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am just two and two
I am warm, I am cold,
I am lawful, unlawful
A duty, a fault
I am often sold dear,
Good for nothing when bought;
An extraordinary boon,
and a matter of course,
and yielding with pleasure
When taken by force.
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A doctor will stand trial for the first time in Egypt
on charges of female genital mutilation after the
death of a 13-year-old girl last year. The girl’s
father, who took her to the clinic, is also being tried
in the landmark prosecution.
It was June 2013, and Suhair al Bataa was burdened by
punishing heat, and a feeling of foreboding.
Friends say the youngster was frightened. They recall that
when she went to repair her shoes, she said it would be for
the last time. She told one of her sisters to look after the
The top student was facing a brutal summertime ritual –
female genital mutilation (FGM). She did not survive it.
Suhair lived and died in a small farming community on the
outskirts of the Nile Delta city of Mansoura.
Beneath the lush green landscape lies a bedrock of faith and
tradition. Both play a role in perpetuating FGM.
It has been outlawed since 2008 but is still widely
practised in Egypt, which has one of the highest prevalence
rates in the world.
Over 90% of women under 50 have experienced it,
according to government figures.
The removal of all or part of the external genitalia is done
in the name of promoting chastity. Some parents see it as
a religious duty in spite of a ruling against it by one of
Egypt’s leading Islamic authorities, the Grand Mufti.
Typically it is carried out on girls aged between nine and
13 but there are victims as young as six, according to
campaigners against FGM.
They say there are even unconfirmed reports of newborns
being subjected to it.
Outside Suhair’s modest home, her relatives defended the
practice, and insisted no-one was to blame for her death.
“It is God’s will,” said her grandfather Mohamed al Bataa, a
gaunt-faced man wearing a brown gallabeya (traditional
floor-length shirt). “We are not angry with the doctor. The
doctor does not want to kill anyone. We are all sorry, and
definitely we regret this.”
But when asked if it was right to subject Suhair to FGM,
her uncle Hassan’s response was swift. “Yes of course,” he
said. “It has been done in the countryside for a long time.
People here are used to it. Without circumcision, girls are
full of lust.”
Hidden death toll
Suhair’s grandmother, after whom she was named, told us
she herself was circumcised when she was about eight
“We were four sisters, and we were circumcised in one
day,” she said. “Each of us was put in one corner of the
room. Afterwards they gave us food and drinks.”
Suhair’s uncle said FGM was necessary to keep girls’ sexual
desires in check
Gypsies used to carry out the circumcisions, she told us,
placing dust and salt on the wounds.
These days doctors carry out more than 70% of FGM
procedures in Egypt. That is part of the problem, according
to Philippe Duamelle, of the UN Children’s agency, Unicef.
“It’s perceived as being safer, but no-one learns how to do
this at medical school. We should definitely assume more
girls are dying as Suhair did,” he said.
The number of girls killed by FGM in Egypt is unclear,
according to Mr Duamelle, because deaths are recorded as
haemorrhages or allergic reactions to penicillin.
That was the reason put forward by Suhair’s doctor, Raslan
Fadl Halawa, when we tracked him down at the private
clinic in his home.
Suhair’s neighbours say the clinic was well-known for FGM,
with up to a dozen procedures carried out there every day.
Dr Halawa denied performing FGM on Suhair and said he
had only treated her for genital warts.
The doctor, who was visibly agitated, said the penicillin was
given to her by someone else. Prosecutors think otherwise.
They are putting Dr Halawa on trial, together with Suhair’s
father, who brought her to his clinic.
Campaigners warn that support for FGM is hard to quash –
even in Suhair’s village.
“The case has started a debate among the liberal-minded,”
said Mohamed Ismail, who works for a local women’s rights
organisation. “But for the dogmatic even the death of the
girl hasn’t changed their minds.”
As we filmed in Suhair’s village, we found evidence of that.
“What’s all the fuss about?” one old woman asked. “Why
did you come here? A thousand or so girls were
circumcised after she died.”
Hanan, a fruit-seller, sat nearby with her infant daughter
Farah on her lap. She told us she plans to have the curly-
haired infant circumcised, by a doctor, when she reaches
A Game of Thrones
Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire
By George R.R. Martin
“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around the
m. “The wildlings are dead.”
“Do the dead frighten you?” Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smi le.
Gared did not rise to the bait. He was an old man, past fifty, and he had seen the lordlings come and go. “Dead is dead,” he said. “We have no business with the dead.”
“Are they dead?” Royce asked softly. “What proof have we?”
