Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Spider Killer

While surfing the net a few weeks back, I stumbled across an interesting fictional story called "The Spider Killings" by Laleh Haghighi. After reading "part I" I was so utterly hooked on this story that I made daily visits to the website in order to find the next entry. I eagerly and impatiently awaited for each part of the story in order to discover the fate of the characters who had intrigued me.
This writer has the very special gift of being able to grab the reader tightly with her amazing use of words and her detailed description of the plot. She also has the wonderful talent of tying numerous scenarios and separate small storied to one another making one great assembly. I for one was completely impressed by her writing and the way she was able to take the reader into her story and to provide them with the related feelings and emotions. Even though at times the story took us to such dark, gruesome and disturbing places (decapitating and mutilating bodies, murder and evil dreams) I could not take my eyes away from the monitor as they were widely glued. The story was told so realistically that it felt as though I was reading a documentary. I later discovered that though fictional, the tale is based on a true story. Then I was even more intrigued!
The story "The Spider Killings" is about what happened in the holy city of Mashhad where a serial killer roamed the streets killing prostitutes. His goal was to rid the city of the unholy evil that was spreading with great rate. He was guided by the voice in his head encouraging him to wipe the infested streets clean by taking the drug addicted molds off of it.
The killer would lour the women to himself by pretending to be a "customer" (like a spider), then choking the poor souls to death using their own head scarf or veil when opportunity availed. And that is where he received his title.
The writer not only told us about the killer and his victims but she also took us to the lives of the police officer and the detective on the case, the reporter, the city officials trying to keep the killings under the raps, and many other little stories around town. She then brought all of those stories together at the end making a beautiful conclusion, tying them all with one another with great tact.
As I had imagined I was not the only one following this story as many comments floated in for the conclusion piece. In response the author directed us to a documentary ("And Along Came a Spider" by Maziar Bahari) based on the real events of the Spider Killer which had inspired her to write this.
His name was Saeed Hanai, a 39 year old construction worker living in Mashhad. When a taxi driver mistook his wife for a prostitute he decided that he will take cleaning the streets up from the scums into his own hands. He accomplished that by brutally murdering 16 women from the summer of 2000 to the summer of 2001. After choking the women to death he would either bury their bodies or leave them where they could be found. He was interviewed while in jail awaiting his sentence, and I watched this killer talk.
He was calm, smiling and speaking with great confidence while describing with such detail his tactics of killing the women, down to their last breath. He did not like to be called a murderer, but some one with a mission of good deed. He did not believe that he committed a crime or an act of disgrace, as he called himself a martyr. He would usually return to the sight where he had discarded of the victim's body the next morning to watch people's reaction when they discovered it. He said that watching the people around the body gave him encouragement, satisfaction and motivation to continue his deed.
The documentary also talked about the women, the victims of the Spider Killer. Poor unfortunate souls who mostly were married off between the ages of 10-12 to men who were either addicts, abusers or possibly both. Some were forced to sell their bodies by their own husbands for extra income to support their habit. Some had become addicted to drugs themselves and had to find a way to buy their fix. Some had 6 or 7 children with a husband who was too busy with his other wives and children, so they had to "work" to feed their family. They were uneducated, unhealthy, underprivileged and the lowest one can go as far as class and power. They were mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. They were defenseless, weak and forgotten, results of a failed society. And they were the ones who received the blow.
Saeed Hanai was a disturbed and sick individual who heard voices and could have easily been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. So what amazed and disturbed me the most was not hearing the murderer talk about putting his foot on the women's necks and pressing hard, it was seeing the rest of the residents of Mashhad who were interviewed in this film react to him. They praised this man for what he did, calling him a hero and a savior who dared to clean up the city. One individual said that Saeed did not kill people, as they were not human, they were dirt and evil. Another said that Saeed did not do any thing wrong, he merely took on a responsibility that they all wished they could take up but did not have the courage to act on. Saeed's wife believed that her husband was a good man who would never hurt a "decent" individual, as she was awaiting his return from prison. Saeed's young son was the one who defended his father the most, wishing that he could be granted the courage to continue on his father's work and mission. He said that because the authorities were unable to take care of this problem in the city people like Saeed had to do the job for them and for all to know that there are others out there like his father who will take this responsibility into their own hands.
I am disturbed because these are not people from 100 years ago, these are people from 2002 living in our world. These are people who will never change their thinking and their beliefs as they are set on their ways. These are people who will raise children and teach them right from wrong and good from bad. I am disturbed, but most of all I am frightened.

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