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Safeta ObhodjasSafeta Obhodjas

Spirit of Bosnian update

Veröffentlicht am 20.04.2021

 http://www.spiritofbosnia.org/current-issue/living-and-writing-as-an-author-in-exile/

Editor: Keith Doubt

Dzevad Karahasan and Safeta Obhodjas on the same page. Spirit of Bosnia. I hope, my colleague won’t hear about it, because that could make him sleepless for many nights. An essay by a woman close to his name, which is only mentioned there. I think, his ego cannot bear such thing.

Dear Keith, I don’t know, how long you were in Bosnia, I don’t know, if you in your role as professor could see or at least guess, how our men, especially intellectual, treat the female creative spirit. These machos believe, that women mustn’t think without their permission. I’m so glad, you published my essay on that website. Und more, I’m happy, because I’m there as an author, and the men are only mentioned. That rarely happens to me. Thank you very much!  

Living and Writing as an Author in Exile

My native country is Bosnia and Herzegovina. I did not want to leave my land. In 1992, Serbs carried out their genocidal action called “ethnic cleaning” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many Muslims had to leave, or they would be destroyed and executed. I immigrated with my family to Germany. Although it was an unknown culture for me, I was happy to be in a free country, where I could work and, at the same time, learn. German became my second language through which I developed my writing.

My first phase in Germany was from 1992 to 1995; it was a refugee’s agony. During the day, I was burdened with work: I worked in several households as a cleaner, took care of both the household and the family, and then I ran to the classroom of a public school to learn German for a few hours. At the same time, the painful war in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the killing, dying, hunger and misery of my compatriot was constantly in my head. The war was present in all the media. Bosnia’s tragedy was broadcast live every day to living rooms around the world. Many Germans become engaged and collected humanitarian aid for people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These people needed someone to inform them first hand, someone who had just come from Bosnia. By helping with this humanitarian work, I realized how important knowledge of the German language was. I felt much better when I could use a word at the same level as other collaborators and hosts.

Literature from Bosnia was in high demand, but not the literature I wrote . The so-called “mainstream” tried to show the German public the cosmopolitanism of Sarajevo and the best sides of Tito’s socialism, in which cultures and religions lived together in harmony with positive attitudes toward one another. I did not have a novel that had a multicultural fairy tale about my homeland as its theme. One editor liked my storytelling style, and she wanted to order a love novel. “But I do not write love novels. I am writing about Bosnian women who have been exploited and exploited in the name of love, even in their own families,” I said. “No, we do not need these types of stories now. A love story between a Serbian boy and a Muslim girl at this time would sell well.”  I could never write a novel with an imposed content, and so I stuck to my job as a cleaner. A few years leter, a small publisher wanted to publish works from “endangered cultures” such as the Bosnian culture with Islamic roots, and he published my books.

With the first publications, my refugee phase between 1996 and 1997 in Germany ended. After that, I was both a cleaner and an author in exile. In 1997, with the efforts of my publisher, I was invited to the symposium “Publishing in Exile” to talk about my living and working between cultures: Islamic, Slavic, and European, and my exile in Germany. There was a lot of discussion about the writer’s situation in someone else’s culture. The sentence of a clerk from Munich impressed me deeply, and I remembered it well:  “Women in exile are the best cleaners in Germany. Most of them are well educated.”  I was a cleaner but an author as well.  

In 1997 and 1998, I was extremely happy because I received several work scholarships. For a couple of years without financial problems, with a good knowledge of German, I was able to react faster to my environment, gather information, speak up, and understand the problems of migration. At the same time, I could not understand why political and cultural authorities dealt superficially with immigration problems. A diagnosis of the problems was constantly being put forth. Integration, however, was going in the wrong direction, namely, nothing was done to prevent the emergence of parallel societies in German cities.

Women in exile were doomed not only to work mostly as cleaners, but also to preserve the traditions and customs of their forsaken lands. They had to endure the cruelties arising from this circumstance. Those who spoke out, who wanted to start discussions about the problems of immigrants, especially migrant women, were most often alone  and could not count on the support of German political and cultural structures.

