Sometimes I introduce myself as Feride Gedik. It’s the Turkish equivalent of my Dutch name, and so much easier to get around with than my real name. Some people smile when I say it, but mostly it is accepted without a blink of the eye. That is until I came to Diyarbakir this week, the biggest city in the Kurdish southeast of the country.
I was introduced to Rojin, a university student. I introduced myself as Feride, to which she immediately replied: ‘How can you have a Turkish name?’ I explained: ‘I’m Fréderike, but people in Turkey don’t always get it and some think it’s a man’s name, so I sometimes change it to Feride.’
Rojin looked at me very seriously, telling me not to change my name. She showed me her identity card, on which her name was Ruken. Rojin is the name her parents gave her, but since it is a Kurdish name, it was not accepted at the time she was born. So officially her name is Ruken (also Kurdish, but could be Turkish as well, contrary to Rojin). Please, Fréderike, she said – and she pronounced my name very properly – don’t change the beautiful name your parents gave you and that suits your identity.