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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors



Besnik MUSTAFAJ, 2004

(Photo: Ermal Meta)



The Demolition of
the Eiffel Tower

Tragicomedy of the Absurd for Four Actors

Translated from the Albanian
by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck

Much of this play was written in May 2010 during a stay in residence at the Théâtre Éphéméride in Val de Reuil (France).

Habib [a painter]
Garip [young Osman]
Ajsha / Maria [actress / homeless / dishonoured]

[This play can be performed with four actors – three male and one female (as proposed above). It would be preferable, where possible, to perform it with more people. In any case, it would be advisable for further characters – beyond the four main individuals: Garip, Habib, Ajsha and Jose – to be easily identifiable. For example, when the male actor playing Garip is in the part of Young Osman, he could wear a large moustache and a turban, use a deep voice, and take long, grotesque strides when moving.]



[Near the entrance to the Parismetro. The noise of trains and whistles can be heard. Ajsha is selling black carnations at a little kiosk.]

Get your flowers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Help yourself to flowers!
Fresh black carnations for sale,
Help yourself,
Black carnations,
Get your flowers.

[Jose enters, loaded down with the newspapers he is selling.]

Newspapers, newspapers!
Get your papers!
Find out where the dust cloud from the Icelandic volcano is headed!
More raids on Baghdad,
Another American priest accused of child abuse,
The finance crisis in Greece is getting worse,
More earthquakes on the way.


I didn’t know they grew black carnations.


Funny, I didn’t know there were
black ones.

Fresh carnations…
They smell better than the best perfumes in France.
Treat yourself to some black carnations.

How much do they cost?


How much money for each one?

Five euros each, sir.

Five euros for a carnation?

For a black carnation, sir.
They’re rare.

My name’s Jose.


I’m Jose.

There’s too much noise here.
The metro,
too many people,
talking all the time,
I can’t hear you.

What’s your name?


your name.

Get your black carnations,

The latest from the Middle East,
after many months,
after many years,
after many years and decades,
the Palestinians and the Israelis have agreed to continue negotiations!
Read the full text of the agreement in the newspaper.

My name’s Ajsha.


[The two of them head out with their wheelbarrows, in opposite directions.]

Black carnations!




[A small apartment. Habib and Garip enter with a little handbag.]

Everything is ready. Praise be to Allah, it’s all going just the way we planned.

Insha’allah! How safe is this place?

We took care of all the details, but we’ve still got to be cautious. You’ve got to be careful in France even if you’re French, but if you’re a Muslim, you have to be on your guard ten-times over.

Do I need to know anything aside from the report you brought us?

I don’t think so… but since we submitted the report, there have been three other incidents.



It’s all still a mystery, isn’t it?

It sure is. They come out mostly at night, or at dusk.

But why are these Muslim women going out at dusk? I can’t figure it out.

No one would have thought they’d go that far. Our women were used to being mocked and humiliated, but no one would have predicted that things would get so out of hand. When our women are seen veiled, they know they’re gonna be laughed at –cursed and humiliated. They know people are gonna point at them and call them “blackbirds” or “ghost in black sheets.” Some people are gonna raise their arms in panic, pretending they’re afraid of them. That sort of stuff. But, that things would go that far, that they would begin ripping their veils off, no one would’ve believed it.

In the report, you wrote that it was always the same person. What did you mean?

The women we interviewed all gave us the same description.

And from the descriptions, did you get a better idea of what he looked like?

No, nothing beyond what’s stated in the report. We’re pretty sure about his approximate height and hair colour, but we don’t have any other details.

[Garip draws the window curtains back and looks out.]

It looks like that tower isn’t straight.

Yeah, it slants a bit.


What’s interesting?

I mean the slanting tower. In our country, everyone thinks that things are built to perfection here.

There’s nothing perfect about this country at all.

Of course not. For sure, the infidels don’t have a patent on perfection. After all, nothing is perfect in this universe, except Allah!

No wait, I was wrong. Actually, the Eiffel Tower is straight. It’s the one in Italy, in Pisa, that’s slanted.

 [Garip opens the handbag and takes some clothes out of it. He folds them and puts them into a drawer.]

And that boulevard over there? The wide one?

That’s the Champs Elysées.

So, why is it so famous?

There’s no reason at all. Believe me. When I got here to Paris a few years ago, I went to have a look at it and couldn’t believe my eyes. There was nothing special about it. It’s lined by a few crooked trees and there are cafes here and there, and a big arch at one end. But there are arches like that everywhere in Europe. All that material! What a waste of money. They could have built apartments for all the homeless people that nobody takes care of. But, my brother, life for them means their morning coffee and croissants and then taking long, long lunches. You wouldn’t believe what a torture it is to have lunch with a Frenchman. It goes on forever. They stuff themselves, worse than cattle at the trough, and spend their afternoons ruminating. Then, at night, they go out to those sleazy clubs – those bars and discos. God knows what they’re up to. And there’s nothing uplifting about the plays in their theatres. Nothing but swearing, giggling, violence, chaos, and blind hatred. That’s all.

Do our people go out to these places, too?

It’s too bad, but they do. But not everyone knows about it. Right now, there’s a show on at a theatre about a Muslim woman who takes her veil off and undresses right on stage.

Did you see it?

Allah forbid!

I’d go.


I’d like to see it. I’d like to know how they present these things on stage and in their films. After all, you have to know the enemy to defeat him.

Alright. I’ll try to arrange for tickets.

[Garip lies down on the bed.]

Did you have any problem with the visa?

Everything went smoothly. Last time I went to that embassy, I swore by Allah that I’d blow the place up if they rejected me because of any document.

They do it on purpose. You know. They demand more and more documents so that people will get exhausted and give up applying for visas. One thing is clear –they don’t like us and they don’t want us here.

And all the things they required! An official invitation, two photos on a white background, an application form, insurance, birth certificate, marriage certificate, family certificate, a certificate that I am still alive, a job contract, bank account balances for the last six months, a confirmation from my employer, etc., etc. And then you’ve got to stand around in long line-ups.

These Europeans. They rant on and on about ‘human rights,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘religious freedom’, etc., etc., but they don’t respect these things where Muslims are concerned.. They’d prefer to live with extraterrestrials than with us. And all the time, they proclaim their affection for ‘moderate Muslims.’

And who are these ‘moderates’ supposed to be, anyway?

They’re so-called Muslims who act like sheep. They have no interest in Islam. They couldn’t care less whether France bans the veil in public places, whether Switzerland forbids the building of mosques, and whether girls are allowed to wear the veil in German schools. They aren’t interested in anything to do with Islam. They eat pork, don’t pray, don’t fast, and they go out to bars and degenerate theatres. Those are the so-called ‘moderate’ Muslims that France and Europe claim to love.

Who was it who said: “France should be wiped off the face of the earth!”?

It was the head of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. But he said it about Israel. “Israel should be wiped off the map.”

Is that right? I thought it was about France.

Maybe there was something about France, too.

How did the French Government react to the protests you organized against these provocations?

They issued a press communiqué saying they denounced such “base acts,” but that we Muslims should not be offended by what they called “isolated incidents” because this, in their view, would only raise tension in France which is a “peace-loving country of religious tolerance.”

That’s politics for you. They do things underhandedly and then come out and denounce them publicly. This guy is an agent of the French Government. I’m sure of it.

I think so, too. They’re paving the way in French politics for further steps against veils and more oppression of Muslims. First of all, they discredit us and then they announce: “Dear Muslims of France, as you can see, we cannot protect your women if they are veiled, so it is better to ban the veil in public places because French people will otherwise be upset.”

Nicely put.

[Habib opens up a map of Paris and begins to read it.]



