He was executed at dawn. He stood facing the wall with bound hands behind his back, waiting for the first rays of the rising sun. A new day was languishing on the threshold, not daring to disturb the solitude of his last night. The sun tried to delay its rise as long as possible. The sentence pronounced by Cadi the day before clearly stated, “Execution to be enforced with the first ray of the sun, of the tenth day of the current month.” The executioners would wait. No one would dare to defy the order. No one would disobey the law of Sharia.

I’m sure he was silent. I wanted to know what he’d been thinking at that moment. I wanted to stand beside him, to hold his hand. I wanted to die with him or instead of him. I – a sixteen-year-old naive boy crushed in love – I was far away already. The same night, right after everything had happened, my parents smuggled me into neighboring Iraq, and from there, I secretly went to the port of Mersin, hidden in a malfunctioning reefer container. They gave away everything they had for me to escape, for me to survive. The question was: whether I wanted to.

I knew my parents would return home the same night and I`d never see them again. I had a clear understanding they wouldn`t survive the next day. . .

I know on his last morning, his face was just as beautiful as when I saw him the first time. His head was proudly raised. His nose, smooth and flawless, breathed calmly and confidently. His stubborn gaze wasn`t looking for mercy. His glasses in translucent frames no longer restrained his eyes. They`d been broken the when my youthful thoughtless attempt to love sentenced him to death.

It all started when our old teacher was suddenly stricken with paralysis. The substitute teacher was sent to our school – the only school in our small village – right away. He had graduated from the University of Riyadh just a few years ago.

Alim – that was his name – taught us Islam. One day during class he said that Allah calls us to carry his word around the world. He said that each and every open-minded person can become a Momin. Alim said that there are people who help the faithful ones with study abroad. The best and most humble will be able to learn and to carry the word of Allah over the whole world. Alim promised to teach a foreign language anyone who wishes to devote himself to the service of the true God.

I was one of those who began to come for extra classes every night. But unlike the others, I didn`t want either to speak another language or talk about God. I also didn’t want to go to the distant worlds. I was fine with my own world – the world where Alim was beside me. I just wanted to see him, to hear his voice, to watch his face, and especially, his hands. He had remarkably-beautiful hands with long thin fingers and soft palms. In the dim light of the table lamps, his swarthy skin seemed darker, standing out against his snow-white shirt. His eyes burned with madness when he explained to us the strange rules of another world. In those moments, I thought he was especially attractive. I loved to listen to him pronouncing words of a foreign language which I couldn’t understand. They sounded to me like music. The shiver ran through my body and the warmth crawled lower and lower, filling me with overwhelming desire and inexplicable compulsion.

I tried my best to be the most diligent student. Alim caught my ambitious gaze; he took notice of my eagerness and began to give me more attention. He started to turn to me more often. The first time I touched him, was when I wanted to help him to pick up a book which fell on the floor. I rushed down, wanting to please him, to grab the book and return, but his hand was already lying on the hardcover. My hand had accidentally laid on top of his for a moment allowing me to feel his warmth. He stood leaning forward. The top buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned and I could see part of his muscular torso. His chest, covered with dark hair, was sweaty. For a moment, I was lost in space. I felt dizzy, my ears were ringing. I swayed and fell down on my back, stretching out on the dirty floor of the classroom.   Alim leaned over me. He put his hands on my shoulders and slightly shook me. I opened my eyes and couldn’t help to smile. A God himself stood in front of me in a snow-white shirt with unbuttoned upper buttons, baring his sweaty seductive torso. I couldn`t breathe. Alim helped me to get up, and we went out to the street together. He sat me down on the stairs and brought me a glass of cold water. After the others went home, Alim sat down next to me and we talked for almost an hour. Of course, he was the one who spoke mostly. I looked at him with excited eyes, trying to catch his every word and every gesture. I found out the air around him smelled differently. My head couldn`t stop spinning when he was around. I could sit and listen to his voice endlessly. I didn’t care what he was talking about; I agreed with every word he said. I was ready to follow him anywhere he’d ask me –  to another world, to another life, or even to another death.

We walked home together. It turned out he lived only two blocks away from me, closer to school. That way I’ve got his address.

The next day, Alim forgot one of his favorite books at school. He called the director and asked for someone to bring it to his house. I was the first to volunteer.

