The Daily Life of Kawther Salam

  ..: Memories: The Mother of the Girls :..
December 13, 2006

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I have five sisters and three brothers; I was number four among my sisters: Laila, Sohaila, Mukarram, Kawther, Khawlah, and Ala. My brothers are Taha, Jibreen, and Ismael, who were all born after me.

When I was born, my mother had had enough of giving birth to girls. She wished that I died before I was born. This was also the wish of the military commander colonel Amnon Cohen. He expressed his feeling in front of me, he said “we wish that we don’t have the journalist Kawther Salam in Hebron !”

The difference between the wish of my mother and the wish of Amnon Cohen is that Amnon Cohen was the commander of occupational office in Hebron. He wanted to get rid of me, he was sick of my journalistic work exposing the scandals under his authority. But my mother wished that I hadn’t been born was because she suffered lots at the hands of the family of my father.

In oriental families and patriarchy societies it is always preferred to give birth to boys, giving birth to a girl is seen as a mark of guilt on the mother. Arab societies believe strongly that giving birth to boys is something victorious, it is something very important for increasing the family and the clan. But giving a birth to a girl is seen as a mark of guilt on the mother. Girls are not counted in the clan as an active person who can defend the family, and they will be married by another person, from another family or clan, and so increase this other family.

Another consequence of this clan mentality is that often marriages are arranged between cousins and other near family, within the extended family or clan. The benefit of this is that the family fortune remains within the family or clan, and, if the woman stays within the family, she will bear more males to augment the clan. The drawback is a sharp increase in children born with hereditary diseases. For example, Hebron in the south and Nablus in the north, where clan mentality is very strong, are full of people who suffer of hip dysplasia, a condition which is caused by hereditary factors. 

Because my mother gave birth to six sisters, people started calling her “Um El Banat” - the mother of the girls. This is considered an insult in the society. My grandfather pushed my father to find another wife who could give birth to boys, instead of keeping on my mother who brought him just girls.

My mother told us that my father had been looking for another marriage, but that she visited the family of the girl. She explained them her poor situation and  threatened that their daughter would live a miserable life if she married my father. She stopped this marriage in order to protect her family, the girls who made her guilty because of having given them birth.

After my mother obstructed the project of the new marriage of my father, she gave birth to me, and she was unhappy about my birth.

On the first day after my birth, my father carried and kissed me, he cried of happiness about my birth according to what my mother told me. She said that my father hadn’t expressed his happiness after she gave birth to my other sisters. He had always expressed his anger about her giving birth to a new girl, she was astonished about his reaction, and cried.

My mother said that on the first day after my birth, my father had good luck. He got a new job. This made him very happy and gave him hope. He told my mother that he would not think of another marriage even if she gave birth to 100 more girls, and asked her for forgiveness.

My mother said that my father loved her and that his love increased daily, and also when she gave birth of her first son Taha. He was happy, but not in the same way as he expressed his happiness when I was born. My father said that my mother had ignored the family since she gave the birth to my first brother Taha; she just lived him and forgot us.

I remember how my mother ignored us. How she gave everything to my brother. How she hid everything for him: the sweets, the fruits, the food.  How she bought him the best clothes, how she start saving things for his marriage while he was still a baby in diapers ! And how she taught us to sing for him …

My mother never denied my brother anything. He always got anything he wanted. When he came into his teens, my mother bought him cigarettes. When my father discovered the story of buying cigarettes for my brother, it was too late to stop him smoking. My mother thought that smoking cigarettes would help her to see my young brother as a man !

I loved my brother. I was his boss, but only behind my mother. We were friends. I remember how he gave me the sweets, the money and everything he got for my mother.

When my mother gave birth to other two brothers she became very proud of herself. She had the idea of registering all of my fathers property under the names of my brothers, and she wrote that the only persons who could inherit her and my father are my brothers. She registered the house, the garden, the gold, to my brothers. She tried to protect the inheritance of brothers, as she had six daughters and we can inherit half of my fathers property and leave nothing for my brothers.

My mother is not the only one who denies her girls their inheritance. Most families, or nearly all of them, were and still are denying the girls their right of the inheritance. The biggest and the smallest families do it. A minority of women ask their families for their inheritance, but their requests are considered as selling out the men in their families. In many cases, when a girl gets part of her inheritance the family will cut their relationship with her.

Under all of these circumstances in my family, I loved my brothers, I loved them more than my sisters. I raised them after my father died. I took care of then until they married. My brother also encouraged me to work as a journalist. they suffered lots because of my work, which brought them many problems. But still I am the ideal of my brothers. I love them, and I hope that we can meet again.

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