Only a few years on from her admission at the Queens Square Law Courts, Amani Haydar found herself sitting in the witness box of the adjacent King Street courtrooms, her father in the dock accused (and subsequently convicted) of the murder of her mother Salwa. How could this happen? Six years on from her mother’s death, Haydar, in dual roles of daughter and lawyer, unpacks the events and environment that foreshadowed and enabled this fatal act, in a work of exquisite prose.
Salwa’s murder came nine years after her mother – Amani’s grandmother, Teta, – was killed in an Israeli air strike during an attack on her village in Lebanon. The Mother Wound outlines the many shapes of violence against women, be it in acts of war or family violence. Amani’s artwork “Insert Headline Here”; a self-portrait of her, holding a photo of Salwa clutching a photo of Teta during a media interview in 2006, was shortlisted for the Archibald Prize.
This book is its lyrical extension, its title testament to the threads of trauma that can be traced through a matriarchal line, carried by the next generation. Amani was five months pregnant with her first child, a daughter, when her mother was killed. Her writing on loss knocks the breath from your lungs, so sharp is the pain of ongoing grief that time cannot dull. As Salwa’s daughter, she is uniquely placed to depict her mother in vibrant colour: her pride at collecting her mother’s posthumous graduation certificate seeps from the page.
In its latter stages, the book intersperses memoir with meticulous stanzas of research, highlighting the prevalence of coercive control and the barriers to reporting faced especially by women of culturally diverse backgrounds. Of focus to Haydar is finding a safe space in the justice system for Muslim women: where the law and society can, and must, do better.