“My husband was married off”

Mariska married the love of her life, Turkish man Ayhan. He moved to Holland, and everything seemed fine. That is, until he went to visit his family for a vacation and was promptly married off.

Mariska (30): “My husband and I planned to go on a holiday at his family’s place for a month. But he missed his family and his country so much that he left two weeks earlier than me. From the moment he arrived there I couldn’t get in touch with him anymore. After a few days a cousin of his told me why: his family no longer supported our marriage and decided to marry my husband off to a cousin in the village. They forbad my husband to contact me and kept a close watch on him.

Maybe I should have gone there immediately, but I was afraid. Ayhan comes from a village in the southeast of Turkey and even though the family always liked me, I got scared that they might do something to me if I came there alone. The problem with me, the cousin said, was,that I didn’t observe Islamic rules. Which is true, I mean, I never wanted to follow Islamic rules and Ayhan accepted that. But it troubled his family, and nobody ever told me that, I had no idea. How am I supposed to know these things from a culture I don’t understand?


Ayhan and I met three years ago on the Internet. He worked in tourism in Marmaris on the Turkish coast. I had never been to Turkey but I had some girlfriends who knew some Turks. Through these people we ended up chatting on the computer. A few months later I went to Marmaris with a friend. Of course I had let Ayhan know I was coming, and he was there waiting for me at the hotel. I liked him immediately. Of course we already knew each other a bit, and really, he looked so good!

It turned out to be more than a holiday romance. I kept my distance a bit because you never know how things develop in a coastal town full of tourists, but when I went to Istanbul a few months later, he came to pick me up from the airport. He had come all the way from the southeast of Turkey, a two days bus trip, to spend five days with me! We had such a good time and decided to try to make the relationship last. He was going to learn some Dutch so he could get a long stay visa for Holland, and I would figure out all the procedures and try to nudge the bureaucracy along.


A sudden engagement


The village he comes from is poor and backward. When I saw it, I realized we come from two very different worlds. But everything seemed fine, his family welcomed me with open arms. They were enthusiastic because two days before we went to visit them we got engaged. At the time we had been in a relationship for a year. A sudden engagement, yes. But look, in that village things are like in the Netherlands fifty years ago. You can not just live together, and if Ayhan wanted to tell his family we had plans for the future, then it seemed wise to get engaged straight away. We didn’t make any plans about marriage yet. I wanted to wait a few years for that, and he was fine about it.

I don’t know if at the time Ayhan already somehow felt that things could turn difficult with his family. He doesn’t talk too much, but recently he told me that it might have been better if I had worn a headscarf when visiting his family. How am I supposed to know that if nobody tells me, I cannot just know that instinctively, can I? I think his family had different expectations, that to them getting engaged meant that I would adjust myself to his culture. That’s self evident to them, and Ayhan must have known that. But we were going to live in Holland, far away from his family. Maybe that’s why he never talked about it, maybe he thought that the distance would help us out.


Ayhan passed his visa exam easily and got permission to come to Holland. Before leaving, somewhere close to Marmaris, we were married by the Imam. His family wanted that: they would not give Ayhan permission to go to Holland without being married. By the way, getting married by an Imam is nothing official and no documents are made for it. To me it was mainly a romantic thing. But when I look back, for them it must have been sort of a promise that I would be the wife and mother they had in mind.


Wearing a headscarf


Ayhan had a hard time in Holland. I worked during the day, while he was at home or went to language classes. He has little education and it would be difficult for him to find a job. He got some help from the Job Centre, but he also missed Turkey, his family, his culture. He came to the Netherlands for me, but he is not really the type to migrate or live in another country. It was only later that he told me how awful he had felt. “I was going crazy”, he said. No work, no family, no friends, a different kind of people, a totally different culture. He felt small, he felt like a foreigner, a stranger. But he never told me that. He wanted to make me happy and not cause any tension. But of course I felt that he was not so happy. That’s why I insisted on him calling his family more often and going to Turkey two weeks earlier than me. So he could readjust a bit.

His parents asked him whether I was wearing a headscarf, if I prayed five times a day, if I would raise my future children to follow Islam. Ayhan said it like it was, that i didn’t observe Islamic rules. Then his mother decided: he was not allowed to return to Holland and was not allowed to contact me. His phone didn’t work any more, a Turkish prepaid is switched off when you don’t use it for three months. And going to an internet cafe? They just didn’t let him go. Ayhan was very upset, I heard from a cousin of his, with whom I had some contact by SMS, but he really didn’t know how to handle the situation. For almost two weeks, I didn’t hear from him directly.


Without any support


Of course I was angry, desperate, totally confused, I even had a bad stomach ache. But what could I do? Some people said: what kind of a man is that, that lets his mother set the rules? Just get rid of the guy! But it’s not that simple. Family is very important there, and going against your mother’s will would mean losing his family. You can easily say: ‘If he loves you, he will chose you’, but then what? Going back to Holland, where he had a difficult time, without any support from his family? In the end, we had a very long talk on the phone. He repeatedly said: “It’s impossible now, it’s too late.” I said he had to make a choice, that I could adjust to his family but that they should also make some effort to look at things from my perspective. We got married and by doing that we had met their demands, hadn’t we?

I think he already knew that his family would find a girl for him in the village. Maybe we were even already divorced at the time, I don’t know. He only had to say three times in public that he divorces me, and then it’s done. And that’s what he did, pressured by his family. A week later I heard from his cousin that he was married off. To his niece, a girl of only 17. When we spoke to each other again, he said he had met her, that he agreed to marry her and that he loved her. I was flabbergasted. If he knew real love with me, then how can he think he will find happiness with a girl he hardly knows?


We have not been in touch for the last four months. I have run out of tears. Of course it hurts, but I am also angry. We went through so much trouble to get him to Holland, and he just gave up after four months. How on earth can you say after four months that it’s not going to work out? He gave up too easily. I’m still not sure exactly how everything happened, and whether he already knew he would not come back when he went to Turkey. And whether or not he also expected me to adjust myself more to his religion, even though he was not that much into religion himself. Later he said that he would have liked it if we had talked about religion more. Maybe he hoped I would in time want to learn more about Islam, but to me, that was not an issue at all. I never wanted to become a Muslim.


Accept my life choices


Gradually I came to realize that it would be difficult to resume the thread again. Even if he could convince his parents to accept our marriage and my life choices, how would things turn out? Would I have to be careful for the rest of my life, balancing between my own opinion and the expectations of his parents? And what if he were to go against his family’s will and get the money to return to me by himself, would he become happy in Holland? I lost him, permanently. I went to the municipality to strike him off the residence register, and wrote a letter to the Immigration Authority that his visa didn’t need to be extended. I have to get on with my life.”




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