Obaid was born in the Dark Lands before the Total War. By the war's end, he no longer had either a home or family, and he realized that he would have to survive by his wits. Seeing an opportunity in the Global Union tourists who frequently visited al-Balat, Obaid decided to run a begging ring, using young children to arouse the pity of the rich Unioners. Few of the children were actually orphans--rather, Obaid paid parents for their children, promising that in al-Balat, the children would have a better life. He partnered with a young woman named Nafia, who helped him run the "business" from a large, abandoned building. Obaid called himself "Khal," the Arabic word for "Uncle," while Nafia went by "Khala," or "Aunt." The begging ring became a "family" in name, but Obaid gave the children anything but familial treatment.
Obaid set strict quotas for the children's begging, insisting that they bring in a set amount of money or suffer punishment. Fear, Obaid soon discovered, was the best motivation at his command. But while the younger children usually could meet their quotas, the older ones drew less sympathy. Obaid soon resorted to cruelty in order to reap a profit. Nafia protected the girls from physical punishment, appealing to Obaid's business sense, but Obaid treated the boys harshly when they failed. Some lost fingers or suffered eye injuries from "accidents" that occurred during their punishments. Perhaps the worst "accident" occurred to eleven-year-old Sarim, who lost part of his leg. To Obaid, however, Sarim's maiming proved profitable, since an older child on crutches could draw nearly as much sympathy as a young child.
When Obaid discovers that one of the girls did not fulfill her quota, he becomes so angry that he breaks the rules he and Nafia had set by entering the girls' sleeping quarters. Nafia refuses to tell that it was Ali who missed the quota, and Obaid threatens to whip Nafia instead. Ali admits her guilt in order to protect Nafia. Obaid locks her in the basement closet, knowing that her fear of the "tinchers" will be sufficient motivation for her to improve her yield.
Obaid's comfortable world begins to fall apart after the lights in the building inexplicably turn on. Fearing that the unheard-of power surge could cause other Dark Landers to try claiming the building, he orders everyone outside. When the lights go off, he and the rest of the "family" return to the building, only to be captured there several nights later in a raid by the International Moderators of Peace (IMPS).Obaid, like the others, is imprisoned by the IMPS for three years. Ali eventually frees him through the Ultranet, despite his past cruelty. Obaid abandons his "family," who prefer Marklessness over submission to the government that unjustly imprisoned them for three years. He gladly receives the Mark and opens a pottery shop in Third Rome.
Obaid is a greedy man, although he has never been wealthy. His cruelty to the children springs from a desire for profit, no matter what the cost. Whether Obaid's time in prison benefitted his character is uncertain. At any rate, he recognized that being Marked offered a richer life than he had known at the head of a begging ring, and Obaid was never one to sacrifice money on the altar of principle.
Family and RelationshipsEdit
Obaid's relationship with Nafia was solely business-based. He needed her help, but he made it very clear to her that he was in charge. Nafia feared him as much as the children did. If Obaid had any positive relationships as a child, he is clearly incapable of them as an adult.