Necla Kelek, an Istanbul-born sociologist and writer, has made a name for herself in Germany with a book about "mail-order brides" brought from rural Turkey as wives for young Turkish men living in Germany.
The marriages, arranged by the man's parents according to traditional customs, have markedly increased the number of Turkish women in Germany who have little or no knowledge of their new home country and often end up isolated in Turkish ghettos.
In addition to writing the book "The Foreign Bride", Kelek has campaigned -- unsuccessfully -- for a law requiring Turkish brides to be at least 24 years old before they are allowed to move to Germany.
Parent's separation led to freedom
Kelek moved to Germany with her family as a child but rebelled against the same traditions she describes in her book.
"What saved me was that my father abandoned us and I was not attractive enough for suitors. It is because of this that I am free," Kelek told Reuters by telephone from Berlin.
"I am a very religious person and am also raising my son to be religious. Islamic tradition and Turkish culture are in me but I cannot accept a system in which I am not free and in which I must serve a man."
Kelek explains that her older sisters were married off in Turkey when they were young. "My father did not like the level of freedom between boys and girls in Germany. We had to serve my father when he came home. However, one day I rebelled against his authority and locked myself in a room. He broke the door down with an axe. That was the last time I saw him. Then he returned to Turkey."
Fresh import brides hamper integration
Kelek thinks there is no process of integration among Muslim immigrants in Germany. "When you continuously bring in fresh brides from central Anatolia, you will never get integration. Every year, a new first generation of immigrants arrives, and the integration process starts all over again. I campaigned that Turkish import brides should be at least 24 years old to come to Germany. But this failed as some Turkish groups thought it discriminated against the brides," Kelek explains.
"Many of the import brides come from almost feudal societies, where they have to serve men morning to night. For them obviously it is good if they are escaping this. I call this the Germany 'dowry', because in former times a price had to be paid for the bride. Now today if the groom says 'I will bring you to Germany' the parents are often willing to give the girl away for free.
The stigma of the headscarf
In Kelek's opinion the headscarf is a stigma that a covered woman cannot escape.. "Whether a woman covers up or strips in both instances she is dependant on the man and not free. In both cases she is a sexual object."
"I am not trying to turn every girl into a victim. But there are victims and I talk about them. Maybe sometimes I do not mention the willing headscarf wearers enough. Fine. But those women take no responsibility for the misery that weakens the quality of life of many Muslim women. Their social and political responsibility extends only to saying 'believe in God and pray. That will free you'," Kelek explains.
Source: Turkish Daily News (English)