“Will saw them,” Gared said. “If he says they are dead, that’s proof enough fo r me.”
Will had known they would drag him into the quarrel sooner or later. He wished it had been later rather than sooner. “My mother told me that dead men sing n
o songs,” he put in.
“My wet nurse said the same thing, Will,” Royce replied. “Never believe anythi ng you hear at a woman’s tit. There are things to be learned even from the dea d.” His voice echoed, too loud in the twilit forest.
“We have a long ride before us,” Gared pointed out. “Eight days, maybe nine. A nd night is falling.”
Ser Waymar Royce glanced at the sky with disinterest. “It does that every day about this time. Are you unmanned by the dark, Gared?”
Will could see the tightness around Gared’s mouth, the barely suppressed angerin his eyes under the thick black hood of his cloak. Gared had spent forty ye ars in the Night’s Watch, man and boy, and he was not accustomed to being made light of. Yet it was more than that. Under the wounded pride, Will could sens e something else in the older man. You could taste it; a nervous tension that came perilous close to fear.
Will shared his unease. He had been four years on the Wall. The first time he had been sent beyond, all the old stories had come rushing back, and his bowel s had turned to water. He had laughed about it afterward. He was a veteran of a hundred rangings by now, and the endless dark wilderness that the southron c alled the haunted forest had no more terrors for him.
Until tonight. Something was different tonight. There was an edge to this dark ness that made his hackles rise. Nine days they had been riding, north and nor thwest and then north again, farther and farther from the Wall, hard on the tr ack of a band of wildling raiders. Each day had been worse than the day that h ad come before it. Today was the worst of all. A cold wind was blowing out of the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things. All day, Will had
felt as though something were watching him, something cold and implacable that loved him not. Gared had felt it too. Will wanted nothing so much as to ride hellbent for the safety of the Wall, but that was not a feeling to share with your commander.
Especially not a commander like this one.
Ser Waymar Royce was the youngest son of an ancient house with too many heirs. He was a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife. Mounted on his huge black destrier, the knight towered above Will and G ared on their smaller garrons. He wore black leather boots, black woolen pants , black moleskin gloves, and a fine supple coat of gleaming black ringmail ove r layers of black wool and boiled leather. Ser Waymar had been a Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch for less than half a year, but no one could say he had n ot prepared for his vocation. At least insofar as his wardrobe was concerned.
His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin. “Bet he killed them all himself, he did,” Gared told the barracks over wine, “twis ted their little heads off, our mighty warrior.” They had all shared the laugh .
It is hard to take orders from a man you laughed at in your cups, Will reflect ed as he sat shivering atop his garron. Gared must have felt the same.
“Mormont said as we should track them, and we did,” Gared said.”They’re dead. They shan’t trouble us no more. There’s hard riding before us. I don’t like this weather. If it snows, we could be a fortnight getting back, and snow’s the best we can hope for. Ever seen an ice storm, my lord?”
The lordling seemed not to hear him. He studied the deepening twilight in that half-bored, half-distracted way he had. Will had ridden with the knight long enough to understand that it was best not to interrupt him when he looked like that. “Tell me again what you saw, Will. All the details. Leave nothing out.”
Will had been a hunter before he joined the Night’s Watch. Well, a poacher in truth. Mallister freeriders had caught him red-handed in the Mallisters’ own w oods, skinning one of the Mallisters’ own bucks, and it had been a choice of p utting on the black or losing a hand. No one could move through the woods as s ilent as Will, and it had not taken the black brothers long to discover his ta lent.
“The camp is two miles farther on, over that ridge, hard beside a stream,” Wil l said. “I got close as I dared. There’s eight of them, men and women both. No children I could see. They put up a lean-to against the rock. The snow’s pret ty well covered it now, but I could still make it out. No fire burning, but th e firepit was still plain as day. No one moving. I watched a long time. No liv ing man ever lay so still.”
“Did you see any blood?”
“Well, no,” Will admitted.
“Did you see any weapons?”
“Some swords, a few bows. One man had an axe. Heavy-looking, double-bladed, a cruel piece of iron. It was on the ground beside him, right by his hand.”
“Did you make note of the position of the bodies?”
Will shrugged. “A couple are sitting up against the rock. Most of them on the ground. Fallen, like.”
“Or sleeping,” Royce suggested.
“Fallen,” Will insisted. “There’s one woman up an ironwood, half-hid in the br anches. A far-eyes.” He smiled thinly. “I took care she never saw me. When I g ot closer, I saw that she wasn’t moving neither.” Despite himself
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