It wasn’t dark yet.
I was just about to go out.
My husband, Habib, would be back shortly and I had no eggs in the house.
He always ate eggs when he got home from work; he loved eggs.
I looked out the window -- the sky was on fire.
There was still some light out, but it would be dark soon.
Nothing would happen to me, I thought to myself,
So I put my veil on and went out.
I was shaking when I got outside, not really knowing why.
I’d been in France for twenty years, but had never been out at that time of day.
I walked down the street,
but I felt insecure.
I prayed to Allah for comfort.
Nothing will happen to me, I whispered to myself,
Allah will protect me.
Allah protects all Muslims.
I kept goingdown the street.
It was almost empty.
Suddenly I thought I saw someone disappear into a doorway.
My heart started to beat faster.
The palms of my hands were sweaty.
I clutched my veil and hurried
towards the convenience store.
The proprietor was surprised to see me.
I bought ten eggs, put them in my bag and headed back home.
There were no cars, no people in the street.
I looked up at the sky.
It was dark now.
Allah, I remembered, created daytime and created nighttime.
Praise be to Almighty Allah for the light he has given us.
You created darkness so that we might learn to appreciate the light.
I was lost in thought and rejoiced in the greatness of God.
Suddenly I sensed there was someone behind me.
My heart almost jumped out of my chest.
I walked faster.
There he was, all of a sudden, right in front of me.
I stopped,
I couldn’t see very well,
My legs started to shake.
The bastard murmured something I didn’t understand.
I took two steps back to avoid him, but he came towards me again.
Allah, I thought, I am in your hands.
I closed my eyes but could feel him coming closer. I could smell him.
Oh Lord,
what a disgusting stench that infidel had.
I couldn’t see a thing.
He spoke again and, quickly, with one hand, ripped off my veil.
I felt the cold night air around my bare head.
The bag of eggs fell on the ground and shattered.
The infidel stared at me for a few seconds, muttered something else, and ran away.
I stood there, helpless, like a sheep about to be slaughtered.
When I came to my senses, I turned to Allah: “Allah, I am in your hands!
You see everything, you hear everything.”
I bent over and gathered my veil that the beast had thrown to the ground, and put it back on.
I started to walk again, ever so slowly,
But I wasn’t the same person anymore.
I had the feeling that I had been raped.
How could I face Habib now?



[Habib is reading the newspaper. Garip enters.]

Nothing new.

No trace of him?

Nothing. I wandered around the three neighbourhoods a dozen times where we thought he might be. I managed to talk to two of our women and was shocked by what they told me.

I just heard that another of our women has been dishonoured. Poor thing. She went out to get her son who was playing in the park and the guy appeared suddenly from out of the trees, and…

Allah, help us to catch him.

Our poor women are afraid to go out anywhere now.

I think we should get back at the infidels in some other way.

What other way?

Let’s get at their women in some way that will dishonour them.

We’re not here to put their women in the limelight, but to catch the crazy perpetrator or French agent, whoever he is.

But even if we catch him, it won’t put a stop to their insolence.

It will, if we catch him. It’ll send an important message to France that if the French police and State tolerate or allow such evil-doers to dishonour our sisters, the Muslims will take their fate into their own hands and act. They will act in a just way, as the precepts of Islam require.

But if we don’t catch him, I swear to Allah that I’ll blow up that tower, the one you said millions of idiots go and visit, as if it were a holy place. Or that Money Lisa, what did you call her?

You mean the Mona Lisa?

Yeah, that’s the one.

Garip, we’re not here to make war on the French State but to catch the psychopath who’s soiling the honour of our women.

[Habib sits down at the table and begins to build an ‘Eiffel Tower’ with the matches he bought.]

I think we should strap him to a chair like they do in the old black-and-white movies. I’d tie him and pull him tight… and you know where! The uncircumcised parts. I’ll lash his skin till it bleeds. And then add salt. Salt or paprika! Put paprika on the grocery list. I’m going to pull out his lower teeth with a pair of pliers. Not the upper ones, the lower ones to make him look like a dog. Put pliers on the list, too. I’ll wrench his teeth out, grind them to powder with his piss and force him to drink it. He’s gonna drink his own piss and teeth without even wincing. Because if he winces, I’ll cut his ‘pipi’ off and hurl it to the birds. I’ll make him wish he were dead, that he’d never been born. I’ll beat him to a pulp till he wishes he’d been one of those guys in the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th. I’ll smash his face in until nobody recognizes him. I’ll get my hands on him, if Allah will be my guide.

What are you doing with all those matches?

I’m building that tower thing of theirs. I wanna see if I can remember what I learned as a child.

Why bother? You can buy little trinkets of it all over town.

Better one made with my own hands.

[Garip continues his little construction. Habib is marking the map that is now hanging on the wall.]



[The actress is veiled. Beside her are a bathtub and a kettle of warm water. Habib and Garip are sitting in the front row. The actress on stage is looking out towards the audience. Middle Eastern music, then silence.]

Do you know what I promised Ahmed? I promised to tell his son that he died because of his love for Allah, he died a martyr to the faith. That’s what he said when he died. Nothing else. I didn’t dare to cry. No, the wife of a martyr does not weep. We do not weep for a martyr who dies for Islam. I didn’t feel like crying anyway. It was only when I went outside that I understood that I was actually relieved and happy he was gone. I was finally free of him. What a brute he was! I was free of all the suffering he had caused me. I had been his beast of burden. But even beasts are allowed to go out now and then. But Ahmed didn’t let me go out. I didn’t even dare to think about it. An honourable Muslim woman doesn’t leave the house except with her husband and when she is covered up.

I hope you won’t come back to haunt us, Ahmed.
Better you don’t.

They wrapped the grenades around his body in this little room. I watched them do it, as if they were wrapping a corpse in its winding-sheet. He was on his way to death, and yet, he continued to behave like a brute. Do this! Get that! No, not those scissors! Get the other ones. Get to your feet, woman. Don’t look at me with those camel eyes of yours. Take good care of Yasser.

The real tragedy was that the grenades that were supposed to kill him didn’t go off. Twice he tried. After the first time, he came back home, whining. The second time, he just sat there like a pile of shit on a busy roadside. And they caught him. God knows where he ended up. They say he’s in a prison somewhere in America. They say he’s been tortured. But I don’t think they will have tortured him enough to kill him. Such great luck has never been mine.

God damn you to all eternity, Ahmed!

He would spend nights on end with his friends. I had so much trouble calming our boy down with all the noise they made, and they never even bothered to ask why Yasser was crying. When I asked him why he stayed up all night, he told me he was reading and studying the Koran with his friends. “Why don’t you read it during the daytime?” I once asked him. He gave me such a slap that I’ll never forget it.

“You’re not allowed to go out this door,” he said.

I hope he never returns. I hope he’s dead.

Die, Ahmed! Die where you are, in that wilderness, in prison or in the mountains, wherever you are. Just die!

But nothing ever happens to bad men. They spend their time in prisons or wherever, and then they return. It will be my end if he comes back. He’ll be more savage than he was to start with. Imprisonment and torture can tame a woman, but never a man. A man just gets more and more savage.

I often thought of suicide. But what about my son? Who could I give Yasser to? Could I give him to someone else to keep him safe, only to have him blow himself up when he reaches the age of fifteen?

Sometimes I think I would just like to run away, leave this house forever. Covered in my veil, no one would recognise me anyway. But where would I go? It’s the same everywhere. I might find another man, but then what? It would be the very same suffering with him, too. He would force me to stay indoors. I would have to serve him like a slave, be his lapdog.

Ahmed, may you never return alive. May hellfire burn you!

What a wretch I am! The first time, he wanted to blow up a hotel where infidels were staying, he said. But he came home when he saw that police were guarding the hotel, probably because somebody important was staying there. When he got back, his friends plucked the grenades off his body, one by one, and the plastic foil seared his skin when they ripped it off him. “You wrapped me too tight,” I heard him shout at them. “Well,” one of them replied, “how were we supposed to know that you would come back?” They laughed for a minute, but then turned dead serious. I never saw my husband more depressed than on the day he wasn’t able to blow himself up. I even heard him weeping in the middle of the night. He sobbed quietly like one of those little pups after birth. It breaks your heart to hear them. God, I said to myself, how can I go on loving and serving a man who is only interested in dying?

And what if my son, Yasser, happened to be at the spot where someone such as my husband was blowing himself up, killing dozens of other people? My poor Yasser!

Ahmed, you do not love Allah. Allah doesn’t want a poor woman to suffer like I do! How many times have you beaten me, Ahmed? You made my life a living hell.

The day they attacked the Twin Towers in America, Ahmed came home with a smile of delight on his face. Justice has been done, he said. Allah, may the martyrs of Islam never vanish! He went over and picked up little Yasser, forcing him to watch the TV as the two mighty towers collapsed. “That is the home of the devil,” he told him. “America is full of devils. Never forget that. When you grow up, you will become a soldier of Allah. Allah loves those who combat devils. We are all the soldiers of Allah. Only when Islam reigns around the world, will there be justice on earth, and the infidels will be confounded. Remember this, my son. You are a soldier of Islam!” He spoke and then suddenly simply dropped the poor child on the floor. “Take him!” he shouted at me. “Take him and clean him up, and all the shit, too!” I took poor Yasser in my arms as he sobbed. He leaned his cheek against mine. It was wet with tears, and he whispered “mommy” and kissed me with his moist lips!

