The Law of Free Spirits (Synopsis)
A thirteen-year-old girl finds her world caught in a tailspin of oppressive laws and new violent wars being waged throughout the country. Honor killings, rape, children soldiers and a loss of hope are consuming the hearts of a people, who have been pushed backwards into civil war and religious extremism.
Rajaa, the eldest daughter, experiences the tolls of this war when her father changes from the loving idol she worshiped, to the religious bigot whose mind is twisted by the relentless struggle to fit in to old religious customs. In order to feed the family, Rajaa’s mother who is no longer able to work as a professor, decides to do the unthinkable and prostitute herself in the markets for a mere eight dollars a day. Soon, this secret is discovered, thereby opening Pandora’s box of doom and changing everyone’s life forever. In order to keep respect for the family name, Rajaa’s father submits to the pressures of religious leaders, by initiating the Islam tradition of honor killing, and stones his own wife to death in front of his daughter’s eyes.
Rajaa and her sister escape from their father’s wrath with the help of close relatives and brought to a foundation known as the WFFI (Women’s Freedom Fights of Iraq). This organization is where Rajaa and her sister spend years of their lives witnessing the increasing and horrid treatment of women who are trying to escape the abuse of their husbands and society. Here Rajaa is able to use the foundations resources and training to inspire a message of hope and freedom. Her political message is quickly squashed as the religious extremists initiate a violent attack on the center, taking many lives and destroying the only place of refuge left for women.
After the raid Rajaa and her close friend are captured. The captors reveal their plan to make a political message to the world by beheading Rajaa and her friend on film. Despite the persecution, Rajaa finds her courage and peace at the face of death and does not let up on her quest to free her country from oppression. As they prep for emanate death, an Iraqi military force rains down upon the terrorists and takes Rajaa and her friend into custody.
Despite surviving the ill treatment of the terrorists, Rajaa is once again put into custody by the Government and charged with exaggerated crimes. In prison the guard’s mock her message and humiliate her further by rape and abuse. Finally on trial, Rajaa is put before a televised courtroom where she delivers her final message of hope and freedom for the women who have suffered; knowing the court had already found her guilty.
Years later, a young girl takes the stage amidst hundreds of women in Iraq. This young girl, the sister of Rajaa, shy but devoted to keeping her sisters message alive, tells the cheering crowd the story of Rajaa and how she died fighting to see this day, a day she would have never believed to have come in her lifetime. The president takes the stage and announces the new strict laws regarding the oppression of women in Iraq, naming it ‘the law of free spirits’. There the WFFI foundation is re-opened in the heart of Baghdad and women all around the world celebrate the freedoms that a young girl spent her whole life fighting for.
“The United States is a bunch of bullies; they rub their Christian beliefs like sand paper to our faces. You are so lucky we are Muslim and have values. Their women walk around like whores and their men allow it. A bunch of homosexuals as well, you don’t see that here, Allah wouldn’t allow homosexuals in the Muslim faith. That’s how we know we have the true God. Praise Allah!”
He crammed an overabundant amount of rice in his mouth, his cheeks swelling like chipmunks. I couldn’t understand why he had become so angry. I thought it was the face of him loosing his job, but mom believes it is the radical Clerics he is always going to visit.
“You chew too loudly Rajaa…how many times? No man would marry such a slob. Just close your mouth, and eat like a lady. Most women cover their mouths when they eat. My cousins wife, his family, I am much too lenient with you, and look where it has gotten me.” My father said, his mouth spitting out rice as he spoke.
I just kept my eyes on the food in front of me and began chewing more lightly. Inside, I was raging. I couldn’t voice my opinion any longer. I had no opinion or feelings. I was sitting on a crack in the floor, it was pinching my legs, but I didn’t even move for fear he would find some reason to tell me how I am not a lady or not appreciative.
Our house had fallen apart since the war began. The constant rumbling of bombs and tanks rolling by caused the foundation to crack. Most of the walls in the house had flaking paint and cracks that would run from one side – clear to the other. We had sold most of our nicer things. Now we sat in the living room on a red faded rug. We had a radio up on a stand where the TV once was. The house had two bedrooms. One of those bedrooms I shared with my sister, but we had no door. So there was never any privacy.
“I want to tell you all…and without any attitude from any of you…” he swayed his hands back and forth. I guess he felt powerful constantly shoving his fingers in our face. ”…that we are moving in my cousin and his wife and kids into this house. Before you start…” He said looking into my mothers face, pausing so she would take notice. “…you better know that my decision is final. Final. We will be in much better shape with them living here. They will be moving in tomorrow. They aren’t thrilled about it either, but this is what Allah has decided for us. Family is meant to be together anyhow, you don’t forget that.”
I was so tense inside. I hated how he spoke down to us all the time. “Where am I supposed to sleep now?” I couldn’t hold it in. I knew the answer; I just had to open my mouth.
“Go clean some houses, find a husband, and you can pester him where you sleep. You think you are so special here. You think that I like sharing my house? You are ignorant; your mother has taught you nothing. All that education your mother got has been wasted. No wonder women can’t teach, I see clearly now, because they are spoiled and arrogant.”
Mother got up and ran into the bedroom shutting the door. I could hear her wailing immediately. I felt thick mucus in the back of my throat as tears welled in my eyes.
“Why are you so nasty to her, why don’t you love us anymore? I can’t stand your religious bantering all the time.”
A side of my father’s face I had never seen appeared. It was not my father any longer. His face turned red. A hundred shades thick with red anger. His fists clenched. I could feel my body trembling. Akila started crying as loudly as she could. I welcomed the distraction and reached over to coddle her. Suddenly, I felt a sharp sting from my head. My body was being dragged across the rug. I felt the burning in my knees. I grabbed for my hair to pull down so I could ease the tension, I could feel strands snapping out. I saw myself sliding across the floor in front of my father. I was now in my room. “You are a thankless, worthless, spoiled little devil. No wonder hell is filled with women-daughters like you!” He smacked me back and forth, mostly hitting my hands.
He took one of my pictures off the wall and smashed it onto the floor and left. I could still hear my sister wailing in the living room. My body was trembling uncontrollably, I wanted to cry so hard, but it kept getting stuck inside my throat, there was so much emotion that it had jammed inside me. ‘I just want you to die’.
“What are you teaching her…did you hear what your daughter just said to me? Did you? You think this praises Allah? Do you think her hating her father makes her love you? I will not be embarrassed like this when my family moves in. I told you to stop teaching, but you do not listen. You will cease teaching her anything…do you understand me this time? You dishonor Allah and this family.”
I could hear him yelling at her all night long, with a few breaks in between. I finally mustered the strength to go get Akila from the living room. She was still sitting with her legs folded, in the same position she was left in. She started crying the second I touched her. We went back to the room and cried in each others arms the rest of the night. She would tremble every time the yelling would start up again. I thought I heard smacking sounds, like the sound meat makes when hitting a cutting table, but I denied my ears accuracy, as I didn’t even want to consider it. If I saw him hit her, I would kill him. I thought about killing him the remainder of the night until I fell asleep.
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