Interview with Fatima, 20-21, Turkish, middle class, Muslim. Women, Risk and AIDS Project, London, 1989. Anonymised version including field notes. (Ref: LJH2)
Anonymised transcript of interview with Fatima, a second generation immigrant whose parents are from Turkey. She isn't too fussed about children at the moment and is enjoying her freedom. Fatima found the TV programmes and adverts on AIDS unrealistic and embarrassing. She has some very strong, left-wing anti-Thatcher political values, and thinks that the Conservative party should have more young people on board to reach a wider cross-section of society. Her parents are both strict Muslims, but Fatima does not agree with much of the religion - there is a big cultural clash between her and her parents, though Fatima comes across as very strong-willed and politically driven.
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A. Which scares DEV - he'd run a mile! I think he's quite keen on the idea, but I
don't think he wants to admit to it.
A. Cos I think he'd like to be able to do what he wants to do and sort of grow up and
whatever else. I mean, he's 28 but I think they're all kids at heart, aren't they? I think
they've all got minds of 3 year olds. I think I'd eventually like it. I mean, I say that, I
just say that off the top of my head. I mean, I used to say it when I was smaller,
when I wasn't particularly bothered about kids, I used to say, 'I'll never treat my kids
Q. Yeah, yeah. Right, automatically but I was just thinking that, I mean, some
people these days sort of think to themselves, 'Do I want to have kids ever?'
whereas the more normal thing is to expect that at some stage ...
A. At some stage, yeah.
Q. Kids will appear!
A. It's usually the ones who don't want kids that get 'em.
A. I mean, that happened to a friend of mine. She was in the middle of a course, she
was in her thirties though, I mean isn't old at all but which by educational standards,
I think, you're getting on a bit in fact. I mean, to me 32 is still very young. I mean,
only when you are over about 45, I think, is when you're a bit ... So, you are over 45,
are you? You don't look it!
Q. Don't worry about it!
A. I think she suddenly got pregnant and she had to drop the course and she's
about 6 months pregnant now and I rang her up the other day and I think she really
resents the baby, you know, and I think that's not healthy. She said, 'I've only just
got over the shock of being pregnant. I was quite happy with the budgie and the
Q. Yeah. Is she married or in a relationship?
A. Yeah, yeah. She was married when came on the ... I met her on the foundation.
In fact, she was the first one to say, 'I think that DEV has got a soft spot for you'.
A. She was the first one to realise. I was unaware of it. I think you usually are. She
was quite shocked, and I think her husband was quite shocked. I think they liked the
idea of just having the two of them which I can't blame them for, I mean it's not
selfish to just want to be together and not have any screaming kids running around.
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. They had decided not to have kids but it's just ... Something she's going to have
to live with for the rest of her life though.
Q. Well, that's the problem with children, isn't it? It's the irreversible decision, or if it's
not a decision it's the irreversible act.
A. Mm, I mean, there's nothing ... I think she could have had an abortion, but I think
she suddenly thought 'Well, this is the last time that I'm actually going to be able to
have ... you know, this is my last chance.' At 32 it's a bit of a dodgy age to have a
A. I don't know where it ends. You just can't have kids when you stop your period
Q. That's right.
A. But I think you get more infertile sort of thing don't you as you get older?
Q. Yes, you do, as you get older.
A. It gets more difficult to get pregnant.
Q. More difficult to get pregnant and, also, I suppose you'll be older as the child is
older as well so it might be more hard work for you, sort of thing.
A. Yeah, I mean, at 60 you don't want an 18 year old.
Q. Yeah, yeah. Slightly complicated. But I think these days women are having
babies later because they're kind of inserting their careers in the middle.
Q. You don't have them at the very beginning when you have your career and then
you feel middle to late thirties or something, 'Aha' ...
A. 'Something I forgot about', yeah.
Q. Late family.
A. No, I mean, I think you've got to be very mature to have kids. Some of them
obviously, they don't ask for them, they just get them, but I think for me at 21 I'm just
not, the thought of having to look after somebody else. I can barely look after
Q. I'm sure I used to feel like that when I was your age.
A. You haven't ...?
Q. I've never had any children.
A. Ever married?
A. I don't, I don't blame you really. I think it's quite a nice life on your own.
Q. Well I have lived with people, I'm living with someone now.
A. I'm sure it's a lot better than marriage for all they say about it. I think it's a lot less,
well, I think it doesn't break your heart as much as it would have done if you had
been married to someone for five years and find you have to go through a divorce
A. It could be quite messy, I suppose, can't it?
Q. And traumatic as well.
Q. I suppose I'd have to disentangle property and so forth.
A. Have you bought?
Q. We've bought a house together, yeah.
A. That must make it a bit more complicated but it's still not as bad as being
Q. It's the other sort of elements of it really, isn't it?
A. I mean, you feel that you have to stay for the sake of the marriage.
(Chat about police in the vicinity).
Q. It's a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council. I'll give you a little
thing so that you can take it away and see what you are taking part in, so you can
read it all up.
A. I've always heard of things like this ... surveys ... they're sort of announced on
tele that there's been a survey on such and such and such and such has been
revealed and all this sort of thing and I've never actually been able to take part in
one. I mean, they didn't ask me ...