Ahmed, you are the devil yourself.

[The actress slowly removes her veil to reveal her bare body. Her face is covered in talcum power, like that of a clown, or she is wearing a white mask. She gets into the bathtub and begins to wash. Garip, watching the performance, is outraged.]

GARIP [in a whisper]
Subhanallah! How dare they!

[Habib nudges at him with his elbow as if to remind him to keep quiet.]

Yes, I would have done it…
I may be mad, a disgrace, but I would have done it. I don’t want to stay here and wait until he comes home. My skin is getting old and the flower between my thighs is withering. I want to experience the ecstasy of it again. Why do I have to wait? What if he doesn’t return for three or four years. What if there is no sign of him in five or more years? Do I have to to wait and wait, wrapped in this dead skin? I can’t anymore. I will wait a few more days and then I will burn this house down. I will take Yasser with me and leave. Allah will help me. I will find shelter somewhere. At least I’ll no longer be in this house that has been like a grave to me. Is this to be my fate? But what if he is still alive?

Can you hear me, Ahmed?

But I know that if I don’t wait for him here at home, he’ll find me even at the end of the world and kill me. If he is alive, he will return. He will come back and take Yasser away from me. He will tell our son of his daring deeds, of how the infidels tortured him, denied him food and water, of how they dragged him across the cement floor, how they urinated in his face, how they ordered him to have sex with his friends, like animals, how they stripped him bare and made fun of him. Yasser will be forced to listen to it all. Yasser will pledge to avenge his father.

“I am now a man, father,” Yasser will say. “Tie the grenades to my body and I will show them to the infidels who have tortured an honest Muslim, my father. I swear that I will take revenge!”

I am afraid, Allah! I am so afraid. Not for myself, but for Yasser.

[She continues washing.]


Wherever you may be, amongst the living or amongst the dead, listen to what I say. I hate you. I have always hated you. When you took me into town, you walked several steps in front of me, and I paced behind you, like a dog with its master. But Ahmed, may you know this. Even when I was hidden in that veil, I stared at the handsome men walking by, and when I was sleeping with you, it was them I thought of. Yes, Ahmed. This was my little revenge for all the cruelty and suffering you caused me. You are no man, Ahmed. That is why you couldn’t even get those little bombs of yours to explode –the ones that hung from you like bells around the neck of a sheep.

Ahmed, never return to this house.

[Garip jumps to his feet, leaps onto the stage, seizes the veil, and throws it over her.]

It is forbidden, forbidden. May you burn in the fires of hell! What a scandalous performance, woman. You have sold your dignity, your religion, for a handful of dollars.

[The actress looks stunned and does not know how to react. Habib goes up and pulls Garip away.]

Let’s go, let’s get out of here!

[The two men make a swift departure. The actress gets up and bows at the frightened audience. The curtain falls.]



[A street in Paris. A neon sign reading ‘Sex Shop” casts its light upon Garip and Habib who have just left the theatre.]

It was a scandal! Appalling!

That’s France for you. That is who the French are.

She’s a whore!

There are so many of them like that.

With a little money you can lead the world astray.

Money and a bit of fame, and they’ll all applaud in the end. She’ll be happy.

But she isn’t one of ours. She’s not a Muslim. How could she call herself a Muslim? Allah, may she burn in hellfire!

In their eyes we’re all rapists. We all throw bombs and kill. We teach our children to kill and mutilate.

She is not a woman. She’s the devil incarnate. Could our women ever be like that? Could they? Imagine, my wife

Don’t be offended, brother. Don’t fall into their trap.

It is true that I’ve beaten my wife several times. But she still loves me. She cried when I left to come here. She would never act the way that woman did this evening. That ‘actress’ is not a woman. She’s the devil. You’re right. It is a trap. My wife loves me, and she knows I love her. But even more than her, she knows I love Allah.

We shouldn’t have gone.
It was a mistake.

I don’t agree. It was good that we went, because my anger is stronger. I am full of fury. Now I know it all. I saw it with my own eyes, heard how the infidels denigrated us, made fun of us, ridiculed our women, laughed at them.

It wasn’t even artistic. The play was complete a waste of time.

What a scandal!

Scandal, that’s an understatement!

[They recede into the darkness.]



[Monologue of the woman in the veil]

I see,
I can still see,
A bit differently, but I can still see,
I can see farther,
I can see straight ahead,
But only what’s right in front of me,
It’s like looking through binoculars.

It’s better this way.

I’m an honourable woman
Minding my own business.

I feel fine,
I feel free,
Do I really feel free?
Am I free?

I’m painting my lips now.

No one saw me,
No one sees me,
I am still painting my lips.
I just closed one eye,
Now I’ve closed both eyes.


Now it’s light again,
Not completely light though.

I can see,
I can still see,
Like in those old celluloid films with their faded colours
showing pictures taken a long time ago.

I can run,
I will run,
I can see and I’m not afraid that I might fall down,
That I might trip,
That I might trip on the pavement.

I can see like it’s through binoculars,
Neither right nor left,
I can only see straight ahead.

I just stuck my tongue out,
I just made fun of you,
I just closed one of your eyes.

And yet I can see,
I myself,
Can see the world,
My skin.



[Dusk in a park. Garip, wearing a veil, is sitting on a park bench and waiting. A homeless woman, drunk, passes by.]

Hey, you,
Have you got a light?
A match?
I need one for…
you know,
The ones I had with me are all used up,
Damn matches,
not like they were in the old days.

[Garip gives no reply.]

Have you got a light?
I need a match for a cigarette,
It’s my nerves
you know,
Lots of crazy people in Paris,
I was okay in the metro,
but they just threw me out,
Bla, bla, bla,
You know how the French police are,
You probably know, don’t you?
Have you got a light, or not?

[Garip does not answer. The woman moves on.]

I would have sworn she had a light,
But if she doesn’t smoke,
Maybe she doesn’t smoke,
But people carry matches anyway,
Everyone has a match,
They need them
to set off the grenades that they’ve taped to their bodies.
These women are frightening,
They terrify you,
Worse than vampires,
They don’t move,
They don’t answer,
They do nothing,
Just sit around like corpses,
When they go down into the metro station,
Everyone panics.
It will all be over,
Very soon
We’ll all be blown up
Into a thousand pieces,
We’ll all die.
They have to stop them,
Has to stop them.
This is a free country,
All those women at home in their black sheets,
Why don’t they send them all back where they came from?
It isn’t right,
They can see you,
But you can’t them,
You can’t see who they are.
It’s not fair and just,
There’s no equality.
You know,
If they want to ignore me,
They can ignore me,
They say: “Hey, French guy,
Hey, French woman,
We’re better than you,
We are morally superior,
We don’t belong to your filthy world.
We are right here among you,
But we don’t belong to your world.”
France shouldn’t,
No, France shouldn’t put up with them.
France must say “No!”
France has to show a bit of muscle,
Because otherwise,
You know, it could really happen,
One day,
And I’m not joking,
One day, the Mona Lisa,
Yes, the Mona Lisa,
They’ll throw a bucket of black paint over her,
cover her face up,
Her eyes, her face,
Mona Lisa will be in a veil,
Oh, Mary, Mother of God!

[The homeless woman makes the sign of the cross, tries her own matches again, and lights one. She lights her cigarette and is happy. Jose enters. He is curious when he sees who she is and approaches slowly.]


[Garip says nothing. Jose approaches.]

Is it really you?
Can you see how my hands are shaking?
I can’t live without you.
you know very well.
I haven’t slept for days,
No sleep, no life,
I’ve been wandering around like a madman
Through the streets,
The parks,
The back alleyways,
The metro stations,
To the station where we first met,
I went there day after day
Looking for you.
Speak to me,
Say something.

[Garip does not speak.]

Say something,
Tell me you’ll never leave me again.
I need you,
I can’t live without you,
I’m nothing if I can’t have you.
I promise you,
I swear,
I’ll be yours forever,
I’ll love you
Till the end of time.
Say something,
Speak to me,
Tell me
What I need to do.
What should I do?
Forgive me,
I beg your forgiveness
For everything,
Let’s go home,
Let’s go together,

[Garip does not speak.]

Say something,
A word, anything,
My love.
Or say nothing, if you prefer,
Say nothing at all,
But at least take off that veil,
I need to see your eyes,
Those beautiful eyes of yours,
Uncover your beautiful eyes, Ajsha,
Let me see them,

[Garip does not react. Jose stretches out his hand to take off the veil. Garip grasps his hand and squeezes it until he squeals in pain. With the other hand, Garip points his revolver at Jose.]

