2. “All my life I have been searching for something that would fill me with pride, make me feel superior to everyone else, including kings, princes and rulers.”

When Nawal first meets Firdaus, Nawal marvels at how cool and collected Firdaus seems. She wonders why Firdaus has decided not to appeal her sentence and try to live longer, and why Firdaus remains so calm in the face of impending death. Firdaus explains that she doesn’t fear death. In fact, she’s looking forward to it. Since her whole life has been spent under someone else’s control, and because that life has never really brought her any happiness, she is looking forward to ending it. She says that her whole life has been a quest to prove to herself that she was as good as, if not better than, the men who control her world. She has nothing but contempt for these rulers. All she sees of them is hypocrisy and deceit. They deceive their subjects and abuse their power, and yet are terrified of being less powerful than they think they are.

Firdaus discovers how vulnerable these men are when, as a prostitute, she refuses to sleep with some of them. They panic and offer her ever-increasing sums of money, simply because it terrifies them to think that their power might not have the reach they think it does. Still, though Firdaus proves in this way that their power is incomplete, she knows full well that her own is even more precarious. Only in death will she be free from them. Choosing to die is one of the first real choices that Firdaus has ever made, and in doing so, she challenges the power of those who think they are punishing her. Also, Firdaus explains, she will die before these powerful men die. She will be a pioneer, no longer afraid of the thing that all of these powerful, hypocritical men fear most. Only in this way can she finally feel superior to them.