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A Bosnian Girl on the Road from Istanbul to Germany

Veröffentlicht am 04.04.2021

 

Translated by Masha Belyavski-Frank

 

Ajlina’s parents, who were constantly worrying about their daughter in thisdizzying world, sometimes openly, but more often surreptitiously, controlled all of her activities and friendships.   It wasn’t possible for them to have it go unnoticed, nor did she try to hide her relationship with a certain Fuat from Germany, a relationship which had developed intensively in the last year.  Because their friendship was carried out only through electronic media, through the Internet and Skype, they hadn’t really grasped this.  Sometimes they would ask as a joke:  ‘When will we see your ghost-friend?’  The desire of their arbitrary daughter to study German at the Goethe Institute was immediately seen as a quirk:  the more  she studies, the less she’ll think of foolish things.  Better a ghost-boyfriend in German, than a real one in Turkey.

A ghost-friend, not him!  One day, Ajla announced to them a visit from that young man.  For several days, her mother and father couldn’t come to their senses and believe that that German Turk from the Internet was a real person.

Their daughter recited his biography to them:  A twenty-seven year-old man, and very successful as well, working as a manager for a German company, and just now on a business trip around Istanbul.  Wasn’t that all super positive!  Both of them had waited a long time for this chance to get to know each other in person.  After this explanation, Ajla proudly added that he was grateful to her for his excellent knowledge of the language.  Through their phone conversations and constant correspondence, Fuat learned both colloquial and literary Turkish.  Being bi-lingual brought him a well-paying job as a manager.  Ajlina’s story didn’t leave any impression on her parents.  They unanimously refused to show any hospitality in their home to that foreigner, and immediately experienced an explosion of fury from their daughter.

“You brought me as a baby into the country of women-haters; I couldn’t decide that. When you had already fled from the war in Bosnia, why didn’t you travel to the West, like all other civilized people?  My friend Fuat lives in Europe, and it’s my greatest wish to leave here.  In his country, women are free; he told me how they are free and themselves decide about their own lives.  Why is it a sin to wish for freedom?”  As always when her parents tried to mention their authority, Ajlia shook at their bad advice and their fault that she had to live in that land that was foreign to them.

Late into the night she overheard whispering from her parents’ bedroom, and hoped for a positive outcome from that consultation.  In the long hours of sleeplessness, almost until dawn, she prayed to a higher power:  ‘Dear Allah, open the road to Europe for me, at least through that unknown Fuat Kačer.   I beg you, I beg, I beg you!”

In the morning, her parents announced that they wanted to invite her friend to supper.  The first meeting between the two young people could only be held in their presence.

The young man from Germany was very diligent, and had many business discussions and appointments in Istanbul, but he still managed to visit Ajla and her parents twice.  During his visit, the girl absorbed everything that he told of the life of a Muslim in a country where he had gone with his parents as a baby.  Whenever he returned to that subject, he always stressed how the women in his family were very strong individuals, and how they didn’t allow anyone to tell them what to do.  His mother and sister had even taken part in demonstrations against Nazi groups and ideologies, organized by Germans against a radical group.  Ajla didn’t understand what those women were demonstrating against and why, but she remembered one thing, that they had done it of their own volition.

Although Fuat behaved very decently and spoke with a lot of respect to Ajla, her parents were not convinced that all of that was sincere.  “I have a feeling that what he presents to us is not his true self,” was her mother’s judgment, but the girl pretended not to hear.

Immediately after his return, already in his first conversation on Skype, Fuat invited Ajla to come to Germany.  He proposed that she stay with his older sister, Merva, the very one who had bravely marched in the demonstrations.  In an instant, Ajla went crazy with happiness, and completely changed her daily schedule.  She abandoned her art studies, and threw herself into studying German.  Right at that time in Istanbul, demonstrations began against arbitrariness of the Turkish powers, and that gave her the possibility of doing an internship on European democracy.  For three days, she went with a group of students to Taksim Square, where she stood for several hours in peaceful protests, as much as to test her courage.  On the third day, someone sent her father on his cell phone pictures of the participants in the silent demonstrations, pictures in which at some point he recognized his daughter.  When she arrived home in the evening, he was already beside himself with worry and fury.