You want to see my eyes?
Listen up this time,
See the revolver,
It has a silencer on it.
If I fire it,
You’ll fall on the ground
And not a soul will hear the shot,
No one but God.
People will just think you’re drunk,
One of the countless drunks in the streets of Paris.
So, listen up,
If you want to stay alive.
Come with me and keep your mouth shut.
If you say even one word,
I swear, by Allah, that it’ll be your last.
Do I make myself clear?

But, what…

Am I clear?


OK. Let’s get moving.

[Garip rises, with Jose accompanying him.]

It’s a beautiful night out, isn’t it?
Clear skies,
Lots of stars,
A good sign.



[Habib is praying. Garip enters with Jose in shackles. Habib shows no surprise and continues praying. Garip removes his veil.]

This must be a mistake!

Shut up. Can’t you see the man is praying? Is that bothering you?

No, no. I have great respect for…

I said: “Shut up!”

Alright, alright.

[Habib finishes his prayer.]

I got him, praise be to Allah.

Is it really him?

Of course it is. I caught him like a fish on a line.

[Habib slaps Jose a couple of times, more to intimidate him than anything else.]

No, don’t!

If you raise your voice, by Allah, I swear I’ll choke you to death.

I haven’t done anything wrong. Why have you brought me here? I want to go home. Please let me go home. My mother is sick. She needs her medicine.

So your mommy’s sick, is she? I am really so sorry to hear that. Why are you lying, you filthy pig? I know who you are. You leave other people’s mothers to die in the road. All the old people in this country lead dogs’ lives. You don’t even bother to open your doors, except when you see an opportunity to make more money. Then, you go out and pretend you want to take care of others. I know the kind of person you are. What about that old woman in the newspaper yesterday who’d been lying dead in her apartment for three weeks? And do you know how they found out she was dead? Because the whole apartment building began to stink! That’s the kind of person you are. Your mother? Medicine? You think we’re crazy enough to believe you?

But my mother is…

GARIP [shouting]
Shut up!

[Garips ties Jose to a chair.]

I’m not a criminal! Why have you brought me here?

You planned a terrorist attack on Baghdad Airport.

What are you talking about?

GARIP [turning to Habib]
Is that true?

He could have. He could’ve planned all sorts of attacks.

No, it’s a misunderstanding. You’ve confused me with someone else.

In the first place, you’ve been trying to destroy the Muslims spiritually, to confound and confuse us. You know that very well.

You see that iron tower over there? That stupid, senseless tower?

The Eiffel Tower?

Yes. I’m gonna hang you by the balls from the top of the…

Eiffel Tower.

Right from the top.

But why? What have I done? I’m just a normal person.

How much do you make?

Nothing much. I sell newspapers. I get about 700 euros a month, 800 at the most. Just enough to pay the rent and to buy medicine for my mother.

Don’t mention that woman again.

Okay, okay… But tell me what I’ve done.

Over the last three months, there have been 18 attacks on Muslim women in Paris. They were carefully calculated, probably in those French laboratories of yours. Not attacks on men, but on the dignity of women, and you know, we Muslims are especially sensitive about that. Not killing them, not expelling them from the country or putting them in prison, but attacking their honour. A well-thought-out strategy, wouldn’t you say? You go out and rip the veils off Muslim women in Paris, and all the Muslims on earth will understand the message. The message is that they’re unwanted in Europe, that they’re the black sheep of Europe. Isn’t that right? You use Muslim women to convey your message, don’t you? But you’ve made a big mistake, my good friend! It’s not so easy. You can’t fight off the Muslims like that. It’s a battle you’ve lost from the start.

Well said. It’s a war and there’s no end in sight.

No, no! There must be some misunderstanding. Let me explain. I’ve… I’ve never wanted to offend anyone. I might have unintentionally… But that’s nothing to do with politics, or religion. I hold all religions in great respect.

Come on. Are you going to tell me you’re insane, that you’ve just been released from a mental institution?

It wouldn’t surprise me at all, Garip. Most of them are sick in the head. I mean, they all have mental problems; they suffer from solitude, stress, anorexia, nightmares…

And they’re impotent! That’s what you said about us in a report.

That, too! Most of them are. They’ve invented these pills. Just imagine, they have to take pills to…

For what?

You know what I mean.


They take the pills to get it up, to sleep with their women. They’ve actually invented pills for it.

You’re kidding! They take pills to…

That’s what I’m saying.

Allah! They’re really crazy.

We didn’t invent Viagra. The Americans did.

Damn you both! You and the Americans.

You see? They always pretend they don’t agree with the Americans. But where Muslims are concerned, they stick together, like lovers.

Come on. Speak up.

I will only speak in the presence of my lawyer.

[Garip opens a large suitcase and begins taking out his torture instruments: pliers, a saw, a hammer, a knife… He seems not to have decided which one to begin with. Jose looks terrified.]


[Garip takes out a needle and prepares to give Jose an injection. Habib gags him so that he can’t scream.]




[Jose and Ajsha, after sex. Ajsha gets up, wrapped in a towel, and sits down at the end of the bed. Jose gets up, too, and notices the bloodstains on the sheets. Near the bed is a vase of black carnations.]

Look at this!
There’s still blood.
Are you a virgin again?

I don’t know.

I don’t understand.
It’s not possible.
But it’s probably not a concern.

The last time I was at the doctor’s,
He said everything was OK,

How odd.
It’s just not logical.

It’s not logical,
But it happens.
But some other time
We’ll pretend.
There will be blood like the first time,
And I will lose my virginity again.

I don’t understand it.
I have heard about girls
Getting their virginity restored
In operations they pay for,
But not like this.
It can’t be possible.
It’s such a thin membrane.
If it breaks once,
It’s broken,
And that’s where the blood comes from.
You can’t restore it
Unless you go to the hospital.

I don’t know.

It doesn’tmatter,
It’s not important.
Could it be internal bleeding?
Something inside that bleeds
Every time we have sex?


Are you happy with me?
Tell me, my love.

Of course I am
And I have every reason to be,
But I’m having nightmares
I had a nightmare
The first time I slept with you.
I see
Strange things,
And can’t figure out what they are.
I’ve seen them before.
They’re just dreams,
They’re omens,
They’re pulling me towards something.

To what, my love?

I don’t know.
I don’t know.
I don’t know.

Come over here.
Lie down
Lie down and tell me all about them,
About your dreams or nightmares.

[Ajsha goes over to him and lies on the bed. Jose caresses her.]

Once upon a time,
Once upon a time
There was a Turkish sultan,
A long time ago,
A sultan in the Ottoman Empire.
His name was Abdul Hamid Khan II, Son of Abdul Mejid Khan.
He was called Sultan Abdul Hamid II
And was born on a Wednesday,
The 21st of September 1842.
But Abdul Hamid II had another name.
They called him the ‘Red Sultan.’
One day,
The Red Sultan gathered his troops,
His young Turkish men,
And ordered them
To set off
To the far corners of the Empire
On a strange mission
To distribute veils
To Europe,
To the heart of Europe.
Their mission was aimed at young women,
Unmarried girls,
Widows and old women.
A lot of young men volunteered for the mission.
Among them was Young Osman.
All of them wanted to take part in it
Because it was something new,
And also because,
By distributing veils,
They wouldn’t have to go to war,
To fight in battles.
There were so many of them,
From all corners of the Empire.
It was Young Osman’s fate
To go to the Balkans.
And he headed out
With his bundle of veils.

[Jose falls asleep. Ajsha notices this, and stops speaking. She gets up, dresses, and goes out, leaving Jose asleep.]



[We see Young Osman, loaded with veils. Marching is heard in the background, the playing of Turkish drums and pipes, and calls of “Allahu Akbar!”]

I am
A soldier of Sultan Abdul Hamid,
Of our glorious sultan,
On my way, on an important mission,
To a distant corner of the Empire,
To spread the light of our faith,
Faith in Almighty God,
He who made day and night,
He who made the light into daytime
And the dark into nighttime.

I am a soldier of the sultan,
I’m setting off
On this glorious day
To bring light
To a world of darkness,
To bring the love of Allah and the Prophet, may his name be praised,
To the infidels and those who have lost their way.
To those who have denied and cursed Allah,
As the devil denies him.

I am setting off for the Balkans
Where our shining star and crescent
Met the cross, face to face,
Five hundred years ago.

