BEIRUT: Overwhelmed by shame and despair, Rabih Ahmad, a Sunni man from Akkar whose penis was severed during a brutal attack by his wife’s Druze family last month, said he would be scarred for a lifetime.
“Wherever I go, I feel like I want to hide myself [so as] not to be seen or recognized, although I did nothing wrong. I am in so much pain and nothing can compensate my loss, all my life got destroyed,” Ahmad told The Daily Star. “I wish I was dead.”
In mid-July, the 39-year-old was attacked by the family of his wife Rudayna Melaab, 19, in the Chouf village of Baysour. The woman’s relatives, led by her brother, dragged Ahmad to the main square of Baysour where they beat him and cut off his penis.
Ahmad recalls the day of the attack clearly and said the assault was obviously preplanned by the family members, who tricked him into coming to visit them.
“They prepared for it, I am 100 percent sure ... all the village residents knew, and they did nothing,” he said.
“I still recall what happened to me in detail: I almost fainted twice, but they threw water on me to keep me alert as though that was some sort of an additional punishment.”
Ahmad, who hails from the Akkar village of Ahrar and works as a waiter at a restaurant in Beirut, struggled to tell his story. Speaking with obvious bitterness and grief, he kept repeating that he sometimes felt the whole incident was “a nightmare I might wake up from one day.”
Recollecting the events leading up to the attack, Ahmad said a week after he eloped with his wife, the police summoned him to tell him Melaab’s relatives had reported that he had taken his bride by force and that their marriage contract was fake.
“I showed the police officer the contract and proved to him that my marriage was legal. He even asked Rudayna if she wanted to leave with me or with her family, and she told him she wanted to stay with me, her husband,” Ahmad explained.
According to Ahmad, Rudayna’s relatives completely changed their attitude toward the newlyweds the following day and started being “unusually nice.” He said two of her brothers even paid them visits.
The relatives then invited Ahmad and his wife over to a lunch banquet in honor of their marriage.
“When we got into their place, Rudayna’s mother and sister took her to some other room. Her father was outside on the veranda and I came out to greet him. He asked me to go into the living room. I did, and that is when they started attacking me and beating me.”
Ahmad had met his wife by chance some six months earlier close to the local university at which she studied. “Then she added me on Facebook and we started talking more. She is a very good and sweet person, and that is what attracted me to her.”
He said they only met five times before deciding to run away together and get married, but that they had spent hours talking on the phone every day.
“She knew I was a Sunni from the beginning, I never lied to her,” he emphasized, dismissing claims by the Melaab family that Ahmad told their daughter he was a Druze from the Abu Diab family in Jahilieh, another town in the Chouf.
“I am sure that whatever Rudayna said was spoken under pressure ... She has nothing to do with what her siblings did,” Ahmad assured.
“If she knew her brothers were such brutal monsters, she would have not asked me to go visit them.”
Ahmad also pointed out he had received no assistance from the state to deal with or treat his injuries, and that his employer was supporting him to undergo penile reconstruction surgery.
“I am lucky to be working for a good and generous employer who supported me through the hard times both financially and morally. If it wasn’t for my employer I wouldn’t have had enough money to get my treatment.”
Ahmad explained that the surgery would involve the removal of some skin from his arm for use in the reconstruction of his penis, but added that the operation’s success is not guaranteed.
“I feel useless ... maybe the operation could ease a little of my pain, but if it fails, I will have to deal with an additional scar on my body ... there will be a new reminder of the tragic incident,” he said. “This is why I don’t feel enthusiastic about the operation.”
For Ahmad, the attack was “not the tragedy itself but only the beginning of it,” and that he now does not know what the future holds for him.
He also struggles to make sense of events: “I do not know what crime have I committed? Why me? It is not like they shot someone dead ... it is worse because things do not seem to end.”
Since the incident, Ahmad said he has found reintegrating into society difficult. He reports that many landlords have turned down his rental requests upon learning he was the victim of this highly publicized and brutal attack. “They probably were afraid of the situation,” he said.
However, the man also said that he holds no hard feelings toward his wife. “If she wants to come back, it is up to her and I will have her back,” he said.
But he added that he would not give up on the lawsuit he has filed against his attackers and that he does not feel intimidated by his wife’s relatives.
“The worst has already happened; there is nothing to fear anymore.”