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Safeta Obhodjas, Author in German and Bosnian, Sargon Boulus, Poet in Arabic and English

Veröffentlicht am 01.03.2021

Article: Safeta Obhodjas and Sargon Boulus. Legenden und Staub:

Auf den christlichislamischen Pfaden des Herzens.   (Book review)

Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Vol. 44, No. 3 (Summer, 2009)

 Book Review

 Dr Prof. Allen Podet

State University College, Buffalo, NY

 

Article from:  Journal of Ecumenical Studies Article date: June 22, 2009 Author: Podet, Allen COPYRIGHT 2009 Journal of Ecumenical Studies.

This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group,

Farmington Hills, Michigan.  All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group.

In this book, Obhodjas has collaborated with Boulus to produce a literary arabesque, a dance in which first one, then the other, addresses themes including mentorship, books, the Gilgamesh epic, education of the young, and confrontation with the police.

Boulus, born in Iraq in 1944, died in Berlin 2007, he was a Christian Arab descendent of the threatened Christian Assyrian sect, a community that retains its own Semitic language. He eventually moved to Beirut, Lebanon, which offered a more secure Christian community. He was the poet who broke the classical forms and created an Arabic poetry, altogether fresh and exciting, that gained him an international following, especially among the New York arts community and later the San Francisco cognoscenti, among whom he lived forty years. He become a pillar of the “Beat” generation and was prominent in the usual political protests. He introduced Arab readers to Allen Ginzberg, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath, and the older English poetic tradition. His works in this book center on the confrontation of Christen and Muslim and how the two enrich one another. He remains best known, however, for his revolution of Arabic poetry, where his influence is profound and extensive.

Obhodjas, is a Muslim prose writer from Bosnia. Born 1951 in Pale, a small town near Sarajevo, she grew up in Bosnia, took her degree in journalism from Sarajevo University, and began writing radio plays and articles, often about the fate and difficulties of women. Obhodjas’s Bosnia has been in turmoil for the last half-century, with religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity leading to a fermenting and fascinating society at best, and perpetual strife to the point of murder at worst. Since she was forced into exile in 1992 by the “ethnic cleansing,” she has been resident principally in Wuppertal, Germany, und has published largely in German, sometimes in Bosnian. Her approach in this book and in general is that of phenomenology, observing her characters closely and analyzing their lives and actions with a sympathetic eye. Her characteristic humor is compassionate, not unkind.

 What emerges in this work is a cross-cultural love letter, with profound insight from the one tradition on the other. The book is fascinating for its contrasts and represents an extraordinarily successful intellectual collaboration.

 

Sargon Boulus died a long time ago. But I keep him and his stories in my memories. I want to give his poem Who knows the story to the readers of my blog. Please click to open it.

 



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Scheherezade in a Winter Country

Veröffentlicht am 21.02.2021

In 1997 I lived in the city of Stuttgart for three months. I had received a work grant with a condition to live and work in their Writers’ House that summer. For the first time in my life, I lived alone, with no family close by. I did not know anyone in that city and in my loneliness, I began contemplating my childhood and my youth, and my beginnings as a writer in Bosnia. What drove me to write stories about the life of Bosnians Muslims?

I wrote a story about my big success as a thirteen-year-old student in my hometown Pale: I had received a literary prize for my essays in a book publisher’s contest. This story developed further, and I found myself writing a novel about my life in Bosnia before the war of 1992. I was focusing on the time after the Second World War as I was trying to describe, through my own memories, the time when all three nationalities lived together in peace. And so, the novel “Scheherazade in a Winter Country” was born, a testimony of our dreams before the nationalists stirred up the hatred. I am glad I was able to get few chapters translated in English, to add to this blog.