I am on my way to where
The Sword of Islam and of Sultan Abdul Hamid
Has sown forever and ever
The seeds of peace and the compassion of Allah.

I am on my way,
Loaded with veils,
To that distant land,
To distribute them from house to house,
From hearth to hearth,
To wretched old women and to young girls,
To virgins and widows,
To babies in their cradles and to the unborn.

I am on my way
I, Osman, a soldier of Sultan Abdul Hamid,
Allah, be my guide,
Allah, give me strength.



[Garip is feeding Jose, who is bound to his chair.]

Eat, my friend. Eat, and when you come to yourself, you can tell us a story and I promise we’ll let you go home. I wonder why I came all this way from… but it doesn’t matter where I came from. It was a long way. I came for you and, when I am finished, I will go back home. But I have to finish with you first. There are only two ways out: either you tell us everything – who, why, for what reason, etc., etc. No more stories about the sultan. I’m warning you. It’s like those black-and-white films. Don’t try to deceive us with your words. Tell us the truth. My partner’s a very smart guy. You can’t fool him. Me maybe, but not him. He’s read a lot of books. If you put them all in a stack, they’d reach the height of that tower of yours. So, tell us the truth and let’s get it over with. If you’re acting on behalf of someone else, tell me who it is. Save your own skin, my friend. Let it be him and your king. We will deal with them. You’ll will see what happens then. No need to speak right away. Have something more to eat, come to your senses, and when my partner gets back, tell us everything.

[Jose eats calmly.]

Nobody would ever have thought that the American I caught in Pakistan would have revealed everything. He’d lost hope. He worked for a humanitarian organisation, but he was in actual fact a CIA spy. To make things worse, he’d written some nonsense about the Koran in an American newspaper, calling it -- God preserve us – a “badly written book.” John was his name. John wouldn’t talk. We beat him to a pulp, but he wouldn’t say a thing. And just when we were considering releasing him, because we wondered if we might have the wrong guy, I remembered some of the other tactics my mother, bless her, taught me. So I took out the little handsaw and sliced off one of his fingers. He writhed and screamed, but he still wouldn’t talk. So I sawed off one ear and then the other one. He kept writhing and screaming, foamed at the mouth, pissed himself, but said nothing.

[Jose stopped eating and listened in horror. Garip takes the handsaw and shows it to Jose.]

It was a little saw like this one. More or less the same. Maybe a little bigger. But that’s of no importance. As I was saying, I sawed off the toes of his left foot, one by one. He still resisted. The guys who had invited me to take on the job looked at me sceptically, as if to say: “Leave the poor innocent guy alone!” But I continued my work. I sawed off the toes of his right foot.

[Jose throws up.]

He continued to resist. Then I remembered something else. I went close to his ear, or what was left of it. It was still gushing with blood, and I said: “My friend, your tongue is next. I’m going to saw it off.” He looked at me, groaning, and said: “Please, I’m begging you, not my tongue! I’ll tell you everything.” And then he sang like a nightingale. A wounded nightingale, that is. It wouldn’t have been right to let him live in that condition. Imagine, his poor wife who had watched everything would have to go back home without some of her husband’s body parts. It would have been traumatic for her. Anyway, that is the kind of saw it was. I can give you a few other examples of how I used it. To be honest, I carried out all the abductions myself. There was only one hostage in Iraq who slipped through my fingers. I had just caught him when he had a heart attack and died on me. There wasn’t anything I could try out on him. I tried to save his life, but he died too fast. Aside from him, I’ve been a big success with the others.

[Jose squeals.]

I’ll talk. I’ll tell you everything. I’m ready to tell you whatever you want to know. If you want, I’ll help you to blow up the Eiffel Tower, anything. But leave that saw where it is. I’m begging you.

[Habib enters.]

What’s new?

I spoke to him.

To the boss?

To his deputy. The boss is still sick.

Any instructions?

Yeah, they want to know more about him, but we’re supposed to take our time.

Take our time doing what?

Getting results.

But if he doesn’t talk, what do we do?

We have to get him to talk. Force him.

But I’ll talk. No need to force me. I want to talk, I’m ready to talk.

Well, go ahead. But it’d better be the truth.

I promise.

So talk.

[A short pause intervenes.]

I don’t know why I decided to talk to her that day. I was curious about the black carnations she was selling. I had never seen black carnations. We spoke for a little while and then we met the next day. I fell in love with her. I was crazy about her.


What do you mean?

Why did you fall in love with her?

I don’t know.

Come on. You must know. Try and remember.

[Garip looks around and gives Jose a needle. Jose is in a daze, loses his vision.]

Now you'll remember everything.



[A park. Ajsha, covered in a veil, is sitting on a park bench. Jose approaches and sits down beside her.]

Good evening.

I love nights like this when there aren’t any stars.
You can’t see anything but the dark.
Infinite darkness.

I love the thought of infinity.

I often think about things like that.
The world,
The sky,

We’re living in a dream, Jose,
Everything is a dream.

A dream, infinitely long,
But we wake up from our dreams.

And death, of course,
Death puts an end to our dreams
And takes us somewhere else,
To another dream,
Another time,
Dreaming as we did long before,
Much earlier,
Back in the past.

I’d like to see your face,
May I?
Could you let me see it?
I’d really appreciate it.

You can’t.
You know
That it’s not allowed.

Do it for me, Ajsha,
Do it for me.

Don’t ask for things you can’t have.
You know very well that it’s not allowed.
It’s better the way it is,
We can meet once in awhile
Here in the park, but nothing else.
I’m not the Ajsha I used to be.
You know that. I already told you.
We love each other,
Yes, we love each other, but nothing more can happen between us,
It’s a sign, a calling.
I already explained it to you.
I’m changing,
I’m in a transformation,
My body,
My soul, the fire in my heart, my love,
Everything in me is changing.
I no longer belong to this age.

[After a while, Jose suddenly whisks off her veil. Ajsha looks shocked and saddened. Jose kisses her. Ajsha withdraws from his embrace and moves away from him.]

What are you doing?
How could you?

But Ajsha, I love you.

No, we’ll never meet again.

Don’t say that.
We have to meet.
You still love me, don’t you?

No. Not any longer.

But you loved me, Ajsha!

It’s all over.

[Ajsha runs away.]

What have I done?
It was only a kiss.



[Young Osman, loaded with veils, looks out at the broad plain stretching in front of him.]

Oh land of the infidels,
Oh mountains and plains,
Oh gushing springs and rivers,
Rejoice, for the blessed day has come.
The savagery and ignorance of the infidels will be covered over by the compassion and tears of Allah.
Allah has taken you into his flock,
As a mother would take in her son shivering with the cold.
Oh ye decadent women and maidens,
For today
Blessed be his name,
Has stretched out his loving hand
To illuminate the path that will lead you to heaven.
Come forth, ye infidel women!
Put on your veils and cover up your bodies
That have shamed the very mountains,
The fields,
The gushing springs and rivers.
Come forth, ye virgin maidens,
And ye non-virgins who have lost your virginity as one loses an eyelash,
Come forth and rejoice,
Allah in His greatness gives you hope.
Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar.



[Jose is still tied to the chair in the room where he is being kept prisoner. Habib and Garip are close by.]

You took off her veil and kissed her?

Yes, and I never saw her again.

Allah, to let him die is not enough.

But earlier, before she adopted the veil, did you meet regularly?


Where did you meet?

Mostly at my apartment.

How did it happen that she decided to wear the veil? Why?

I don’t know. She said she had dreams. Early one morning, after a restless night when she’d gotten up several times, she said she had the same dream that wouldn’t leave her alone. I found a letter near the bed. I still have it. At first, I didn’t have the nerve to read it because I was afraid of what might happen, and then I did. I got out of bed and looked around for her –in the bathroom, on the balcony, in the living room. She wasn’t there. I paced around the room in despair, and then I opened the letter and read it. I still have it in the pocket of my jacket. Here it is.

Give it to me. I’ll read it.

[Garip pulls the folded letter out of the pocket of Jose’s jacket and give it to Habib.]


I know you are going to think I am crazy.
But it doesn’t matter,
We are all crazy nowadays
In one way or another.
We are the children of this planet,
We did not have the opportunity to talk about these things.
It may seem crazy to you, but…
I’m not drunk,
Not even drunk of life.
Life is…
Birth, death and rebirth.
You know that I have been having dreams,
Prophetic dreams
Just as I did when I was a child. I am having them again,
The same dreams are repeating, like a film.
Until I grew up and was aware of what was going on,
I was like a circus animal,
Trying to learn new tricks,
New acts for the circus,
New rules that life laid down for me, that society gave me,
Later I became an empty vessel,
No more feelings,
A vessel that was kicked around like a tin can and thrown away.
They recycled it and used it again.
And once more I was kicked around,
And thrown away,
Over and over.

