The Orchard of Lost Souls opens with a crowd scene. It is 21 October 1988, the 18th anniversary of the military coup in which Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in Somalia. The narrative follows three women: Kawsar, a widow in her late fifties, who is marshalled along with everyone else to attend the celebrations; Filsan, a corporal in the army, who is involved in organising the commemorative ceremonies; and Deqo, a young girl from a refugee camp who is one of those rounded up to dance in the performance. Disaster strikes: Deqo inadvertently urinates while dancing and female soldiers begin to beat her up. Kawsar intervenes, and Filsan drags her away to a police station, where she is beaten so badly that she is unable to walk again. Deqo, meanwhile, escapes.
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