… like streams of water in a waterless country,
like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.

—Psalms 32:2

This is a true story about a woman who was a stone: strong as the bones of the earth.

And she was a pebble. Not in that she was insignificant but rather that she was small but she made a difference, just like that small pebble that can start an avalanche. And she was flint. Not in that she was hard but rather that she was able to strike a spark, set fire to hidebound customs and to many hearts and hands.

And she was granite but not in that she was inflexible. But rather, she was the stuff of mountains, soaring-majestic-inspiring-awesome, and she was onyx, jade, verdite, serpentine, and jasper, beautiful indeed.

But at first she was just a stone in Pakistan, used to hurt her brother, a rock thrown at him; gang-raped on the orders of a local justice council to atone for her brother’s “crime.” He was charged with rape by her village jirga to keep him from telling how he had been sodomized – by leading Mastoi men.

She screamed for help while she was dragged in front of hordes of villagers. She begged for mercy. But no one came to her aid. And it was as if she was stoned as well as raped, in that there were stones in the hands of a mob-like tradition, in that the villagers became stones themselves and bruised the skin of compassion largely with multi-colored and livid marks.

Naked and shivering she walked back home, her feet bare, her path lined – with silent spectators.

In that wilderness of patriarchy, rape victims are known to kill themselves in shame. She could marry – a deep dark well of obliterating water – death bride to Lethe-like relief or shed tears all her life – monsoonic misery storms of grief and wild wailing winds of anger.

She refused to be cairned with shame.

She took the council to court and in the ensuing worldwide attention the Pakistani government tried to block her way. Standing stones of travel restrictions were placed in her way, menhirs – her rapists were jailed but then set free – monolithic obstructions – but her feet were made of water. And more than mere standing stones can be worn away with the obstinacy of water.

She is: avalanche starter, mountain breaker, a stone with feet of water.

She fought back with resolute strength. And she won with a noise in the midst of the news of the world that sounded like a mountain’s CRACK to the women, stones upon stones in places around the world.

The government awarded her $8,300 in cash and she took that money – and started the village’s first-ever school. She has dedicated her life to social work, to education, in that, she has built a school and teaches the Koran to young girls and boys – she says “If women aren’t educated, it’s hard for them to speak up for themselves.” She has even enrolled her rapists’ children. And women everywhere, from women who live in deserts of sand, like hers, to women who live in deserts of moral dehydration and societal dessicance, are saying her name – Mukhtaran Mai.

She has shown that we are stones – who dwell among stones – each building upon the other but each defining – by individual actions – what can or cannot be – Mukhtaran Mai.

She has become polished obsidian for other women to see themselves within. And her name has become a stone in the hands of women far and wide and around this world – Mukhtaran Mai. Her name has become a stone in the collective fist of resistance raised against silence and humiliation. And her name has become the rush and the sound of water – running its course to freedom.

Mukhtaran Mai – many women have been silent stones all their lives.

Mukhtaran Mai – you have called these stones to witness and they will speak.

Mukhtaran Mai – they will speak.

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