Q. They probably didn't find you, they didn't hang around in bars finding young
women. I'm finding the young women in all sorts of different places. Let me just go
back to the AIDS thing again.
Q. Where do you think that you got most of the information that you have about
A. Television. I think that's the most powerful thing anyway. I think they do, you
know, they do things on the, um, the between the 18-30, you know there's a bracket
for some programmes, a sort of age group?
A. Things like, you know the Night Network sort of programmes, or Def II - there's
Def II on BBC 2 now at the moment and they all do sort of investigative reports.
Q. What was that programme on Sunday afternoon?
A. Network 7. All those sorts of programmes. I mean, I've seen all these
Q. Oh yes. What did you think of those?
A. I think they're quite ... I don't think that they're very true to life. I mean, I don't
think there's people who sort of sit there making suggestive comments about
staying behind and going to bed with each other. I don't know how it all works cos
I've never been in a situation like that but ... I found them quite embarrassing. I sort
of sat there going (gesture of embarrassment), you know, through my fingers. I just
sort of don't really wanna see this. And it's embarrassing sitting there with your mum
Q. That's what I was gonna say - were you watching it with your boyfriend or your
mum and dad?
A. Well, me and my boyfriend just have a laugh about it. But with your mum and dad
you sort of, 'I don't really know what's going on' sort of thing. Well, with mine I
always have - I don't know what it's like with more open-minded mums and dads. I
mean, I just cringe when come on specially if they're sitting with me and it's obvious
your dad's wondering, you know, like, do I know what's going on in this advert?
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. No, I don't like them.
Q. What about those original government ones, you know, the 'Don't Die of
Ignorance' with a kind of granite slab - did you see any of those?
A. When it comes shooting up through the water! No, I didn't like those. I thought
they were a bit boring actually. I mean, once you've seen it once, you don't want to
see it again. And it kept coming up this bit of, I dunno, it probably was granite or
whatever ... just shooting up ... and I thought well, it's not exactly ... it's not
frightening, it's not sort of ... it doesn't put the wind up you, sort of thing. I thought, I
think the latest one that they've got with the, you know the guy walking around with
the red dot on his back to show he's got AIDS or whatever - he's infected and at the
end of it he's about to inject his girlfriend. I mean that's a bit more powerful.
Q. Mm. Yeah.
A. Cos you wanna tell him to stop, you know, 'Don't do it' sort of thing, I think it does
provoke something in you, but I mean that AIDS ad for the government, that was
dreadful. They're all government sponsored though, aren't they?
Q. Yeah and they're just starting up a new one. The one that they've started now I
noticed in the newspapers, a couple of weeks ago I think it came out, has got these
pictures of this extremely beautiful young woman saying she looks like this now
A. In a few years, you turn it over and ...
Q. And she looks exactly the same, yeah. And I couldn't decide whether that was
sexist or not, sort of thing. I mean, if they had ...
A. Yeah, I think it was a bit. I think it sort of hit the cord, didn't it?
Q. Mm. It's saying like the women are the carriers, where, I mean ...
A. But I think it proved that you don't have to look like a heroin addict ...
Q. That's right, yeah.
A. To carry AIDS. I mean, I think you've got this image of somebody with AIDS
who's sort of worn out, bags under their eyes, bloodshot eyes and wrinkling up and
sort of ageing very badly cos of the drugs they've been on. I think it made a point. I
mean, you don't have to look ... you can look quite glamourous and have AIDS.
Q. But is it AIDS or HIV? The HIV virus is what you get before.
A. Yeah, and it can break into AIDS.
Q. It can turn into AIDS and not everybody who has the virus necessarily ...
A. Actually has AIDS, yeah.
Q. And also the virus itself, you can ... without getting any symptoms yourself, you
can still spread it.
A. Yeah, I know. About ... is it true that ... Well, I was watching a programme where
this woman was dying of AIDS which was like a documentary and this woman just
turned into a skeleton - she couldn't talk, she couldn't pick things up to eat and she
was paralysed virtually. Apparently, her and her husband had been, you know,
having sex or whatever for years during their marriage and whatever and her
husband hadn't caught it off her. Apparently it was easier to catch AIDS off a man
than it was off a woman. I don't know whether that's true, I mean, I'm not going to
take that for granted.
Q. I think that probably is.
A. I could see it being not quite a logical conclusion.
Q. What about the ...? In the beginning did you feel that it was more to do with gays
than to do with ...?
A. I think that was a natural reaction. I mean, I know I don't have anything against
gay people, I mean I love gay people. I think they make some of the best friends,
cos you're not threatened by them; they're not after your body all the time, they're
always good for a laugh. I think at first they did emphasise the fact that, um, you
could catch them just off of homosexuals. You know ... just homosexuals that were
at risk or whatever, I mean, when they actually announced that anybody could get
AIDS no matter who you are or how old you are or whatever, I think after that it was
suddenly brought home to me. They did ... I think it wasn't anybody's fault that they
blamed it on gays because I think that was what was pushed at first; the fact that it
was mainly among the homosexual population. I think it was unfair; I think a lot of
people would hate me for saying that. I don't know where it came from. Where did it
Q. Well, I think at the beginning it was mainly prevalent in the homosexual
population and in the States especially.
