Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 6, 2013

Woman in Timbuktu punished for forbidden love

(Continued)

They produced a pamphlet outlining how a woman should wear the veil, and whom she could and could not be seen with. Eschewing any contact with women, they handed the leaflets out to the men.

One of them was Salaka's boyfriend. He drove his motorcycle to her house to give it to her.

She didn't have enough money to buy the plain, colorless veil prescribed to cover the entire body. So her boyfriend went to the market and paid for two, one red and one blue. The women of sub-Saharan Africa are so used to wearing vibrant colors, he couldn't find any that were black.

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As their love affair grew more intense, so did the crackdown by the Islamists in northern Mali, an area equal in size to Afghanistan.

Three months after they arrived, they arrested an illiterate man and woman, both dirt-poor herders living together for years with their animals outside the town of Aguelhok. The man had left his wife to reunite with his teenage love, and they had two children out of wedlock, the youngest just six months old.

In the last week of July, the Islamists sped into their nomadic camp and arrested them. They drove them to the city center, where they announced the couple would be stoned to death for adultery.

They dug a hole the size of a man and forced them to kneel inside. They made the villagers come out to see what Shariah was.

Then they cast the first stone.

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The fear was now palpable on the streets of Timbuktu. Salaka and her boyfriend stopped seeing each other in public. When he came, they sat in the enclosed courtyard of her parents' home, behind the veil of its chrome-red dirt walls.

Even in relatively modern Timbuktu, it was not considered appropriate to leave the couple alone in a room. So he arranged for a friend to loan him the keys to his empty house in a neighborhood less than a mile away.

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