His house was no different from the others. But not for me. That evening when I brought him the book he stepped quite close to me, looked into my eyes and quietly said that Allah sees my merits and I’ll be rewarded, if not in this life, then in heaven. He asked me If the thought of death could scare me. I replied him that I’m under Allah’s will and I trust him, so nothing can scare me. He smiled and said that he would like to get to know me closer. I held my breath and waited with my eyes closed. My blood was hitting my temples with every heartbeat. I came around from his touch. He stood behind me lightly touching my shoulder with his hand. I shuddered and opened my eyes. He held the book in front of my face. The Holy Quran limited edition, as he later explained. I had to read it overnight and come to him the next day at the same time. He said that Allah had chosen me to carry his truth to those who remain deaf. Alim said that together we could force the Kafirs to hear and to see the true God. I heard nothing but the word “together.” My head began to spin again, and I nodded, trying to hide my excitement.

I read the book overnight. Its content was different from the one we used to study. I didn’t pay attention to it. I didn’t care. That book was my gateway into the world of someone whom I unconsciously loved more than life itself. We began to meet regularly. Alim increasingly talked about the future that waited for me. He touched me more often. I didn’t hear his words. But I could smell him and it drove me crazy. I wanted to know his taste, wanted to get burned from the warmth of his body. I wanted to open to him my strange thoughts, wanted to let him into my young soul and body.

Alim talked about the other world and the other people. He called them blind Giaours. He named me “chosen by Allah.” He talked about forbidden love. I missed the word “forbidden” and only heard the word “love.” It rang in my head every sleepless night.

A few weeks later Alim suddenly disappeared. I found out about him being off from the school Director along with the other students. I couldn’t believe he hadn’t shared his plans with me. I felt betrayed. I felt hurt the first time in my life. I experienced a taste of resentment and frustration, but I didn`t suffer long. In a week, Alim called the Director and asked him to pass some papers. He made a note to let me bring those papers to his house because I knew where he lived.

That day I thought I knew the language of the local birds. They all sang about love and hope. I imagined my feelings were mutual. I decided to become to Alim the closest one. I wished our secret to happen, and then we`d carry our sweet secret, hiding it from prying eyes and reveling in it in the rare cool nights. I couldn’t resist and come to Alim earlier than the appointed time.

He wasn`t home, but that didn’t stop me, and I walked in. The air changed its structure, became heavier, pushing on my chest with the anticipation of happiness. I went to his bedroom. There was a single bed in the corner next to the wall. The thought flashed in my head, I wondered if we`d fit on this bed together, and I began to imagine us there. The doped thoughts finally possessed my mind and body. I felt unbearably hot. I took off my shirt, then pants. The idea of crazy surprise ingrained into my mind, and I undressed completely. I threw my clothes to under the bed and hid in the closet to wait for Alim.

Time lasted intolerably long. Finally, I heard steps and the beloved voice. I was ready to come out of my hiding as I heard another voice — the unknown and rough. The stranger called my name and said he wasn’t sure whether they could trust me. Alim said that he was confident in me as in himself and could entrust me not just his own life. I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. Again, I only heard what I wanted to hear. He said that I was the one he needed, the one he was looking for. He said I was ready.

“I’m ready,” I whispered under my breath. My head was spinning, I couldn`t stay still, staggered and hit the closet’s wall with my elbow. The voices fell silent. I heard cautious footsteps and a whisper. After a few seconds, the door of my hiding swung open, revealing the true me. I stood completely naked. Alim stood in front of me. Contrary to my naive expectations, I read horror and shock in his gaze. A man dressed in all black stood next to Alim. He had AK in his hands. He yelled something loudly and stroke Alim into his head with the gun-butt. Then he dragged me out of the closet and started screaming, asking me what I’ve been doing there and why I’m naked? I couldn’t utter a single word. I shivered, seeing nothing but a thick darkness. I lost consciousness.

I don’t remember what happened next. It was the late night When I finally came around. My father kept silence. My mother cried. We stayed away from the main roads. I had a bag in my hands. Mother said something about our distant relatives in another world. I realized what’s going on only when the doors of the refrigerated container shut down, and I was left alone in the stuffy darkness.

The next eighteen hours, I’ve been thinking about everything that had happened. In the next eighteen hours, I’ve realized everything. After eighteen hours, when the container doors were opened in the port of Mersin, a completely different person came out to the deck of the huge vessel. He took a deep breath of the sea air and filled his lungs with freedom. His mind cleared, and he understood. His naive love had saved his life –  my naive love had allowed me to survive.

Alim was executed at dawn. With the first ray of sunshine, they stoned him to death.

No one dared defy the order.

No one dared disobey the law of Sharia.


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