A. I think it was quite widespread there before we had even heard of it.
Q. It was about 1981 when they first discovered it in the States, so it's quite a while.
A. And nobody really opened up about it, did they?
Q. No, they couldn't figure out what it was. It had come up through some sort of
centre which tracks diseases and certain kinds of cancers were appearing which
were very unusual, and they gradually sort of tracked it down and discovered it was
A. There's nothing for it, nothing you can do about it.
Q. Mm. And AIDS itself isn't really a disease, it’s a ...
A. Would it attack the nervous system or ...?
Q. Well, it's the immune system, the HIV attacks the immune system and then other
kind of infections can get you and its usually ...
A. Just colds and things.
Q. Well, that kind of thing could, but it’s, pneumonia is one that people die of and a
certain kind of cancer.
A. Yeah, I've heard of that.
Q. Kaposi’s sarcoma or something like that, I think there's one that ... but there's a
whole load of infections that can actually attack you when your immune system has
been damaged by the HIV virus.
A. I mean, I saw a programme - it was a film called Buddies - did you ever ...?
Q. I didn't see that.
A. It was an American film. What it was was, a hospital was organising people to
come in to actually befriend their AIDS patients or whatever, just to sort of help them
through - that's where the name Buddies comes from - and you followed this poor
guy's illness through - you know, they had flashbacks to his earlier younger days
when he was sort of romping about. He was gay and it showed all his ex-lovers and
stuff and it was just ... I was in tears at the end of it, cos this ... you followed him
deteriorating all the way through and then he died at the end and it was just ... you
suddenly thought these people have to live through a nightmare before they actually
get to the end and all these drugs they bring out to prolong your life or whatever, I
think it's just prolonging the agony. I don't know why they ... unless they can bring
out a cure, I don't think they should bother. This guy went through hell, I mean it was
just awful - just to go through it white as a sheet and any illness could kill him, just a
Q. Yeah. So you don't think it's worth it? You think if they've got it that there's no
point at all in prolonging it? I think that's the kind of drugs they're working on though
isn't it, to try and inhibit it from developing.
A. Well, if they could stop it developing at an early stage, yes, fine, but if these
people have, like, got 3 months to live or whatever and they inject them with this
drug - I don't know if it's going to make them feel better but if it's not going to make
them feel any better either - then there's no point. I think I'd prefer to die thanks; I
don't want to prolong the agony. Maybe some people find it a way of saying ...
Q. That they'd prefer to stay alive than to die whatever the circumstances, sort of
A. Mm. I think I'd take a trip round India and then wander off.
Q. Yeah. You were talking about drugs before. I mean, do you see it as related to
drugs quite strongly?
A. I think that ... isn't that one of the biggest risks?
Q. Well, I think it's currently becoming so.
A. I mean, places like Edinburgh are notorious for it.
Q. That's right. Yeah, yeah. And also a lot of the people come south for treatment,
sort of thing, and they may not realise that they've got the HIV anyway, so I think
that is one way in which it is spread more widely.
A. Well I've never been involved in anything like that so ... and I don't think ... and
anyone who does get involved in it now is mad and they're just asking for it. In a
way, you can't have any sympathy with them cos they've been warned, they knew
the risks and they're doing it anyway. They've gotta be really immature to do it
despite the warnings. I think they're just asking for it.
Q. Yeah. Some young people, they sort of think, well, two things really. One is 'It's
never gonna happen to me'.
A. Yes, exactly. I think that's the attitude everybody takes - that's wrong. It's like
being burgled. We never thought we'd be burgled but we were burgled 3 years ago.
You know, it's just, sort of, 'It's never going to happen to our house'. I don't think you
can gamble with your life; if you've got any braincells what-so-ever, you won't do it.
Q. That was the other thing that I was going to ask you, the other thing I was
thinking of. Some young people - if something is slightly risky ...
A. It's big!
Q. Yeah, right.
A. Oh no! I can't understand people who think like that. It's like 14 year olds or
whatever. If you're sitting on a tube, you get on and they suddenly think, 'Ooh, I've
got to show off' and they start swearing and sitting there using 4-letter words and
they think you're being impressed by it whereas you're just thinking, 'You idiot, what
do think you're doing?' and I just don't understand people who think it's big to inject
drugs cos of the risk of getting AIDS, sort of thing. I don't understand that.
Q. Yeah. Do you think that in your youth you've ever met anybody who would take
that kind of position?
A. There were people I remember at junior school who thought it was big to smoke
in the toilets - even at junior school - or, like taking a risk; there's a chance that you
may be found out and mum and dad will get to know and all that sort of thing. It's
like a status, it's proving ... it's just showing everybody else you're boss sort of thing
and you can take it. That sort of thing never impressed me. I just think, 'If you wanna
do it, fine', you know, and I think anyone who knowingly injects drugs is mad. I don't
know – I think this is the end. There's a lot of funny things going on, like the
weather's changing, and I think it's all related. I think somebody's trying to tell us
Q. Yeah? Who do you think it might be?
A. I think somebody's trying to warn us about something and nobody is really taking
that much notice.
Q. Mm. There's been a slight turn recently towards greenness. Margaret Thatcher
has gone a little bit green.
