An advertisement for a hotline set up by the Berlin hospital Charité. The suicide prevention program for young girls of Turkish origins urges them to "end your silence, not your life." (in Turkish)
Young Muslim women are often forced to lead double lives in Europe. They have sex in public restrooms and stuff mobile phones in their bras to hide their secret existences from strict families. They are often forbidden from visiting gynecologists or receiving sex ed. In the worst cases, they undergo hymen reconstruction surgery, have late-term abortions or even commit suicide.
Gülay has heard it from her mother so many times: An unmarried woman who has lost her virginity might as well be a whore.
Gülay, 22, lives in Berlin's Neukölln, a district that is home to a high number of Muslim immigrants, and has little in common with the cliché of the "girl with the headscarf." She wears tight jeans, low-cut blouses and has long hair that she doesn't keep covered. She is self-confident and looks people in the eye. Gülay plans to begin a training program to work as an airport ground hostess next year. At first glance, she comes across as a poster child for successful integration.
Nevertheless, she is adamantly opposed to seeing her name in print, just as she would never meet a journalist for an interview in one of the hookah bars in her neighborhood that are so popular among Arab and Turkish immigrants. She is worried that someone could overhear her talking about her family's strict morals, and about the rigid code of honor in her social environment that prevents girls from having sex before marriage and forbids them from having boyfriends.
Gülay is thinking about how best to sum up her dilemma. She nervously stirs her tea before launching into a litany of complaints. "The boys can screw around as much as they want, but if a girl does it she can expect to be shot," she says. "That's just sick." She first had sex five years ago, and it completely changed her life. Since then, she has been deathly afraid of being branded by her family as a dishonorable girl -- or, worst yet, punished and cast out.