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My Biography in English

Veröffentlicht am 18.01.2021

Switching Berween two Languages - Bosnian and German

Safeta Obhodjas , is one of the many writers and intellectuals from Bosnia und Herzegovina who, because of genocide and "ethnic cleansing" in
the period of 1992-95, had to leave their home country and become refugees in Europe und other continents. She was born in 1951 in Pale, near Sarajevo, in a Bosnian - Moslem family. There she got married und gave birth to her two daughters. She studied journalism at the University of Sarajevo. Together with her family, she lived in Pale and commuted to Sarajevo. In 1980-1992, she published various radio plays for Radio Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Zagreb.  She also published articles and stories in the literary magazines in these same cities. Her first book "The Women and the Secret" was published 1987 in Sarajevo by the publisher "Veselin Maslesa." She received numerous accolades for her stories and radio plays. In 1992, because of their Muslim religion, she and her family were driven out from Pale by Bosnian Serbs. Since then, she has been living and working in exile in Wuppertal, Germany.
She is the first Bosnian writer who writes about the challenges of modern times in Bosnia. Her main subject in her literature opus has been women's life and women's destiny in Bosnia's multi-religious and culturally complex society in the last 50 years. As a writer she keeps the role of a neutral observer who describes the events of peoples' destinies with very precise details and with a great deal of humor and irony. As a storyteller she upholds the suspense from the first to the last page
In Germany, she works in both Bosnian und German languages. Critics describe her prose as a compilation of writings that connect Orient and Oxidant together. She has received financial support from various German cultural foundations for her engagement and her writing.
In the last few years four of her books have been published in German: the novels "Hana", "On a Bosnia's Banquet", "Sheherezade in a Winter-Country" and short stories "The Woman and the Secret" by "Melina Verlag;" and "Sheherezade in a Winter-Country", by "Bosanska rijec" (Bosnian word) Tuzla and Wuppertal in Bosnian language.
Her most recent book is “Sisters Love – a Halal-Soap Opera” in German and  "The Fruits in Goethe's Garden were Bitter" in Bosnian, the publisher "Bosnian Word" Tuzla, Bosnia.

 

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Stories in English

Veröffentlicht am 31.01.2020

 Dzamilla’s Ideal

 

This morning I was to deliver a lecture for the upper level students of the Siblings Scholl Gymnasium. As I was about to enter the room, I instantly noticed a familiar face. Who could have overlooked the dark glistening eyes of my neighbor Dzammila? This unexpected encounter was not exactly pleasant for either one of us. We knew one another well, even though until this very moment, we had barely exchanged few words with each other. Only a small fence separated our backyards in the Wiesenstrasse. Nonetheless, the modest shrubs and flowers that grew there could not prevent us from observing and getting to know one another. Thus, every day I watched Dzammila play in the backyard or at the terrace with her younger siblings. I watched the little ones eagerly make noises and run around ferally. Yet, when her father returned home from work, they would instantly change back into quiet and well-behaved children without him raising his voice. I saw a friendship develop between Dzammila and a neighborhood boy as they exchanged their CD’s and videotapes. If it so happened that Dzamilla’s brother caught them, a grand finale with a slap in Dzamilla’s face would generally conclude this exchange. Also, Dzammila’s mother would intervene loudly and screamingly. Although I was not able to understand her language, nevertheless I could easily guess what she was saying. This little woman seemed to be a good guardian of her tradition and tried to teach Dzammila the virtues of an obedient daughter. I was certain that these were the same orders that I used to hear back then from my Nana and later on even from my mother: “ Girl, shame on you, your skirt is too short! Go and change fast before your father comes back!  Dzammila, where are your siblings? Haven’t I told you that you should be watching them? If they did something again, you’d have to pay dearly for that! Haven’t I told you to come home right away after school?” 