A. Margaret Thatcher, she's a joke, I mean she's just such a bitch! I can't stand her.
I think it's all sort of, 'I'm alright Jack' sort of attitude with her and I think turning
green is a way of getting more votes. I don't think she's actually going to do anything
about it. It's just a prank to get more votes, I think. She can forget it! She's not
Q. Nope. No thanks, forget it! Well in the polls she's gone down a bit recently as
A. Yes, I mean I'm not surprised. I think people are finally waking up to her. I admit
that my dad has got [REDACTED] shares and I've got [REDACTED] shares, but
she's never done anything for me, not me personally. I think if you're very well off
she's fine, you know, 'She's done so much and she's good for this country' but if
you're below the average sort of earnings you've had it. Bitch! I can't stand her.
Q. So I take it you won't be voting Tory in the next election.
A. I don't vote for anybody. I just thought I'm wasting my vote, I don't like Kinnock, I
think he doesn't know whether he's coming or going, I think, well he's adopted her
policies. He's gone a bit Tory-esque if you ask me, and I think the Liberals don't
know whether they're coming or going either - they don't know who they want for
their leader. What's the name of the guy they've chosen?
Q. Oh, don't ask me. Is it Paddy Ashdown?
A. That's it. He's got a really awful name and he lives out in a village somewhere
and doesn't have a clue about anything and he doesn't really know what's going on.
I think these sort of people are so ... not in touch. I mean, I don't think they have a
clue, I don't think they've got enough people who work with them who are sort of
young enough to be able to take everybody ... they haven't got a cross-section of
people in their party - it's usually 50-year old fuddy-duddies who think they know it
all and don't really sort of thing. It's like Victoria what's-her-name, the woman who
was trying to change abortion ...
A. Gillick, that's it. I wanted to kick her head in. I had this urge to have a go at her
and pull her hair out because I don't think anybody's got any right to tell someone
how they should run their lives and change laws just because it suits them, sort of
Q. Like these people trying to change the abortion law as well, wasn't it?
A. Yeah, I mean, why? I mean it's usually ... it's true, it's usually men who make the
decisions and the women have to fight them to the death before anything gets done
about it. I mean, what is it, 18 weeks they want to take it down to?
Q. Yeah, yeah, something ridiculous.
A. 4 months - I think that's wrong. I think we should build a sort of 'infringement on
my rights' sort of thing, don't you feel?
Q. Yeah, I do and also some of the ... the way that the NHS is organised you might
not find out soon enough, I mean, you might not discover that you are pregnant and
then they take such a long time to sort you out that you're already beyond that limit
A. Anything gets done.
Q. Yeah, to do anything so I think it's ridiculous. And I think that's just the thin end of
the wedge that they'll just try and force it down and down until they do away ...
A. With it all together.
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. I don't think they'll ever get to do that because I think there'll be a public uproar. I
mean, I for one will be at the front with my banner because I think, I don't think
anybody's got the right to tell somebody else how they should run their lives or that
you should keep your baby because it's against my moral..
A. The Americans are a bit odd about that aren't they? In certain states it's against
the law and I think that's dangerous as well cos then people will do it in the
backstreets, you know. I don't know how they used to do it ... they used to just poke
a knitting needle up you or something and try to kill it or whatever. I'm not surprised
people died doing that.
Q. It's horrible, yeah.
A. Men! It's usually men who make those rules. A lot of women are against it as
well. They should get pregnant one day when they don't want to and thenQ. How do you think ... you came out to be so independent minded?
A. I don't know. Well, considering the fact that I've got such a weird background, I
don't know. I think I've always ... I don't really know.
Q. I was thinking about your sort of reaction against your father in a way.
A. I think, yeah, some of it is, I mean some of it may have been to spite him, but I
think a lot of it is because that's the way I am. I think it's just the friends I've had
maybe or people I've mixed with, you know, my own peer group or something I
mean ... I've always, I've never agreed with all this, 'You're staying in because I say
so' sort of thing and it's, I've always hated that sort of attitude and it's just ... it's like
this religion thing, it's all to do with order I think, it's just what's bred into your mum
and dad and they feel they've got to breed it into you and I think it's wrong. I've
always felt it's wrong. I've never liked religion, actually. I don't consider myself a
Muslim at all, I don't think I'm anything, I mean, I don't ... you know, all this sort of
God thing, well, maybe he does exist but he's never done anything for me, sort of
Q. What about this Salman Rushdie business?
A. Ooh, I've always said, 'Don't mess with the Arabs' because they are dangerous,
because I know people like that - I've lived with them in Turkey. Turkey's full of mad
people who'd do anything for whatever they believe in and they're not extremists. I
mean these extremists are mad. I mean, they will kill their own mother if they have
to and I don't. That Ayatollah, I think he should be locked up in a gas chamber and
sort of gassed to death, because how can he ... how can anybody say, 'Go out and
kill this man cos he's writing something bad about our religion'? I don't think he's
doing anything for his religion himself! If they hadn't kicked up such a fuss about it
nobody would even have heard of it before, I mean it's just the best publicity you
could possibly have asked for.
Q. Yes, as long as he lives to enjoy it!
A. Yes. And I don't know how anybody can condemn somebody else to death for
writing a book.
