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Mayada Al-Askari had no idea that she would one day end up in Baladiyat Prison. She was a divorcee who raised her children single handedly. Mayada had been a journalist who had later given up that job and had set up a small printing business.
Mayada: Daughter Of Iraq was from a prominent family. She was the granddaughter of Sati Al Husri, an Arab nationalist leader. Her paternal grandfather Jafar Pasha Al-Askari was a two time Prime Minister of Iraq. She had lived a safe and comfortable life, and even under Saddam's regime, she never expected trouble.
Mayada first met Sasson when she worked as translator to the American writer, when she visited Iraq in the early 1990s. They kept in touch even after Sasson went back. Then, suddenly, Sasson lost contact with Mayada. She stopped receiving emails or any other correspondence from her.
It was in 2003, after Saddam's regime fell, that Sasson found out exactly what had happened to her friend and the story is told in this book, Mayada: Daughter Of Iraq. It is a story of confinement and torture, of a group of women in a single prison cell.
Mayadahad never expected trouble, but it came anyway. One day, she was accused of printing anti-government brochures and even before she understood what was happening, and before she could make any arrangements to look after her children, she was taken to Baladiyat prison and put into Cell 52 with a group of other women.
In this prison cell, she was forced to witness the horrible treatment meted out to her cellmates. Mayada, with her high profile family connections, was spared much of the horrors. But, she still had to bear witness to the terrible tortures and electric shocks that the prison authorities subjected the other prisoners to.
During the period of her confinement, Mayada developed a strong bond with the other women. To comfort each other and to take their minds off their daily sufferings, these women began a practice of telling stories.
They told each other about their own lives and how they ended up in that prison. These stories somehow kept them sane, and gave them a period of relief from what their life had become. Mayada: Daughter Of Iraq now tells those stories to the whole world.
About Jean P. Sasson
Jean P. Sasson is an American author.
The Rape of Kuwait, Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, and Love in a Torn Land are some of her other books.
Jean P. Sasson was born in 1947 in Alabama, US. In 1978, she went to Saudi Arabia to work in an administrative capacity at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. There, she met her future husband, Peter Sasson. Jean Sasson has made the life of women in the Middle East the subject of most of her works.