This is one of the true stories of Windesheim students, written down by their fellow students. These stories were collected as part of a project named ‘Storytellers’, aimed at stimulating a discussion about diversity. The project was led by Gertjan Aalders from the study programme Journalism and Floor van Renssen from the study programme Teacher Education in Dutch. Five of these stories will appear on WIN online.
A summer night that just won’t end
A young girl, originally from a traditional Islamic family, fled from her family after an intense confrontation with her father and tries to build a life elsewhere and continue her studies. “This ideal image that my parents have of me, a practising Islamic girl with a headscarf and different ambitions than I have, is not me. And I won’t become it for them.”
On a summer evening, around nine o’clock, I came home, walked into the living room and saw my father sitting on the sofa, his devious and fiery look directed towards me. A few metres from him stood my mother, with tears and a hopeless look in her eyes. What was going on here? I had no idea. Then I saw a picture of my ex-boyfriend and me, hand in hand, somewhere along the canals in Amsterdam, lying on the table. The white shards next to the picture must have been a coffee cup before. All that stayed with me from that night is pain. Not even because I can still feel my father’s fists burn on my body. Not because I was called a ‘scandal’, ‘whore’ or whatever else. I feel pain because I will not be accepted by my parents for who I am. I can’t be who I want to be in the presence of my parents.
When I was about sixteen years old, I started to wonder what I believed in. Why was I going to a mosque, who was I praying for, why did I have to be a representation of the culture in which I grew up, those kinds of questions. At the same time, I started to show more interest in boys, mixed parties, alcohol and sex. With whom was I supposed to talk about this? At home, it is a taboo to even utter anything about a boy I like or to ask permission to go out for a night with my friends. It just can’t be done. I shouldn’t even think about bringing up these subjects. It is just not done.
I honestly have no idea what home is. Not that I don’t have a roof over my head, because, thankfully, I do. I have no idea because I have never experienced that homely feeling. In my mind, ‘home’ is supposed to be warm without needing the sun to shine. A place where you can say what you think and feel, where your parents are interested in the events of your day and want to have a conversation with you.
Meanwhile, I had to face the disappointed looks in my mother’s and father’s faces every single day, because I was wearing jeans that were ‘too tight’ and put some effort into my make-up. This ideal image that my parents have of me, a practising Islamic girl with a headscarf and different ambitions than I have, is not me. And I won’t become it for them.
The fact that my father maltreated me was the last drop for me. I couldn’t live under one roof with him. We already barely spoke to each other at home, but after this incident, the atmosphere was even more dreadful. The only thing we both did was avoid each other. If he ate at 18.00, I made sure that I would have a plate of food smuggled into my room by then.
In the days after that, I started looking into rooms as far away from home as possible. I succeeded in a short amount of time and found a room in Utrecht. I made the papers in order, packed my things on a day that my parents weren’t at home and left. To my surprise, I heard nothing from them for the first few days after I had left. Because I still felt love and appreciation for my mother, I decided to write her a letter. In that letter, I tried to describe how broken I really am and how they, my parents, are mostly to blame. My mother called me multiple times after that letter but, for some reason, I still cannot put myself to pick up the phone. For years, I had to live according to the wishes of my parents, and I kept that up for my mother.
The fact that my father maltreated me was the last drop for me.
I didn’t want to lose her. Deep inside, I know she wants me to be happy but doesn’t dare to say so. It is strange, but I am afraid that I would want to come back. I miss her a lot but, at the same time, I don’t want to be confronted with what happened there.
I don’t believe that this is what Islam is about. My parents’ behaviour stems largely from the culture in which they grew up, from the ‘honour’ they need to uphold. A girl that starts a relationship with a man without getting married because she feels like it, puts her entire family in shame. This leads to all the family members going through life with their heads bowed in shame. What a joke. Ridiculous.
I have been living in Utrecht for a year now and I am trying to find my way. I am very happy with my roommates and the people surrounding me. And, if things aren’t going that well, I focus on going to the gym and just sweat off all the pain, even if it is only temporary. Aside from that, I just really want to finish my education at Windesheim. That is where I have wonderful people surrounding me, for which I am so grateful.
To this day, I haven’t had any contact with my parents. That father figure is something I definitely don’t need to see again. But I do hope to hug my mother again sometime. I love her.
How was it to do this interview?
This interview meant a lot me. This is a topic that involves all of us and it is a good thing to think about. The interview was different than I was used to from the Journalism study programme. It was more personal. I recognised a lot in the story of the person I was talking to and that changes the way you talk to each other. The fact that you cannot be whoever you want in the presence of your parents and that you cannot talk about certain things in traditional families hits me hard. That made the interviewing process intense.
Because of this project, I am thinking about diversity a lot more. Everyone is unique and adds something to the society. Diversity can be social, cultural, economic or ethnic. I thought the multicultural aspect was interesting to dive in to. Back in the day, my father moved from Turkey to the Netherlands as well to study and he struggled a lot with his studies and the Dutch norms and values. I understand that there are people who feel left out in the Netherlands. I do think you can influence most of that if you open yourself up. You can stay in your bubble, but you can also step outside and find a place that suits you in society.
The interviewer and interviewee requested to remain anonymous for personal reasons. The editors know the name of the interviewer.