A. I've always hated the Arabs. I've always hated their attitudes, I've always hated
their sort of extremist attitude towards religion. My dad denies that Turks are Arabs,
but I think they are, I think they're all from the same sort of stables. My dad, he
actually, he really annoyed me the other night because he said ... all this, it was
going on on the tele and it was sort of, 'they've condemned him to death' and all
these extremists were up in arms and looking for him and he was sitting there and
he said, 'oh, he's gone into hiding'. And I looked at him and I said, 'are you, erm,
condoning what this idiot Ayatollah has done?' and I said, 'He's a real shit'. And he
turned to me and he looked at me and I said, 'you're not going to deny it, are you, I
mean you're not going to actually say to me that he's a good man' and he said, 'well,
he's a traitor to his own religion' and I said, 'he's a person in his own right, I mean,
what is wrong with writing what you believe in?' He was apparently a Muslim and he
turned his back on it which is really what I have done cos I don't live really with their
morals and whatever's written in the Koran. I think, why, the man's only written a
book and it's not even supposed to be about what they think it's about. It’s supposed
to about Mohammed going into brothels and his wife was a prostitute and all this
sort of thing. For all we know, he probably was going into brothels and she probably
was a prostitute. I mean, I can't understand it - I think they're mad. Never mess with
an Arab! Don't ever provoke them. I think that's what the British and the Americans
are very good at.
Q. What, provoking the Arabs?
A. Yeah. I think they're very very good at that. Cos they're two such totally different
cultures and they tend to put their foot in it a lot.
Q. Mm. It's weird watching the interaction, sort of thing, especially since we just see
through the media but through the media it looks like both sides are acting very
A. I think everybody's a bit confused. I don't know whether ... Nobody knows what to
do because when you get a death sentence from these Iranians or whatever, they
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. And they will kill themselves in the process if they have to. They were interviewed
... Did you watch the interviews on the streets with people here?
A. Sort of with the Indian community and maybe the Arabs as well or whatever and
these little old men were going, 'Cut his throat, cut his throat', like this, and these
people are living in England.
A. They haven't picked up any of the attitudes or any of the culture or they haven't
got any respect ... that's the thing, I don't think they've got any respect for anybody
else's culture, especially my dad.
Q. Mm, yeah.
A. I notice that in my dad and that's probably why ... I hate him sometimes for that.
It's terrible but I do, I hate him sometimes and sometimes I feel sorry for them
because I think, 'You haven't got a clue, you're so blinkered and you don't really
know what you're talking about'. Oh, I don't know. I resent him. I resent him because
he won't accept DEV either, even if I came straight out with it and said, 'Look, I've
been seeing him for 3 years, I've slept with him, he's my best friend - which he is,
you know, he's the best pal I've got, apart from all the girls I've known for years or
whatever - he's there for me if I need him; you're not'. I think he'd pretend he wasn't
there, pretend he didn't even exist. That's probably why I won't tell him. I think DEV
has done very well to put up with it because he's not used to this sort of thing and I
think all his other girlfriends would just sort of do what they liked, sort of thing, and
he got on very well with their mums and dads and I feel embarrassed about it
Q. Yeah, it must be complicated. I mean, you can't take him home to meet your
A. You could do that, couldn't you? I think you're very lucky.
Q. Yeah, I guess so, yeah. My parents weren't too keen. I mean they always used to
criticise whatever boyfriend I had. I mean, none of them ...
A. You're very lucky they even accepted the fact that you had a boyfriend.
Q. Yeah. And they preferred it to be one boyfriend at a time.
A. Well, I think that's just because you get a bit confused or something.
Q. Yeah, that's right. But when you're young you have ... I mean, it's not as if you're
having a sexual relationship with them ... but you might have several that you go out
A. They're not necessarily boyfriends, are they?
Q. No, right. And they would get confused that there would be several like that cos
they would think in terms of them being boyfriends, rather than in terms of them
being people that you go around with.
A. Friends. You're very lucky. I think there's a lot of ... I can't understand people who
don't rebel against that sort of thing when they come to live in this country.
Q. I suppose it's difficult cos it's like you were saying - it's the two cultures especially if they still want to belong in their own culture it must be extremely difficult
for them to ...
A. Yeah, it is. It's very difficult to break out of it and the only way I could see out of it
was actually by literally running away. I mean, you can't run away when you're 18 – I
think you're a bit over the limit by then but that's what it was, I was running away. I
think if any of them have got brains they will and sort of make up their own minds. I
just get so frustrated when I see all these girls running around with veils over their
faces and trousers down to the floor, sort of thing, and you can't see any bit of them
because it's ... I think it's so sad. I don't think they realise what they are missing.
Just to be able to think for themselves.
Q. Yeah. Independent.
A. I think that's the key word. Just to be able to do your own thing and be your own
person and not have to keep your parents happy. I mean, I'm still having to keep my
parents happy despite the fact that I've broken away, as it were, but I've still got my
duties - to see my aunt occasionally or talk to my grandmother on the phone
occasionally or whatever. Actually, a few weeks ago in January my aunt actually
said to me that somebody ... you know how the marriage system works? They come
to see you with their parents or whatever ...
