Article

Capernaum

Zain El Hajj, a 12-year-old from the slums of Beirut, is serving a five-year prison sentence in Roumieh Prison for stabbing someone whom he refers to as a "son of a bitch". Neither Zain nor his parents know his exact date of birth as they never applied/received an official birth certificate. Zain is brought before a court, having decided to take civil action against his parents, his mother, Souad, and his father, Selim. When asked by the judge why he wants to sue his parents, Zain answers "Because I was born" (or, more precisely, "because you had me"). Meanwhile, Lebanese authorities process a group of migrant workers, including a young Ethiopian woman named Rahil. The story then flashes back several months to before Zain was arrested. Zain lives with his parents and takes care of at least seven younger siblings who make money in various schemes instead of going to school. He uses forged prescriptions to purchase tramadol pills from multiple pharmacies, which they crush the pills into a powder and soak them into clothes, which his brother sells to drug addicts in prison. Zain also works as a delivery boy for Assad, the family's landlord, and the owner of a local market stall. One morning, Zain helps his 11-year-old sister Sahar to hide the evidence of her first period, fearing she will be married to Assad if her parents discover that she can now become pregnant.

Become a member
Get the latest news right in your inbox. It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. We hate spam as much as we do, so we never spam!