I lost hope and contact
With the world I was in. There was no more time, there were no borders.
I forgot the promised land,
I forgot the dreams of my childhood,
And the prophecies of that distant land.
I knew it existed
Until that night
I slept with you,
When we...

[Habib gives it to Jose to read]

When we had sex
And I lost my virginity
And I saw the drops of blood on the white sheet.
This was the light that woke me up,
Which startled me
And returned me to the light of my childhood,
Which caused me to return to the dreams of my childhood,
Which caused me to turn
To a time beyond the one we know,
To a life lived before the one we know,
To a life lived beyond time and space.

This is why I need time for myself,
I want to cleanse myself,
To preserve that light
Because it’s not just a light,
It’s a path towards that greater light,
The path of my salvation.

I know the things I’m writing will seem strange,
But do you remember
How curious that blood seemed each time
We had sex and I was still a virgin?
Weren’t you shocked?
Did you think there could be no scientific explanation?
Did you think that medicine would not have an answer for it?
Well, Jose, it was simply an omen
For the light,
For the path to the light,
For life,
But not this life,
For time,
But not this time,
Another life and time,
A life that knows no time, Jose.

I am transforming,
I am changing
My visible being
And the invisible being
Within me.
I am beginning to feel pain throughout my body,
The sharp pangs of a woman giving birth in a day or two.
My body,
Everything within me is changing,
Like the spring after a long winter.

After so many years,
I am finally coming to terms with my body,
Facing the dreams of my childhood,
I can see the prophecies of old.
Everything I’m writing
I dreamed many years ago,
The dreams I’m seeing once again
Are ancient prophecies

Tonight, my body, weary of the dreams and of the pains that go with them
Has brought me a message,
A prophecy,
Something I knew
Was inside me,
Somewhere, in my conscience,
Like pieces of my childhood dreams.

Late last night
Everything became clear
Just like when the pieces of a puzzle finally come together,
And now I understand,
Now I have seen the light
Of my salvation,
Of my former soul,
Where my new soul meets my former one,
They have met.

When I was a child,
And even up until now
I could only see the pieces
Through a fog,
Everything was blurred,
But now, everything is pristine and clear,
Like a teardrop.
It is complete,
It is full.

Jose, it has nothing to do with Lemuria.
Lemuria is something else,
The Motherland of Mu,
The land of dreams,
Of flowers,
Of gardens,
Of verdant forests,
Of water,
Of peace,
Of love.
No, Jose,
It is a calling
To go where I belong,
Where souls meet,
Not flowers.
But there will be blood, Jose,
Blood, tears and pain.
Crosses and crescents will meet,
Christians and Muslims will cross paths,
Blood-drenched battlefields,
Fields of poppies, blood-red poppies,
Knights chopping off one anothers’ heads
Men dying.

Jose, I am not insane.
But I only see myself there.
In that cosmos,
in that place,
Is my salvation.
It is there that
I must go.
The path awaits me.
Our time is not time there.
There is infinite space
Like the universe itself.
God is there,

[A brief silence. Garip looks at Habib for an explanation.]

Did you understand anything?

It’s a… how can I explain it? It’s a sort of philosophy of migration, of departure. People are strange anyway. They’ve got all sorts of ideas in their heads.

By putting on the veil, she wants to flee from our reality, to leave for the world of her dreams. Like the story of Osman. Ajsha thinks she belongs to that world. She says she’s found a spiritual link with Maria who is being forced by Young Osman to wear the veil. I know, it’s complicated.

The tale of Osman! Hmmm.

A story in a book?

I don’t know. I haven’t found it in any book I’ve read.

[Habib returns the letter to Jose. Garip continues playing with the matches to build an Eiffel Tower.]



[Maria, half-naked, surrounded by black carnations, is posing for a painter.]

It’s hot in here.

I’m almost finished.

Almost finished, almost finished… When?

Just a minute or two.

Alright, another couple of minutes.

[A brief silence.]

When you finish, are you going to sell it?

Of course, they all sell.
They sell and go from hand to hand,
But many of them get damaged by the humidity,
Others are left out in the sunlight,
Some are destroyed by people.
Few of them survive for long.

Who buys them?

Mostly Ottoman soldiers.
They are interested
And they’re willing to pay good money.

Isn’t it forbidden?
Does their faith allow it?
I’ve heard people say
they’re not allowed to show portraits of people.

Yes, their faith forbids it,
But everything is forbidden.
The more forbidden it is, the more they want it.
They’re soldiers.

[The voice of Young Osman, approaching.]



It is an order from Sultan Abdul Hamid,
A strict order,
not a prayer, not an instruction.
Every woman,
married or not,
young or old,
must cover up and put on the veil
whenever she leaves her home.
This is what the Noble Koran has commanded.
This is what our majestic Sultan Abdul Hamid has decreed.

[Young Osman enters, brandishing a mighty sword. Maria covers her breasts with the black carnations around her. Osman throws a veil at her. He approaches to take a look at the painting. Then he stares at Maria.]

Get dressed, woman!
Now and forever more
Until the day you die.

Why should I?
What’s this all about?

You must cover up your shameful body.
What is your name?


[Young Osman slaps her across the face. She flinches and cries out. Ajsha and Osman stare at one another.]

And your new name?


[Maria is frightened and endeavours to put the veil on.]

YOUNG OSMAN [speaking to the Painter]
And you, old man,
From now on, you will paint no wanton women.
No more.
From now on,
you will paint them covered up.

No, I beg you. This is art.
I can’t do it any other way,
It would be unthinkable to…

The Koran alone is what allows you and forbids you upon this earth.
Do what the Koran allows,
And not what is forbidden.
Remember that what the Koran forbids
Is also forbidden by the sword of Sultan Abdul Hamid.
If you paint her as she is now, without her veil, you will pay with the loss of your head!
I will leave you now, but I will return.
We will meet again, old man.
we will meet again,
And you will give me the painting
of this wretched woman, in her veil.
Allah has returned her virtue to her.

But I cannot paint her that way.
I don’t know how.


[Young Osman departs.]

No, I can’t.
What shall I do?

You have no choice.
It is prescribed by fate.

[Maria has put on her veil. She is sitting on the stool where she was at the start, and poses as she did when she was nude. The painter grabs his brush and begins to paint.]



[Jose is gagged. Garip puts on a black mask as Habib starts filming with a small hand-held camera.]

It’s very important that you admit that you sincerely regret what you did. Don’t forget to tell the viewers what you’ve done wrong. You must express your views on official French policies. Use my statement as a guide to what you need to say. The more frightened you look, the more convincing your statement will be.


Should I use my knife on him while he’s speaking?

I don’t think that’s necessary. Take in 30 seconds!

[Garip, wearing a mask and with a large knife in his hand, sits beside Jose threateningly. Habib gives Jose a signal to begin. Garip takes the kerchief out of his mouth. Jose begins to speak nervously; his voice is quivering.]

My name is Jose Lambert. I’ve been in the hands of the soldiers of the Army of Islamic Justice for a week now. I wish to inform all of France that I thoroughly regret the deeds I have committed. Over the last two months, I’ve been confused and naïve, and have committed several base and inhuman acts. I tore the veils off some honourable Muslim women without realizing that I was hurting the feelings of millions of Muslims around the world. I’m guilty and I have cried over the mistakes I’ve made. I wish to tell everyone in France that it was the devil who took possession of me and my soul when I committed these acts. I beg forgiveness of all those women, in particular a woman in the Barbès neighbourhood of Paris.

For the last few days, while I have been a prisoner of these courageous soldiers, I’ve come to understand the erroneous and inhumane nature of the policies that the French government is carrying out against Muslim women who wish to wear the veil. Let me tell you that I feel ashamed to be French. I would prefer to die, and I would prefer to have these courageous soldiers kill me right now or tomorrow or whenever they want. The most important thing is that the world understand the truth. East and West both belong to the one God, to Allah, our creator. The Swiss may attempt to ban the construction of minarets in their country. The French may forbid the wearing of the veil. But they will never stop one thing, and that is the Day of Judgement, the day when East and West will be one. And this one united world will begin anew, with young people who pray only to Allah the Merciful. I also feel guilty about harming the feelings of Ajsha, whose last name I never learned. I made these mistakes because I loved her and I still do. Ajsha, I am willing to die for you.

