Roberto Sorgo                                                                                                       Pagina iniziale > A Good Husband

A GOOD HUSBAND

 

 

The woman kept massaging her leg. “My knee hasn’t recovered yet. Maybe never will.”

The army officer wasn’t sympathetic. He only wanted the facts. “So they didn’t shoot directly at you, that night.”

“No, they would have killed me, as easily as they killed my husband. It was a stray bullet. They were shooting like crazy.”

“There was a fire-fight going on, then.”

“No, there was no fire-fight. They were shooting, that’s all. To scare us away, maybe. And they were blowing up doors with explosives.”

The officer looked puzzled. “But what about the guards? You had guards in your compound, didn’t you?”

“Yes, outside the house, actually, but they did nothing. They disappeared. They probably fled as soon as they heard the helicopters coming.”

The man took notes. This was something he would have to check on later, but he doubted that his superiors would let him interrogate the guards – they had already frowned upon his insistence on a talk with the woman. He went on, hoping to gather more details. “Did you try to protect your husband? To act as a shield between your husband and the assailants?”

“No, he was in another room. They blew up the door and shot him. Tore him to pieces with their bullets.” The woman wiped away a tear. “I was screaming, nothing else. Just screaming. There was nothing I could do to protect him.”

“But he took action to defend himself, as he shot back, or at least tried to.”

“No, he had no weapons. And anyway he was too weak. He was a sick man.”

“So who was defending you inside the house?”

“Nobody. I told you, the guards had disappeared. And there was nobody else in the house to defend us.”

The officer scratched his head. The story was becoming more and more confused. “But I have seen pictures of dead men in your house. The courier among them – the one who led them to the compound.”

“No, there were no dead men. And no courier. The pictures are fake, probably taken elsewhere. It is all made up. There was no fire-fight. They came, they killed my husband, put him into a body bag, then took some papers he had in his room, and went away. They carried only the body and the papers away with them. That’s all.”

“Didn’t they take computers or other things?”

“No, nothing. Only some papers.”

The officer shook his head. Something was definitely not right. “Wait a minute. You said there was no courier. But they said they had followed a courier to your house. That’s how they discovered your hiding place.”

“There was no courier. It is all made up.”

The officer looked at her in amazement. Too many things disagreed with the official version, but he knew the woman had no reason to lie to him. He decided to tackle another problem first. “Why do you think the guards had fled?”

“They betrayed us.”

“The guards?”

“All of them. The guards, the generals – they all knew about the raid. Your country betrayed us.”

The officer’s expression hardened. “Watch what you’re saying. We were betrayed. They organised the action without telling us. They invaded our airspace, it was almost an act of war.” The man sighed. “And they say we are friends...”

The woman insisted. “Friends or not, they betrayed us. I mean the generals, I mean those who knew where we were hiding.”

“Our country has protected you for years. You shouldn’t forget that.”

“Yes, that’s true. But we have been virtually prisoners here. We couldn’t do anything. We had no contact with the outside world.”

The officer disagreed. “You did: through the Internet, at least.”

“No. There was no Internet connection in the compound. For security reasons. And no phones, also for security reasons. We could be intercepted and found out, they told us.”

It was about time to clear up the second problem. “So you used couriers.”

“No. We had no couriers. We were isolated. Just living there, with no future. Waiting for the children to grow up. Then they could leave the country, make a living on their own, under false identities. But not we. We had no future.”

The man shook his head as he looked at his notes. “I understand that your husband had other wives.”

“Yes. Islam permits it, but you know that very well.”

“Were you jealous?”

“That is none of your business. My husband was rich, he could afford more than one wife. He always treated us with kindness. He was a good husband. And a good father.”

The officer realised he was getting on the woman’s nerves, so he adopted a more conciliatory tone. After all, this was meant to be just a friendly talk, not an interrogation. “Anyway, Madam, there were other wives in the compound, is that right?”

“Yes, there were, with their children.”

“Were they hurt during the attack?”

