Sunday 7 November 2010
The woman's face in my camera's viewfinder appears to be made of plastic that has been held too close to a fire. It is scarred, stretched and looks like it was once liquid. Her nostrils are not clear holes, there are pale sinews of skin that are stretched across them, and the bridge is too short for her face. Her lips must surely have once kissed something red hot for they are pure scar tissue, naturally smooth and featureless.
When I zoom in it looks as if her eyelids have been welded together, behind them I can see her eyeballs moving, searching for sight but captive behind fused flesh. Her face does not easily bare scrutiny; it is disturbing.
She was once beautiful and had married a man who promised to look after her, who had taken her from her family to procreate and increase the family's wealth. Whom she had given a daughter and two fine sons. This man who was not content with investing himself in her and their future had sought out prostitutes and other women to absorb his primal urges. She felt she deserved better, more respect, he beat her in return. She was brave and moved back to her family away from him and his brutalities, his wickedness and lies.
One night she was cooking and heard a motorbike arrive outside the family home. Her husband entered the yard with two friends, he walked casually towards her with his hands behind his back, she let him approach, he was still her husband after all. The last thing she ever saw was the man she married throw acid in her face.
We are sat interviewing Noahla in the small yard of her one roomed shack. that she will never see. It is a beautiful setting, goats and chickens roam and the sun plays on the water that the small settlement of mud and thatch huts surrounds. The entire area is protected by trees that offer shade and some respite from the heat. She was given this property by the Survivors of Acid Attack Association so she could a least have some level of independence. She is now able to find her way to her well and draw water she can stagger the four feet across the yard to lay some washing on a roof.
Her daughter is nine now and is preparing food on the clay wood stove, Fire, knives and hot oil three things we would banish from our children's reach. She is confident with them and at the same time keeps a look out for her mother. She is a full time carer and cannot attend school though she wants to.
I will always remember the sight of Noalah's tears forcing their way out of her fused eyelids unable to let light in but willing to let her tears out But they don't flow as single beads down her cheeks but part and form a delta tiny droplets that each make their own way down her ravaged flesh. I am behind the camera not daring to move for fear of my own tears welling out of the eyepiece.
She is telling of how pressure from her psychotic husband's family forced her to sign a piece of paper releasing him from jail, how she needed him to provide for here, of how he and his family had sworn to look after her needs. How he moved in to the house that was hers and immediately took any money that came in the house that was earned by her sons. How he rules the family by fear and how alone she is.
She tells us of how he continued to beat her. She is trapped and unable to escape. A sentence no court on earth would serve.
After the interview we are weak and furious, vengeful yet impotent. In the film or the book we would search the man out and take him out, there is no prison sentence suitable for him.such unimaginable cruelty can not be tolerated. A dog as mad as that needs to be put down.
But we represent civil society, We don't do such things.
Then Michael the VSO volunteer that brought us here tells us the same man is accused of killing his own father. His guilt is not proven and is currently awaiting trial but there is little doubt that he did it. His mother is lurking nearby as she has the adjoining huts she is distressed and eager to tell us of his innocence and that he is a good boy, yet she does nothing to help her daughter in law. The typecast roles of any mother to defend till the end.
I wander off to get some shots of the area, which has a squalid beauty. The trees, ponds, tiny waterways and raised paths give it a charm and lessen the claustrophobic atmosphere of so many humans living so closely together Simple lives in an unchanging world. If left untouched a cul de sac of evolution.
When I return the daughter is clinging to a slightly built unremarkable looking man, He is dressed in Western clothing and has a crisp clean shirt on, it has a pattern of big red hearts on it. He is the husband. I remember looking to see what he had in his hands. I smile at the daughter and am mortified when he uses the excuse to smile back at me. An animal urge wells up inside me, the impulse to confront threat to expurge evil.
I am unsure how to react. Simon the photographer obviously feels the same. We refuse to give him the credit of an interview or photograph him, we will not shake his hand or be introduced, but I must engage his eye. I need to see him. Our eyes meet I stare and search and see no remorse, guilt or regret. Just a pair of vacant eyes that are oblivious of the loathing we feel towards him, devoid of emotion they flit around the group of us seeking some kind of acknowledgement that would feed the hint of pride that I see there.
He is a weak evil being that is the cause of so much misery and pain and I want to accuse him, try him and see him off the face of the earth.
I have to leave I am being paid to cover a story not deliver retribution. But sometimes impartiality is a traitor to the soul.This creature before me doesn't deserve the title of a man or even a human. It deserves no understanding or forgiveness it has ignited a hatred in me I have never felt before. A loathing for all men that resort to violence when wrong that are not strong enough to acknowledge fault or brave enough to change. This aberration before us lives freely outside the codes of humanity and has no concept of human rights and is profoundly wrong.
This man that knows no honour and is not part of mankind.
I feel sick.