[Habib make a sign for him to stop. Jose stops. Habib stops filming.]

Very good. But you added some things that weren’t in my text.

What do you mean? Didn’t he read it properly?

He added a few bits, but they might be good. The last part, for instance, when he talks about Ajsha. It’s not in the statement I wrote, but I think it lends credibility to what he said. And the parts about the Swiss, the minarets and the Day of Judgement. They’re not in my text either, but we’ll see. They may be good.

So, it is alright, is it?

Yes. I’m happy with it.
[Turning to Jose]
Where did you learn all of that?


What you just said, I mean about East and West, about the Day of Judgement and Allah the Merciful.

I heard about it from Ajsha. They were what Young Osman said when he was desperate because he couldn’t find Maria.

Is that right? From Ajsha’s dreams?

Yeah, her dreams. She saw everything in her dreams. The dreams she had as a child.

Yeah, yeah, you mentioned them. And she wanted to escape from her dreams.

What fools you French people are. What is all this nonsense?

But Ajsha…

What is this drivel about her wanting to escape from her dreams? How can anyone escape from a dream?

It’s like this…

Shut up! What about the part where you begged that woman’s forgiveness? What street was that in?

The woman in Barbès.

What was that about? Why did you single her out?

It was written in the statement.

She’s a woman I know.

But why did you ask for her forgiveness in particular?

She’s my wife.

Is that right?

Yes, she’s my wife. This monster here removed the veil of my wife!

Why didn't you mention it in the statement?

I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want the whole thing to sound too personal.

The boss is going to be angry when he finds out.

No reason to tell him. After all, what does it matter if one of the women was my wife?

[A brief silence. There is tension between the two of them.]

I’m so sorry, Habib. It must have been horrible for you.

When my wife told me about it, I cried. I couldn’t sleep all night long. I was so sorry for her, poor thing. She must have been shaken up pretty bad. She usually never goes out alone, but that night she decided to go and buy some eggs for me. I eat a lot of eggs. Can’t do without them.

[Habib goes and pulls an egg out of his bag, pierces the top of it, and sucks it dry. Garip looks nauseated.]

How can you do that?

It’s an old habit. When I was a boy, I learned to call the people to prayer. I heard that raw eggs could make your voice stronger. So I had them right from the shell. It was hard at first, but then I got used to it. I eventually gave up calling people to prayer, but I still eat raw eggs. An old habit. Why don’t you try it?

It sounds disgusting, but I’ll give it a whirl.

You really mean it?


[Habib takes an egg out of his bag and gives it to Garip. Garip breaks it and approaches Jose.]

No! For Allah’s sake!

Shut up! They’re good for the voice. Even that Osman of yours probably liked eggs.

[Jose opens his mouth, quivering, and Garip pours the egg into it. Jose begins to throw up. Habib and Garip laugh.]

[talking to Jose]
Sing now…
Sing, oh goddess, of stalwart Osman, distributor of veils!



[Young Osman, weary and in rags, is in a deep canyon. He speaks calmly, as if he were telling someone else’s story, not his own.]

Here I am, at the bottom of this canyon.
Below me is a huge pit of serpents,
They’re approaching to attack me,
Slithering up the jagged rocks, one upon the other.

I have come here to die.
I want to die, for Allah conveyed upon me a great labour
That I was not able to fulfil.
I failed.
Below me is the snake pit, and on the other side of it
Are her eyes that are attracting, pulling me, like a magnet,
As the does the pit, the pit of death.
Her eyes are the eyes of death.
What death shall I choose?
It is morning and it is quiet.
Only the slithering sound of serpents.
Can you hear them?
Frightening in every aspect.
They can smell my blood that they will soon be sucking on,
As babes do at their mothers’ breasts.

I have had no sleep for a week now, and I am exhausted,
No sleep, nothing to eat.
But I am not hungry.

What sin did I commit that Allah has condemned me to this fate?
My arms and legs are shaking. They will hold me no longer.
I am weary, not from the long journey or from the weight of the veils I brought with me,
But of love.
Something has struck me to the marrow, like the tip of a poison sword,
Right here in my chest.
Why this tribulation from Allah?
Did I not serve him well?
Allah, speak to me!
Now or nevermore.
Do not leave me to die here.
Save me from this fate.
Do not abandon me,
Let me forget the day I saw her eyes,
May it fade and vanish from the calendar forever.

[Young Osman takes the veils he has with him and throws them into the pit, one by one.]

I, Young Osman, can see the cliffs and mountains above me. I can see the pit, hear the slithering of the serpents. In my mind are her eyes. I remember them, Allah. I can see the disgusting veils that Sultan Abdul Hamid gave to me to bring here, and her eyes… Allah! My arms are quivering, the serpents are approaching, the sweat is flowing down my brow. I don’t want to see them, her eyes. Allah! The serpents, the moon, the sultan’s sword, her eyes, her breast, the devil, death. Yes, I am coming, mother. Her eyes, Allah, her breast, everything is on fire. ALLAH, YOU DO NOT EXIST!

[Young Osman collapses, falling to the ground.]



[Garip is about to finish ‘building’ his Eiffel Tower. Jose is asleep, still tied to the chair, and is snoring. Garip is bothered by the noise he is making and throws a match at him, but Jose does not wake up. Habib then enters.]

Did you talk to him?

I did.

To the boss?

No, the boss is still in the hospital. But I spoke to Abdullah.

What did he say?

Some terrible things have happened back home.


Two days ago, our army split into two groups. One is led by Ismail, and the other by Zeka. Yesterday morning they divided again, came to an agreement in the evening, but they split again at midnight into eight smaller groups. Ismail is now all by himself. The other groups have two, three or four members. Ismail is determined to kill Ibrahim, and Ibrahim is equally determined to kill Ismail and Abdullah. Abdullah swears that he will kill Musa and Ibrahim. And they all want to kill the boss. In other words, nobody is safe from anyone.

God, what a mess they’ve made of everything!

The worst part of it is that the boss still doesn’t know anything about it.

What about us? What are we supposed to do now? Who is our boss? Who are we responsible to?

I don’t know.

We’ll have to make a decision. We can’t carry on like this.

Let’s wait a few days. Maybe they’ll get back together.

You know what? Let’s take matters into our own hands.

No, I’m afraid of the boss.

But the boss is sick. You understand?

He’ll be back on his feet soon.

[Jose snores again. Garip goes over and slaps him. Jose wakes up briefly, startled as if from a nightmare, and then falls back asleep.]

What did you do?

Nothing special. I slugged him a couple of times. He’s sleeping again.

Didn’t you give him his dose?

He got more or less what he deserved.

I mean the injections?

No, no. The same as always.

Did he say anything new?

Before he fell asleep, he told me another fairytale.

I hope we get some instructions from back home soon, because otherwise we’ll be onto Sheherazade with him all the time.

I don't think we're going to get any instructions at all.

Well, whatever we do, I want to be faithful to the boss.

Alright, but I don't intend to get caught here. The longer we keep him, the greater the risk will be. They'll be able to trace us.

The boss will be back on his feet anytime now.

[Jose continues snoring, which gets on Garip’s nerves. He opens his bag and takes out a little syringe that he prepares for Jose.]



[The painter is painting the Eiffel Tower. Young Osman enters the room, dressed as an Ottoman soldier, dragging a long sabre behind him.]

I have come back, master.

[The painter takes the portrait of Maria, now covered in a veil, and hands it to Young Osman.]


[Young Osman takes it and looks at it.]

What about the eyes? Why did you cover up her eyes?

That was what you wanted.

But the eyes, why are there no eyes?

I painted everything exactly as I saw it.
It’s accurate.
This is what she was like when she put the veil on.
That’s how I painted it.

[The painter continues painting.]

Where is she now?

I don’t know.

[Young Osman seizes him by the throat.]

Tell me where she is or I’ll kill you.

I swear I don’t know.
I haven’t seen here since then,
Not since the day I painted her.

Where does she live?
How did she happen to come here?

I met her in the market
One day,
Gave her some money and asked her to drop by.
She came and posed for me,
For money,
And then she left.
I paid her, of course,
Even though the painting
You forced me to make
Didn’t sell at all.
It’s right over there. You can have it.
But I don’t know who she is
Or where she comes from.

How can I find her?
Which market?

In the central market.
That’s where I met her
When she was watching a rooster fight.