The atmosphere in the neighbor’s family reminded me of my own childhood in a desolate place far away from here in a Bosnian provincial nest. And still it appeared to me that in comparison to my current situation, my childhood was a single sunny oasis. To rid myself of my war experiences and of the recently acquired condition of being a refugee in a foreign country, I started to use my childhood memories as a foundation for new stories. First, I wrote a story with the title ”The Prize,” and was very content with the depiction of the contradicting traits of my father’s personality. Thus, I was able to forgive my father everything that had hurt me before. My newly discovered childhood gave me strength to overcome the challenges of a foreign country. This could have been a fast healing experience, if it were not for my husband’s insistence to dwell psychologically on the war and the fleeing. That used to be a time of horrible arguments between us. Only deaf ears in our neighborhood could have overheard these quarrels. In order to get away from his never-ending analyses of the situation on the Balkans, I would retreat to a table under a plum tree in the backyard, and work there during the summer. Nevertheless, the apartment soon became too narrow for my husband. He could not stand being lonely anymore, and would come outside to share his new insights on the war, the reasons why it happened, and who was to blame. He dealt with this in such a manner as if we were living in a waiting room, and were never allowed to forget our suffering. Thus, he failed to notice that our relationship was breaking apart gradually. In order to distance myself from him, I used my readings and writings to build my own defense wall. In this little niche, I attempted to become better acquainted with the new language and the new culture. My husband was upset because I found an activity for myself alone and hence allowed myself to continue living spiritually in exile. Consequently, our mutual respect sank to point zero, and would continue to sink even further until we both realized that it was impossible for the two of us to be living together. As a matter of fact, Dzammila and her mother were able to hear our last fight in the backyard. I was working under the tree when he came by firmly convinced to victoriously set an end to our marriage. He blamed me for not having any understanding for him and his suffering. “ I have not been exactly spared. I, as well, have lost everything!” I said and stuck my nose deeper in a book in order to hide from him. Suddenly, all the books, papers, and notepads flew all over the backyard. “ Stop showing off your strength to me! Who do you think you are? To me you’re nothing but a conceited, ignorant and insensitive witch that only deserves to live in solitude,” he yelled at me, pale with anger. “ Fine! Go ahead, leave at last!” My voice was shrill. “ I’d rather choose solitude over you being buried next to me. You’re not living any more; instead you’re only eking out a miserable existence. And, you’re also forcing me to die spiritually! You take great delight in torturing me mentally!” I was happy that Dzammila and her mother, who were sitting in their backyard, could not understand us.

After my husband returned to our home country, I found a new occupation. I collaborated on the projects of intercultural organizations that dealt with the situation of female immigrants in Germany. There, I was often introduced as a role model and invited to give readings. The organizers and moderators were always able to find very nice wording for my feminist engagement. “A woman, who was born and raised in a traditional Islamic family and later dared to pursue her own paths. A writer who had the courage to represent the society from a point of view of a woman...” – These flattering words were the balm for my wounds. This made me forget how much I missed my husband and how being in solitude had been torturing me lately. Now I was convinced that my work had a purpose. Hence, the commission to give a lecture about the women in exile led me to Dzammila’s classroom this morning. The principal, who invited me, introduced me emphatically to the students and asked me to read my narrative “ The Prize,” that has already been familiar to her. She was curious, and kept asking if I let my own experiences come across through my literature. “Only a little bit,” I said with a smile. While I was reading and revealing my paths between the cultures, Dzammila’s eyes were following me attentively. “Girls, please do not get me wrong, “ I thought, and stressed how my father, despite his patriarchic behavior, allowed me to have a happy childhood. When the reading was over, I immediately sensed that the principal was, all of a sudden, cold and distanced towards me. I could read her discontent from her petrified face expressions. It was obvious to me that I had not fulfilled her expectations. While we were drinking coffee in her office, an unpleasant silence prevailed between us. I wondered if that had anything to do with my German. She noticed my embarrassment and tried to act more friendly. “ You know, you have really learned to speak our language well. Good for you!” she said. “Thanks, but I apparently must have done something wrong.“ My curiosity superseded my embarrassment. Her face regained a somewhat milder expression. “ You did not ... You did not emphasize enough that you had been distanced from your family. The girls have to hear clearly how you have won your struggle against tradition. You probably have to give more readings in schools. I would like to give you a few tips for your next appearance...“.

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