1. The woman sitting on the ground in front of me was a real woman, and the voice filling my ears with its sound, echoing in a cell where the window and door were tightly shut, could only be her voice, the voice of Firdaus.
Nawal writes this after she has finally met Firdaus, on the day that Firdaus is scheduled to die. Nawal immediately senses that there is something about Firdaus that is different from everyone she has ever met. When she says that Firdaus is a “real woman,” she means that there is something painfully real about Firdaus and her experience in jail. Firdaus becomes more than just a case study for Nawal. She becomes a symbol of truth: a living demonstration of all that is wrong with their shared society. Firdaus is undeniably an individual.
Because she has always had to fight for the right to be herself, and because she is in prison for killing a man in order to achieve self-determination, Firdaus seems more real than anyone Nawal has ever met. When Nawal describes Firdaus’s voice echoing in a sealed cell, she reminds her audience that prison has not lessened Firdaus’s personality. Because choosing imprisonment has made Firdaus more free than at any other time in her life, the force of her personality has grown. The cell is a symbol of how the world thinks it can contain and control Firdaus, but to Nawal that is absurd. Prison and the threat of death have no power over Firdaus. She has finally gotten control of her own life, and has undeniably become an individual.