Her eyes!
What beautiful eyes she had.

Yes, she had amazingly
Beautiful eyes.

The moment I saw her
I knew that I would have
A good model
For a painting
And hoped to make some money with it.
I was sure that someone would buy it,
You soldiers, for instance, young guys.
But as she is now,
No one will want her,
No one will buy her,
They’ll just make fun of me if I try to sell it.

[Young Osman falls to his knees.]

I beg you,
Help me to find her.
I’ll give you gold.

Rise to your feet, soldier.

I’ve searched everywhere, throughout the town,
I walked up and down every street,
Mornings and evenings.
I waited at the public fountain,
Where the women usually gather to get water
To wash clothes at the river
But she didn’t come. Master,
What if I never find her?

I covered them all up,
Young women, old women,
Married, unmarried,
Covered them with the veils
The veils that we, the soldiers of Abdul Hamid, brought with us,
So that we would not see the women, only black silhouettes
Wandering, sailing through town.
They all look the same, master.
Every time I look at one
I think it is her.

I can’t get her out of my dreams,
My legs are weak, as if they’ve been stabbed by a poisoned dagger.

She can see me
Wandering aimlessly,
Covered in sweat, my legs battered,
Weak with love, eyes like those of a corpse.
Allah, what have I done that I must suffer so much?

Be a man, soldier!
No suffering on earth is greater than that caused by love.

What would you suggest, master?
What should I do?
Do I have to die
For those eyes?
Yes, I will die.

Keep looking for her.
Never give up.
Keep at it, keep searching,
Life has no other meaning,
We are all searching.

What about the painting?
Can you uncover her again?


Can you take the veil off?
Can you uncover her face?

No, it’s impossible.

I will pay you.

It cannot be done, soldier.
I can try
But it will be a different face,
My own vision of her.

Don’t you remember what she looked like?
Those eyes?

No, soldier,
It’s too bad, but I have forgotten them.
I have painted so many women,
Green eyes, brown hair,
Long, curly, braided,
Teeth as white as pearls,
All kinds of them, lad,
I don’t remember that one.

But I can remember her
As if I’d just seen her,
And her long black hair.

But you don’t know how to paint.
Why don’t you try?

I don’t know how,
I can’t.

[He takes the brush from the painter.]

Give me a piece of paper to practice on.

[The painter gives him some paper. Young Osman attempts to draw something, but soon realizes that he is incapable. The face on the paper and the one in his dreams are different.]

Allah, I beg you.

Tell me something, soldier?

What, master?

Have the leaves begun to fall yet?

[Young Osman looks surprised at the painter’s question.]

Not yet, master.

[Young Osman now realizes that the painter is blind.]

By Allah, you are blind!



[Jose is sleeping. Habib is looking at Jose's file. Garip enters.]

You shouldn't go out that late at night.

I need to get out.

You know we're in a tight situation.

Don't worry. I'm trained to smell danger.

[Jose wakes up.]

Water. Give me some water, please!

[Habib brings him a glass of water.]

How old is your mother?


Is she sick?

She has diabetes, you know, that illness…

And with the money you make, you buy medication for her?


Excellent. Very impressive. But the information I have here tells me that your mother died twenty years ago!

What? He’s been lying about the mother?

That’s not true. It’s impossible. My mother is still alive. She’s sick…

The information I have is very reliable.

There must be some mix-up. My mother is alive. Let me go to see her. She needs me.

You mother is dead. She died twenty years ago!

JOSE [sobbing]

Stop playing the fool.

Go ahead and cry. A man can cry for his mother even twenty years after her death.

But she’s not…


And your last meeting with Ajsha?

I already told you. She was sitting in the park. I gave you all the details. She was wearing a veil. We spoke. I wanted to see her face. Then I kissed her. She left and we never saw each other again.


He’s been lying to us?

No, but he’s been making fun of us. He thinks we can’t read. They despise us. He thought he could get away with some fairytale he read somewhere in a book. And that we would fall for it, that we’d believe him.

I don’t understand. Is he lying or isn’t he?

Patience, brother. There’s a myth, in other words a lie invented by the infidels. It’s the myth about Orpheus and Eurydice. Listen to how similar it is. Eurydice is in the underworld, I mean, she’s dead. Orpheus has a lyre with him and hopes to bring her back from the dead. He’s allowed to bring her back, but on one condition – that, while they’re on their way to the surface, Orpheus shouldn’t look back at her – not turn around and look at Eurydice’s face. On their way, Orpheus gets impatient and looks back. Because of this, he is condemned to lose Eurydice forever.

Could it be that this fellow’s name isn’t Jose, but Orpheus?

I don’t think so, but the whole story is invented.
Look at the similarities.
Ajsha puts on the veil. This guy wants to take it off her so he can look at her face. Ajsha warns him that it’s not allowed and if he does it, she’ll never see him again. He gets impatient and just has to see her. He takes off her veil, looks at her, and kisses her. And for this mistake he’s condemned to never see her again.

Yeah, it’s the same story.

I swear I wasn’t lying.

That means that the whole story of Ajsha and of Osman and whoever else, is all made up.

You think so? Now he'll talk.

[Garip pulls out a revolver with a silencer on it and shoots Jose, who falls to the ground.]

What the hell are you doing? The boss is gonna go berserk when he finds out.

I talked to the boss.


You're hiding things. The boss isn't happy about you.

[Habib accidentally trips and destroys the "Eiffel Tower" that Garip made. Garip turns the revolver on him.]



[A dark room. Young Osman is naked. He whips himself while still asleep.]

East, West,
West, East,
Everything belongs to Allah.
The East is his,
The West is his,
Our country is Allah,
The country of Allah has infinite power,
Allah can turn anything into dust.
Annihilate it all, just as the Koran prescribes,
And begin fresh!
Create a new man,
A man who will acknowledge your power and might,
Who in his native land will accept your customs and orders.
We are living in a degenerate world,
Only Allah can show us the way.
Annihilate and create a new world!
A world in which East and West will pray only to you,
A world in which humankind will bow to your power,
A world in which your will will prevail,
A world in which Christians and Muslims will be one,
A world in which there will be no more Christians and Muslims,
A world in which we will all be the children of Allah
And will pray to him alone.
Oh Lord, tear down all the churches and mosques,
Tear down the monasteries and synagogues,
Tear down the Buddhist temples and all the other holy places on earth
Except for one,
The temple of our merciful Allah.

[Young Osman sobs like a little child. Blood trickles where he is lying.]



[Early morning in the park. Jose is asleep on a bench. He is thirsty. Mist hovers around him. Young Osman with startlingly white eyes – larger than normal human eyes – enters from out of the mist, as if numbed, and sits down beside him. After a while, Young Osman speaks to him in a strange voice, as if from another age.]

I remember,
Never stop searching,
Keep searching because this is the most important thing
Whenever you are surrounded by enemies,
Whenever you are on the brink of danger,
Whenever you are lost or exhausted,
Whenever you can sense that death is around you,
Whenever you are on an endless road or in deep water
Keep going, keep searching…
Keep searching because there is nothing else to do
But search.
Even when you have lost all hope,
Even when you have lost your faith in God,
Keep searching.

For only if you search, will you find God,
Will you find hope and be delivered,
Will you find the end of the endless road,
Death will seem distant, and the deep water will be only a tiny stream.

Keep on searching, lad, don’t give up,
Search and search forever.

[Jose wakes up. He is surprised to see Young Osman beside him.]

Search for what?

[Young Osman rises and prepares to depart.]

Who are you anyway?

[Young Osman vanishes in the mist.]

Search for what?

[Jose now notices Garip and Habib sitting on another bench reading a newspaper. Ajsha enters with her wheelbarrow of black carnations.]



Excuse me, I meant Ajsha.

Where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you around.

I was kidnapped.


I don’t know what happened, but I was kidnapped by two guys.

What guys?

[Jose looks at the bench where Garip and Habib were sitting, but there is no one there.]

But I just saw them!

I’ve come to say farewell.


[Ajsha takes a veil out of the wheelbarrow of carnations.]

You mean we’ll never meet again?

Maybe we will, but in another life. It will never be the same.

[Ajsha prepares to put on her veil.]

May I kiss you one last time?

Alright. One last kiss.

[A long kiss. Ajsha then puts on her veil and, before leaving, gives him a black carnation. Jose takes the carnation and lies back down on the bench. Blood trickles where he is lying.]




Val de Reuil (France) and Prishtina (Kosovo)
April 2010 - July 2011