“No, I was the only one to get injured. They hadn’t come to hurt us. They only wanted my husband. To take revenge, nothing more. What was the point in killing him now? He wouldn’t have lived long anyway, he was so ill...”

“They couldn’t have known that he was ill.”

The woman shrugged. “They knew so many things, why not that?”

“He may have been ill, but he was still organising actions...”

“No, he wasn’t organising anything. Nobody knew for sure whether he was dead or alive. Not even his friends, his close associates. He had no contacts. Nothing.”

The officer stared at her in disbelief. “Well, at least you were safe. The whole world was hunting for your husband.”

The woman thought it was her turn to do some questioning. “Yes, your country protected us. The generals protected us. But in the end they betrayed us. Or how can you explain that helicopters flew in from the Indian Ocean and travelled all the way to our compound, without anybody noticing? Why was there no alarm? Helicopters were coming, not bicycles, they are easy to spot. But nobody did. How can you explain that?”

The officer looked nervous. “It’s not up to me to explain anything. I am just trying to understand what happened that night.”

“I can tell you that they knew perfectly well what to do. The raid had been rehearsed. They knew the house. They knew where my husband was, on the third floor. They knew there were doors that had been reinforced with iron. They carried explosives to blow them up. How could they know all these things? But they did. And they came to kill him.”

“Didn’t they try to capture him alive?”

“No. As soon as they saw him, they shot. They came to kill him. Revenge, as I said. They didn’t want to take him prisoner. This was probably part of the agreement.”

The man looked at her suspiciously. “What agreement?”

“With the generals. With your country. They had found out where we were hiding, and wanted to kill my husband. But your country could not allow them to take him prisoner. He would talk. He would say how your country had protected us, had kept us safe during all these years. And how the Saudis had been paying for our expenses – the guards, and all.” The woman sneered. “Excellent guards, indeed...”

The officer did not react to her irony. “Exactly how long had you been living in that compound?”

“Since 2006.”

The officer continued to take notes, then moved on to another detail. “Now, what about the vaccination campaign?”

“There was no vaccination campaign.”

The man’s expression took on the appearance of a question mark. “Please try to remember. This is an important issue. They said they wanted to be sure that it was really your husband who lived in that compound, and they needed a sample, a blood sample or something, for DNA testing. So they organised a vaccination campaign in the neighbourhood, to be able to come and take the sample. Is that right?”

“No. There was no vaccination campaign.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Of course I am sure.”

“Didn’t healthcare operators come to your door to inform you about a vaccination campaign?”

“Nobody came. Ever.”

“How could they get a sample, then?”

“That was easy. The doctor came in quite often. I told you, my husband was sick, he needed medical help, so there was this doctor, an army doctor – a major in the army, yes, his rank was major. His name was Doctor Aziz. He often came to see my husband. Taking blood samples was routine, so there was no problem getting one for testing. Even the doctor betrayed us. The guards, the generals, your country. They all betrayed us.”

“Stop saying that. We were betrayed. Don’t forget.”

“Maybe you were betrayed, but we were betrayed too. Anyway, the vaccination campaign was made up. Another doctor was blamed for that. He was arrested, charged with treason. But the whole thing is a fake. They probably wanted to save Doctor Aziz, keep him out of the affair, so they made up the vaccination story.”

The officer thought the conversation should stop there. He would probably have to destroy his notes and stick to the official version. “So, what would you like to do now, Madam?”

The woman had no doubts. “Go away, abroad, with my children. I want to leave Pakistan as soon as possible. I can’t stay on. I hate this country.”

“Watch what you’re saying. This country has done a lot for you.”

“Yes, a lot. In the end, too much.”

“We’ll see what we can do. Your country could take you back, now that your husband is dead. But we will have to arrange things through diplomatic channels. We will let you know.”

The officer stood up, signalling that the talk was over. The woman also stood up, with some difficulty because of her wounded knee. She shook her head. “Osama was a good husband. A bit obsessed with jihad, perhaps. But a good husband. And a good father. He had done some bad things, I know. People may have died because of him. But what was the point in killing him now? He was ill. And harmless. But they wanted revenge.”

 

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