A. And I never thought this would happen to me, but they said to me, 'How do you
feel about meeting somebody?' I said, 'I'm not going to meet anybody. You bring
anybody in this house and I'm going to leave. I'll walk out, they can sit in the sitting
room and I'll pack my bags upstairs and I'll walk out'. And I couldn't believe they'd
actually even suggested it after all the things I'd fought against this sort of thing for
so long, I mean, ever since I was about 13 or whatever I've wanted to break away.
You know, when ... at the time when you're just beginning to sort of have braincells
of your own probably. But I mean ... And they wanted me to meet this bloke I'd
never met. He'd seen a photograph in erm ... [DETAILS REDACTED]. And he'd
seen the photograph and he wanted to meet me as a prospective wife. And I said,
'Does this man know what he's talking about? Does he have any intelligence at all?'
I mean, how can you expect to get on with somebody you've only seen in a
photograph. I mean, I'm totally different to what he's expecting, I think, anyway.
There aren't many Turkish girls who think for themselves. I think I'd have blown him
out. I mean, if I ever came face to face with him, I think I'd probably kick him or
something just to show him how much I hate him for doing what he did to me.
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. I couldn't believe anybody had even suggested it. And when I told DEV, I mean,
he ... I think he got quite scared because he thought I might be sucked into it.
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. Although I think he knows deep down that I wouldn't do it, but I think he was still
Q. Well, he can see because you still, as you say, you do ...
A. I'm living at home.
Q. And you do care about pleasing your parents because ...
A. I have to.
Q. You have to, yeah.
A. I mean, unless I want to lose them altogether.
Q. Yeah, right.
A. I mean, he understands all of that, but I think he's still very afraid that I'm going to
turn round and say to him one day, 'I've agreed' or something.
Q. I'm getting married next week.
Q. I've seen a photograph of the guy.
A. Yeah, oh dear. I mean, I just don't even know how he could even have suggested
it to me. I just thought he was mad, quite potty. Forget it! I don't want to hear the
subject ever again. Nobody's said anything since.
Q. Oh well, that's good. And maybe it's as well ... because you have got DEV so that
they may be expecting that about now you should be looking round and thinking of
marrying or something.
A. I think I'm quite old for somebody who's Turkish to not be married.
A. I'm over the ... I, actually, when I was out there this summer they said to me, one
creep said to me, 'How old are you?' and I said 'Twenty-one' and he said, 'You
should be looking for a husband.' I wanted to thump him as well. I'm getting quite
violent now - I just want to thump everybody! I think I'm going to break away totally
eventually. If I lived with DEV I'd just have to walk out again, I think. I couldn't say to
my dad ... I couldn't try and make him understand.
A. It would just be it. I think I'd have to leave my family behind and they'd be ...
within the community or whatever ... they would be frowned upon, I suppose. It
would be, 'Oh, their daughter is living with somebody in sin and he's English as well'.
Q. Yeah. So it's a big step to take, not only for yourself but for them as well, isn't it?
A. I have to think about all that, you see, which is why I didn't leave home before
now cos it's just ... I don't want them to be laughed at or talked about.
A. Despite the fact that I resent my dad very much and all this sort of thing, I mean I
do sometimes actually love my dad.
Q. Yes, I gathered that as well. Strong feelings of both types.
A. I mean he's alright sometimes. Sometimes I want to shout at him and shake him
and say, 'Look', you know but then I think that's the way he's been brought up. I
mean it's alright for him to go out and see women, like he doesn't, obviously, but
when he was younger, but it's not alright for his daughters. And my sisters don't look
like they're going to break away.
Q. Yeah, I was wondering about that.
A. The institute itself mainly teaches students who have already done their first
degree. They come and do a course and they are trained to be teachers in all sorts
of different subjects, but other people do higher degrees and stuff like that. I usually
teach on higher degree courses. Having one myself.
A. Oh! I admire people who've stuck it out for years and sort of got all the degrees
possible - Honours and Masters’ and things.
Q. It doesn't make a lot of difference to jobs though! These days, not in education.
A. I can imagine. They probably don't even ask you what qualifications ... well, in art
Q. Yeah. Well, that's what I was thinking about with you and the architecture that it
might have been a good idea to get a bit more qualifications but if there is definitely
a route through, you know ...
A. There is. You learn more being out in the big wide world than you do being in a
sheltered little studio in some art school somewhere. I've noticed that. I mean,
there's a lot of things they can't teach you. They can teach you all the technical side
of it, theory, all that sort of thing but that's just about it.
Q. But it seems that what you are going to do both getting the money together
yourself and getting some experience in freelance work and then working for
somebody that could be ... that will probably stand you in good stead.
A. I think it will probably toughen me up as well. I mean, I have to deal with men a
lot of the time and builders who are men - a lot of them are men and they all think,
'Ah! Woman, she doesn't know much, we can take her along and drop her or
something' and they think they can muck you about because you are a woman.
A. They think, 'Oh, she doesn't know anything about it' whereas if you come out and
hit them with all the jargon they think, 'Oh God, she does know something'.
Q. Yeah. That's always useful when you're trying to get your car repaired.
A. Oh, I've heard all that. There was this huge conf... on the radio. Do you listen
to ...? They had this phone-in thing about mechanics and what experiences women
have had with mechanics and some of them think you're from another planet or
something and you don't know anything. That's what annoys me about men. It's like
the builders and the mechanics of this world think women are thick, I think and one
woman rang up and said she knew exactly what was wrong with the car, she took it
to the mechanic and he gave her a whole list of other things which had absolutely ...
you know which had to be fixed on her car with a bill of about £1,000 or something.
And she said the car didn't even need any of the stuff that he'd actually pointed out.
And they think they can muck you about. It's the same ... builders think they can cut
corners, you know, and not do the job as well as they should have done and stuff. If
you're tough with them, they think you're a bitch.
Q. It's complicated isn't it? Do you ... I'm trying to think of a way to ask this question.
It's like, you seem to have ... you're a rather feminine person and you seem to have
a strong sense of your own identity. How do you see yourself? What is your image
A. Me personally?
Q. Yes. What do you have as your image of yourself?
A. Hm. That's the sort of thing you don't really think about until somebody asks you.
A. I think ... I like to think I'm independent foremost and I like to think I'm intelligent
A. And I think when people look at me, they think, 'Ah, she'll probably marry a rich
Arab and drive around in a BMW and go shopping' and stuff like that and that's just
not me at all. In fact, DEV said when he first got to know me he was very ... he held
me at arm's length almost because he thought I was going to get what I could out of
him, just from the way I looked, and then go onto the next bloke. Cos that's the sort
of look I ... I don't know, it's not even ... he knew, he knew I wasn't like that
personality-wise and yet he was still very wary of me and he thought I was going to,
he thought I was impressed by the fact that he was [SKILLED TRADE] or something
and he probably has money and he hasn't! I mean [SKILLED TRADE] take years to
build up a business and he thought that I was going to run off with some rich Arab.
And I'm not like that at all. Me personally, I like to think I'm friendly and I think I scare
some people ... men, I don't know why. I don't know if it's ... it's not the way I look.
It's just the way I ... I think I shock them sometimes when I open my mouth and
there's something ... I'm not like the person they were looking at.
Q. That's right. It's a combination of the way you are and the way you look.
A. It's not ... it's a bit of a ... it holds me back sometimes.
A. I don't know. I like to just think of myself as being, well, I just know what I want.
A. And I'm not prepared to do ANYTHING to get what I want but I want to do it right,
you know. But a lot of people don't know how to take me. And I think I'm quite
difficult. It's like approaching a workman - if I go out there like this, dressed as I am
today in a pair of trousers they still look at me and think, 'Ooh, we've got a right one
here' and they think they can take you for a ride but once I start talking to them they
suddenly realise they were wrong, I hope. That's the way it comes across.
Q. No, I'm sure you're right.
A. I've never been able to understand it and I couldn't understand what DEV meant
when he said I scared him and I thought why, what am I going to do to you? I'll just
sort of hurt ...
A. Did he scare you at all when you first knew him?
Q. No, I don't think ... No, he's too friendly. He's too ... he's very crabby about it all
though because he doesn't let on. At first you think he's quiet but once he gets
going he's actually quite ... not wild, but he's very outgoing. You know, he likes clubs
and things and he doesn't mind dancing on the dancefloor on his own, sort of thing
but he doesn't look like that when you look at him. No, cos the problem I've had with
him during the relationship is his ex-girlfriend who he's still friendly with, which is
quite nice for me to know because I know he's not the sort who turns his back on
you as soon as he's found someone else. But she's a bit ... I don't think he realises
women are different with men. They talk differently, especially if they've got
something competitive between you. I mean, the thing about me and her is that
we've both been with the same guy, basically, and I think she thinks she's got a oneupmanship on me because she was with him for [NUMBER OF YEARS].
Q. That's a long time.
A. That's a long time. For 2 of those years he was out in [EUROPEAN CITY]
working and he didn't see her, but he said he'd only known her about 3 years when
he had to leave school - they were at school together - and she went off to work and
he said from that moment on after 3 years into the relationship they went their
different ways, they were two totally different people. He suddenly realised they
didn't have anything in common. She works for some ... [TRAVEL INDUSTRY], she
works for them. And he's more in the art world and she doesn't know anything about
his work, and he doesn't really know much about hers. And the rest of the time he
was with her was sort of more on a friend’s level because they don't actually have
anything in common. He said you can't build a relationship on 2 nights a week in a
A. He's still friends with her. She doesn't like me but whenever I say to him, 'We're
not as pally as you think we are' cos we just put up with each other, I think.
Q. You met her?
A. There's a bit of, sort of, like, friction.
Q. You met her with ...?
A. At clubs because obviously we go to the same clubs. He took her to the same
clubs and now she goes to them.
Q. That's right, yeah.
A. And I don't like it. I'm not jealous ... I don't ... I'm not the jealous type, really and
I'm not. I like to think I'm not anyway, I hope it's not jealousy. It's just threatening. It
doesn't matter how secure you are within yourself, if the relationship looks like
there's a chance that he may stray and sort of go back to her ... he keeps saying to
me, 'If I wanted to go back to her you wouldn't be here' and I think, 'Yeah, alright.
You know that but I don't'.
A. 'You can be sure of that, but I can't'. Well, you know, she comes up to him and
puts her arm around him and things like that and I suddenly think, 'Have you
absolutely no sense of subtlety whatsoever?' Is that normal? I don't know if that's
normal. I don't know whether she's just doing it to get at me?
Q. Well, I don't know. Some people ... she knew him for a long time, they're
affectionate, they're friendly and so on, it might be a perfectly reasonable thing to
do. Or there might be both bits in it - she both wants to put her arm around him and
she wants to get to you too.
A. She does. I know the way that women's minds work better than he does. I think
women do. They know when another woman is, trying to, sort of like, invade their
territory, sort of thing. But I don't look at it as invading my territory, it's just more ...
Q. That's it, but it's a bit of both isn't it? It's a threat because it is invading your
territory somehow and that's interesting because of the sort of complications really
being a woman, isn't it? The other question I was going to ask you which I also
couldn't think of a way of saying was that as you're kind of finding your own identity,
your own sort of sexual identity, your own identity as a woman, a lot of conflicting
things are coming in and I was wondering if you had experienced that yourself as
you were growing up and as you were gradually, you know, thinking of the way you
are as a woman.
A. Conflicting ...?
Q. Conflicting influences on you. Just when you were speaking then you said, 'She
was invading my territory, I don't really mean she was invading my territory'.
A. I don't know what I meant, really.
Q. Yeah, because you don't want to think that you are the kind of person who thinks
that and yet somewhere in you there's a bit of that.
A. I think there's a bit of that in everybody.
Q. Mm. I think most people would feel threatened if their husband's ex-wife came up
and put their arm round him and you think, 'What's going on? Is there something I
don't know?' whereas there's probably nothing in it, they're just being friendly.
A. I think what it was that got to me was the fact that she's quite weak, cos I can't
stand weakness in women especially cos I think they don't realise they're being
trodden on if they haven't got, like their own sort of identity. Just what you were
talking about now and it just ... she'd get him to meet her outside the club door,
despite the fact that she's been there for years, she knows everybody in there, I was
with him and she'd ask him to wait and he couldn't say no because he's got ... he's
sort of ... it's like his duty being his ex-girlfriend, sort of thing. And I'd say, 'My God,
why did you ...?' If it was me, I'd just turn up on my own, fine. I wouldn't actually ...
cos I know how it feels ... I wouldn't ... I'd just leave them to it, but I wouldn't want
this other woman to feel that I was trying to get him back or whatever, trying to
invade her territory or whatever. And that really really pissed me off because I
suddenly ... it suddenly hit me and I said to him one day, 'She's using you as a prop
because she's got friends who she could go out with, she's got friends in the club
when she gets there, she doesn't need anybody to hold her hand and she's using
you as a prop'. And he suddenly stopped; I could see him, his mind was ticking cos
he suddenly thought it was true and apparently he said that to her because he said,
'You're not going to find another boyfriend if I'm with the whole time' and he said to
me, 'I'll be so glad when she finds one' because she rings him up sometimes and
says, ' ... hasn't gone right' and all this sort of thing. 'For God's sake, woman, stand
up on your own two feet'. I can't expect other people to be like that. I think I expect
them to be like me.
A. And it's not right. It's not a nice thing to do.
Interviewed in my office. Very attractive, slender, fashionably dressed, mass of dark hair and
eyes, Turkish young woman. Slight touch of the 'Jewish princess' about her if that's not a racist
stereotype, I suppose I'm using it as a generalisable category rather than attached to a particular
race or religion, since she is a Moslem. She actually acknowledged that (not in the words but the
concept) and said that her boyfriend thought she was. He (and some of her friends) thought she
would run off and marry some incredibly rich Arab and ride around in a BMW and go shopping
all the time. She could not see that happening. I asked directly if her father/family would catch
her if she fell financially (she thought she took financial risks, spent money she did not have)
and this was why she felt she could take risks in that area. She said she did not want that, but
her father insisted in putting money in her account to make sure she was financially OK.
The relationship with her parents was very important, and she was interesting in both
statements about and living the contradictions of two cultures. It was also related to her
relationship with her boyfriend, which could not be discussed with her parents, was in fact
denied, and had been hidden for a couple of years. It was now known but unacknowledged. Her
boyfriend is English and seemingly very supportive. He was her first sexual relationship (to
include intercourse) tho she had had a couple of relationships with Turkish men before, with
whom she would never have made love since it would have been around the community and
back to her parents in a moment, they would have spread the work that she 'was easy'. In any
event she could not stand the sexism of Turkish men. Nor Arab men, a subject on which she
was vehement. As on the Ayotollah Khomenei I think she said he should be put in a room and
She was very aware of the risks of sex, and of contraception, and knew that she would insist on
condom use, and if the man would not use it he was not worth being with, in starting up a new
sexual relationship. It was not so much an issue when she started the relationship with her
current boyfriend 3 years ago. AIDS not so much on the public agenda, and she did not see it
then as relating to her, as she would now.
We discussed her love/hate relationship with her father and the battles they had over control of
her life, and particularly her sexual life, and her need to escape that control and become her
own person. Her pa works as a 'buyer, import, export', ma does not work.
Clear and ambitious idea of what she wanted to do in the future, a career important to her, but I
don't know how realistic her ambitions are, to have an architects studio, after working in one for
some time to build skills and knowledge. Does not plan to get any more quals (got a diploma in
art, and in architectural design). Currently freelancing in architectural design with a friend from
college who has the contacts.
A charming, responsive, interesting young woman. How do I get to be so lucky!