to vomit, this little girl was chained, naked, to the foot of her bed for days on end, totally deprived of water as punishment for wetting the bed, which was undoubtedly a direct result of all the torture she was being subjected to. She was prevented from attending school much of the time to give her injuries time to heal so that her teacher and classmates could not so easily see the plain evidence of the torture she was forced to endure.
The signs of abuse never did heal, however. They were obvious and ever present. Ghosun's mother repeatedly complained to the police when she'd see the burns and bruises on her child's body during the rare occasions she was able to steal a visit with her daughter, but the police did nothing. A teacher at Ghosun's school sought police intervention and was reprimanded by the school administrators who instructed her to never interfere in the family life of any student again.
At one point the physical abuse became so terrible that one the brothers of Ghosun's father (Ghosun's paternal uncle) took her into his home to keep her safe, but the father sent the police to his brother's home and accused his brother of kidnapping. The police arrested the brother and sent little Ghosun back into the living hell of her father's home.
During the last week of March 2006, Ghosun's mother wrote to the Governor of Makka begging him to intervene before little Ghosun ended up dead. Her mournful maternal pleas went ignored yet one more time and with them went little Ghosun's last chance at life.
On April 7, 2006, only God Almighty, Ghosun, her father and her stepmother know what happened in the house of horrors which Ghosun was forced to call home. At some point in the day, Ghosun's father stabbed her several times causing her to choke to death on her own blood. When she failed to move after being dragged by the hair across the room, he realized she might be dead. He and his wife then poured several bottles of bleach over the child's body trying to cleanse the blood that gushed from her wounds.
They then took her lifeless body to the hospital and said that she liked hurting herself. The hospital personnel discovered not only stab wounds but fresh factures to her ribs upon examination. The police were called to the hospital, but this time, unlike before, they did not ignore the child's plight. Both the father and stepmother were arrested and now sit in jail blaming each other for Ghosun's death. Under Sharia, if the father is found to have killed Ghosun, he cannot be put to death because Islamic law does not allow a parent to be executed for the death of his or her own child. If, however, the stepmother is found to have dealt the final fatal blow to little Ghosun, she will lose her head.
I wanted… no; I needed to write about this child because I want to be able to put her out of my mind. I feel so much sadness, disgust and anger that a precious little girl could be victimized so horribly by one she should have been able to count on for love and support. The depth of her suffering is simply incomprehensible to me.
I have never given the death penalty much thought before, but if there is a case that cries out for it, then surely this one, and every other one like this one, demand nothing less. People who physically, mentally, emotionally or sexually abuse children are the lowest and dirtiest form of human filth. They do not deserve pity, mercy or second chances. All the little Ghosun's of this world never get second chances. Children must be protected. They must have the opportunity to grow up in safe, secure environments with love and affection.
I know that many Iranians wear their hatred of Arabs as badges of honor and so Ghosun's story will not affect their already hardened hearts. I don't condemn any Iranian who hates Arabs; I just don't feel the way they do. I don't give a damn about the fact that Ghosun was an Arab child. I only care that she was a human child; a human child that suffered a death that no human being deserves to suffer. I feel so disgusted that something so horribly monstrous could happen to someone so innocent… .she was just a little girl that no one cared enough about to save.
None of us asks for the parents we get. It is a matter of fortuity that we get the parents that we do. Ghosun's story could have been your story or mine had fortuity dealt us a different hand of cards. If you had good and loving parents growing up, go and tell them how much you love them. Don't feel embarrassed because you might be grown now and they might be old. Go and tell them how much they mean to you. Don't feel shame to let them know the boundlessness of your affection for them and appreciation to them.
Go and thank them for loving you and taking care of you when you were small. Thank them for always keeping you safe and never hurting you and while you're at it, thank God for giving them to you. I am going right now to tell my dad and my maman just how much they mean to. Every time I think of little Ghosun and I hear that little voice in my head saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” it make makes me appreciate them just that much more.