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This article dated 22 June 2006 in the Kurdish-separatist Turkish-language daily Özgür Gündem features the work of a women writer living in a conservative region of Turkey whose novels tell of the restrictions that local customary practice places on the lives of women. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

Urfa women writer’s novel on customary practice

Emine Güllüoğlu (54) who lives in Urfa, a province in which tradition is still very much alive, has now written her third novel in response to interest shown in her novel concerning customary practices that it took her 28 years to get published.

Güllüoğlu, whose husband is a farmer and who herself is a housewife, said that she based her novel Bize Sevmek Yasak (We are Forbidden to Love) on an event that she witnessed during her student years, but that she was only able to have it published in 2001.

Güllüoğlu, who says “My greatest wish is to see my books in the hands of other readers”, claims that she is Urfa’s first women writer.

Güllüoğlu, a graduate of teacher training school, stating that initially she wanted to have 200 copies printed for distribution solely within her circle of acquaintances, says, “But I had a thousand copies printed at the recommendation of the publishers. The book sold out quickly following its first print run.” Güllüoğlu, saying that following publication of the book, which tells of the difficulties faced by three young girls at high school when they fall foul of local customs because of the men they fall in love with, certain people in her immediate circle expressed their dissatisfaction but that at the same time she received congratulatory telephone calls from various parts of Turkey, points out how difficult it is to write a book based on customary practices in a city like Urfa where customs and traditions run very deep. The writer who, two years after her first book appeared, published her second novel entitled Seni Yüreğimde Götürdüm (I Carried You in My Heart), is working on a new book entitled Törenin Soldurduğu Çiçekler (The Flowers Customary Practice has Caused to Wilt). Güllüoğlu says the novel’s three heroes are still alive.

A number of binding traditions

These are some of the difficulties that traditions create for women and young girls in the region:

    A young girl wishing to marry the man she loves, if a relative such as a cousin has requested her, requires the permission of this person before she may marry the man of her choice.

    In a common form of marriage in the region known as berdel (a reciprocal exchange of girls), if one of the parties cannot get on with their spouse and leaves them, the woman in the other marriage has to return to her father’s house (even if she gets on very well with her husband).

    In another traditional practice known as ’cradle-notching”, a decision is made to marry the children of relatives or friends when these are still babies, and they are forced to comply when they grow up.

    In order to end a blood feud between two families, the guilty party may give a daughter to the other party.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton