by Raudah Abdul Rashid
[content warning for partner abuse and violence]
Her name was *Siti Ainun.
This is a story of how she died.
Siti was a 20-year old woman who learnt from a young age to be independent, to rely on herself. As a quiet child growing up amongst siblings and step-siblings, Siti longed for her own space to be herself. Growing up in rental housing was harsh for any child. Her mother did little parenting and had no time for her or any of the children. She did not know her biological father or any of the step-fathers who come and leave after a few years.
No one stayed yet everyone stayed.
The family resided in the rental housing from the time Siti was born till the age of 14 when she ran away from home.
No one looked for Siti.
Not her mother, not her siblings or step-siblings, not her school teachers. No one.
Siti worked odd jobs and stayed over at friends’ homes most of the time.
At the age of 17, she met someone, Noorman. Noorman was older, kind and understanding. He listened to her and paid attention when she talks.
Over time, the couple drifted apart.
In August 2016, Noorman landed in prison for petty theft.
Siti, now aged 20, was looking to settle down with a man who can provide. She longed for a place to call home.
In 2016, she meet Zulkifri. Zulkifri was everything Siti had hoped for. He had a house of his own, albeit also a rental unit but it was bigger and he was also saving money for a BTO flat. He had a steady job. He had a good grasp of religion and was willing to overlook her past and her mistakes. Zulkifri also took care of his mother, who doted on Siti like a mother should.
Siti was in love. For the first time, she felt loved, she felt like she belonged and that someone cared for her. Zulkifri would often guide her in religious matters and told her to pray to overcome her sins.
Siti loved him and wanted to please him. She wanted to make him happy always.
But she never seemed to be able to please Zulkifri. He was always angry and raised his hand at her. She was always making mistakes and forgetting things. She made Zulkifri angry, a lot.
Zulkifri hits her. Siti was sure he didn’t mean to as she herself was clumsy and stupid. She deserved to be hit and slapped and punched and kicked.
On the day of her death, Zulkifri had continuously hit Siti with a belt and clothes hangers over a period of two hours. After the continuous beating, Siti started convulsing before eventually succumbing to the injuries.
Zulkifri then placed a white towel over Siti’s body and head. He placed a Quran on top of her. Zulkifri and his mother then left Singapore and left Siti’s body in the flat to decompose.
On 23 August 2017, Zulkifri was charged to two years and 3 months imprisonment for voluntarily causing hurt. As the decomposition was too severe, the cause of death of *Siti Ainun could not be determined.
There was no missing person report for *Siti Ainun. No Facebook appeals to find her.
Her name was Nur Syirin Hamzah.
This was how she lived.
[*Parts of this story is fictional. However, the parts on Syirin’s death were reported in the news retrieved online: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/woman-dies-after-savage%20beating-man-jailed-two-years ]
My first reaction upon reading this story was utter shock and disbelief. Nur Syirin Hamzah was a victim of gender violence, social class and religious ignorance. What further fuelled the shock and disbelief was the short sentence given to the perpetrator of the violence.
The violence and rage directed towards Nur Syirin was tremendous. The fact that she seemingly held on to Zulkifri during the beatings made me wonder about her understanding and world view of interpersonal relationships; her world view of love and her understanding of how she viewed herself as part of society.
I often times wondered about the mother of Zulkifri. She stood by and allowed the abuse to happen. Perhaps, she herself has been a victim of abuse. Perhaps she herself was being abused and victimised by Zulkifri’s temper and anger; a trait he perhaps learnt from his father or from male ‘role models’ in his life or the lack of them. I wondered about Zulkifri too. He was previously convicted for causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means, housebreaking and sexual offences. I wonder if he himself was a victim of circumstances.
I was shocked at the lack of media and public interest on the story. There was no outright rage and fury or appeals made for Nur Syirin Hamzah. In an era of social networks and connectivity, no one looked for her. There was no missing persons report on Nur Syirin Hamzah. I longed to see a picture of Nur Syirin Hamzah. I prowled through facebook pages, online searches to get more information on what her life was like. Till date, there has not been a photo of Nur Syirin in any news media. The media portrayed her death as minimalistic; as if her death did not matter, as if her life did not matter; a faceless victim of gendered violence.
Violence towards others is not an innate trait that passes through generations; it is a learned behaviour comprising of multiple factors such as poor emotion regulation, poor communication, temperament and other factors. These factors coupled with social inequality, poor religious understanding on the role of women made Nur Syirin Hamzah another faceless victim in gendered-based violence.
Raudah is a plus-size Indian-Muslim single woman who mostly wears black or dark-coloured hijabs because she gets food stains on them. Dreams of garnering an army of social workers to change the world and advocate for social justice and equity for all.
Illustration by Ishibashi Chiharu