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Safeta ObhodjasSafeta Obhodjas

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.

“Do you know that their executioners could have crippled you or tear-gassed you!  It would have been even worse if they had arrested you!  Haven’t you heard the rumors that women have been raped in police stations?!  If that were to happen, who would help us; we are strangers in this country.”

After her father had listed all of the horrors that he had ever heard of, Ajla quietly said:  “You are right, all of that could happen to us.  Don’t you see now that only Fuat can save me from this terrible country.”

For several days, her parents, while they consulted about a possible solution, kept her locked up at home.  Finally, they called her mother’s relative, who lived near Dusseldorf.  She had already visited them several times for more than a week, together with her husband, so they could expect that she would return the favor.  They weren’t mistaken:  her relative immediately offered their daughter a place to stay, a free apartment and food.  Ajla didn’t dare to oppose her parents’ search for security, for then she would have to tell the truth about the husband of that relative.  Each time when that married couple had been visiting them, that idiot had tried to seduce her, along with a promise that she would learn from him what kisses from a real man are like.  She was afraid to stay with him in the same space.   She hated both that relative and her spouse, but she would bite her tongue, rather than tell her mother what awaited her there.  She was embarrassed at that shame, and felt herself guilty that something like that had happened in her own family.

During the long wait for a visa, conversations between the two young people intensified.  Fuat constantly stressed that his relatives would behave with great respect towards her, as the two of them were engaged, and also added that his relative were happy that he wasn’t going to marry a girl from his extended family, because of various inherited illnesses for their children.  Ajla was too occupied with herself to think more deeply about Muslim wedding customs and marriage between close relatives.  A possible wedding, etc., wasn’t on the list of her wishes, but if it was the only possibility of leaving for that western country full of freedom for women, she had to agree to that as well. And later she’d see what then would happen.

Fuat promised her that he, his mother, and sister would meet her at the airport.  “In Germany, I will I will slip away from the care of my dear parents.  Then I’ll call my relative and tell her openly that I trust Fuat, and that I want to stay with his sister,” she thought.

When after the plane touched down, she rushed towards that young man who was waiting for her at the exit, she believed good fortune had touched her.  Several seconds later, she slowed down, for she saw that Fuat was standing there alone, although he firmly promised her he would come with his mother and sister.  Next to him there were two women in long coats and black scarves, but she couldn’t connect creatures like that with him.

He was dressed elegantly, with a light shirt and dark red tie, and he looked fantastic in those clothes.  Fuat’s glance immediately glued itself to her blonde, smoothly combed hair, and by his expression, she could only conclude that he was not happy at her arrival.  She took a step closer, but Fuat’s stiffness didn’t allow her.

 “Ajla, I thought that you would think of changing clothes yourself.  I was wrong, I should have told you openly.  This is my mother and my sister Merva,” he introduced her to the women in long coats. “But don’t worry, they will teach you everything already.  They have brought you some gifts.” At that moment he succeeded in smiling.

The younger woman with heavily made-up eyes pulled a bag from her purse. “Welcome!  You are now like my sister, and I’m happy that we will get to know you.  Fuat has told us a lot about you and your family. Come with me, where right around that corner there’s a room with mirrors.  All the women in our family, believe me, all have decided of their own will to dress according to our customs and traditions.  I brought you quite a few scarves; you can choose yourself which color you like: black, dark blue, maroon.  This dark blue one with lace will suit the color of your eyes.  Believe me, when you’re covered up like this, my brother will love you even more, even more.”


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