The day finely came when it was time for the children to leave. It was Ramadan,and almost time for the Ramadan Eid Holiday,which follows after fasting for a month. We were all anxious the few days leading up to the girls departure. It was a sad ending for the girls, because they could not say a real good bye, to the girl and family who had befriended us.
We were advised not to tell anyone the girls were leaving. If my husband ever found out, he could prevent us from leaving and become abusive. People often gossiped in these Muslim communities and didn’t realize the danger of abuse in families. They often did not take it seriously and people valued men above women under Islam,even if often they did not admit this truth. Men are viewed as much more capable then women in,not just physically but intellectually as well. For me to make a decision for the best interest of my children would be seen as foolish,as a woman. My husband would be taken more seriously then myself as a woman,even though he was a step dad to my daughters.
Therefore we had to keep it all a secret . The girls would often go to their friend’s home for the iftar dinner,which is the meal after a day of fasting. But one day there was a problem. My daughter had done something wrong,and so they told her she could not come back. It had to do with the cleanliness of the home. In Islam women are often under tremendous pressure to keep their homes immaculately clean. It becomes their whole life and they often become obsessive about it. Miryem’s mother was this way. In Turkey people are very obsessive about cleaning . It can be a good thing and homes feel nice and comfortable,but taken to the extreme it creates family tension.
Because of my daughter making a mess in the house,she was banned from coming back. My other daughter was as well,even though she had done nothing wrong. Little did they know they would never see my girls again. But we just could not tell them;it was a very precarious situation. We couldn’t risk it or having Yavuz find out.
The girls were very sad about this. They had grown accustomed to this family, and they became like our family. They went one last time to say good bye in their own way,but they were still not allowed in the house. They cried a lot over it . They didn’t want to leave their friend and mentor Miryem. They grieved over it ,and it was a sad time . I was worried they would tell her,in hopes they would let them visit. But I explaine how serious the repercussions could be of telling her. I explained that Yavuz could find out, and prevent them from escaping. They wanted to go back to America and be free of him and get back to school,so they kept the secret.
We never really know when it is going to be the last time we are with someone and its sad that Miryem’s family chose cleanliness above caring. Miryem’s mother was so obsessed with keeping her home clean that she didn’t think about my daughters feelings. People can become so misguided and because of religious mandates and lose the meaning of what truly matters. They had no idea they would never see the girls again. Had they cared about their feelings, then they might of shared some memorable memories and last times together.
I think Islam can make women sick emotionally,because there is such an emphasis on women’s obedience to their husbands;they lose what is genuinely important and what being a spiritual person truly means. They are under so much pressure and under– Authoritarian rule of their husbands. This way of life does not bring them serenity, but constant strain of pleasing an –Authoritarian God. The heart is lost within Islam,because it is a system of tyrannical control.
The night before the girls were set to depart was very difficult. We were all filled with anxiety. Yavuz brought snacks and the girls favorite soda. My younger daughter said she felt sad,but my older daughter felt relieved that she was leaving. We would have to pack things early in the morning after Yavuz left for work,so as not to appear to suspicious that anything was happening, out of the ordinary.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I wanted everything to work out.Finally the morning arrived. The girls said goodbye to Yavuz. My younger daughter was sad,and she felt on some level he probably sensed something was wrong. We hurried about quickly, to get everything done and packed to catch the bus to the city. The girls flight was the next day and so we had leeway in case we missed a bus. There were many buses going into the city, where they would fly our of.
I had to keep my spirit calm within. I kept worrying that something could go wrong on our journey to get the girls free. I was also fasting which also made my spirit lethargic which did not help in the circumstances in which I needed physical and mental strength. I didn’t realize I did not have to fast,because I would be traveling , even if it was a short trip. But at the time, I thought I had to fast,because the trip to our friends home in Ankara was only a few hours.
We kept looking at each other during the bus to Ankara. I knew it would be the last time we would see one another for a long time. I had to keep myself from being tempted to cancel their trip;sometimes I wish I had so we could have left at a different time and stayed together. But the important thing is that I was able to get the girls out of there.
We stayed with an ex-patriot that I had talked to since I had been in Turkey. We were able to stay with a friend of hers, in the city close to the airport. I had been fasting and I was worn out. I was anxious about the separation and so were the kids. We talked a lot before leaving . I feel a lot of pain and distraught looking back and wishing I had had the courage to leave the abuse along with my daughters and to stay together as a family. But I can’t take the past back ;history can’t be changed and I have to accept that.
I was just too scared to leave at that time,fearful of what I had to face and worry about and how I would care for my daughters financially, as well as thinking about what kind of life I could give them. I also was trauma bonded to my husband and sadly felt I just could not leave him at that time. I wish I had had the strength and courage to do so, but I did not at that time.
The lady we stayed with was very nice to us and made us dinner and tried to be comforting. The girls played games together,but I was so anxious I could not join in. I wish I had been able to, as I wish I had last moments to remember with them, that were meaningful. I do remember one poignant moment with my older daughter. She was looking at a Mosque outside the house. It seemed beautiful to us at the time, with the call to prayer and the beauty of the mosque lit up at night. My daughter said ”look how beautiful this mosque is”. I at that time had a dream of us all being happy within that religion, and finding a sense of serenity and strong faith. It was a sad moment;her innocence I will always remember.
But it hurts a lot to know I allowed myself to separate from her. There was something special in that moment, and I will always remember it. The mosque had at one time been a Christian church, but was turned into a mosque during the Islamic conquest of Turkey. At that time I was deeply devoted to Islam and loved the call to prayer. Now I see it for what it is :an invasive ideology that has destroyed other religions and conquered many lands such as Turkey.
Had I not been so enamored and lost in Islam, I might have had the bravery to get out of there. Real faith would have led me to improve the bond with my daughters and too stay together as a family always. Family ties and love are what real faith is. I was lost. Real faith is bravery and fiercely fighting against abuse and those people who abuse and hurt us and the people we love.
My daughters were distraught that we were separating, and I know the pain of feeling abandoned stays with them forever, even though I sent them to someone who could care for them, and got them away from a dangerous situation. The ex-patriot I knew offered to help me get back and fly out too, but I did not have the vigor and determination to do so at that time. I was plagued by fear and felt I could not make it own my own as a single mom again.
We watched ‘Black beauty’ together as our last movie. I feel sad when I think of that story and that movie,because it brings back that last memory together. My older daughter just withdrew within herself in the small room she was staying in and cried. My younger daughter was angry and upset and we talked before the flight. We awoke early the morning and left for the airport after breakfast. I didn’t fast that day because I would be traveling back to my house.
Before we left my husband starting calling me on the phone. Miryem’s family notified him, that the girls were going back to America. He harassed us and told me that, if I sent them back, he would never forgive me and wouldn’t allow me back in the house. Miryem tried to convince my girls to stay, and so did her mother. I explained that I had to get my girls away from Yavuz, and that it was pertinent that they get back, to continue their education, as they wouldn’t be allowed to enroll in Turkish schools without proper visas. They told us that the only education my girls truly needed was an Islamic education.
I think they truly thought that way;education was not seen as important for women under Islam, since most women would be expected to get married and the husband is expected to take care of women financially. While Muslim women can be highly educated, it’s not a priority. It is more a priority for Muslim men. Miryem’s mother had only been educated up to the 6th grade. It was taught that Muslims would not have a good after-life — if one did not stay Muslim. They were more worried that my girls would leave Islam, their formal education was of secondary importance.
They didn’t want to spend as much time with my girls, but they did buy them clothes for the coming festival of Eid . They would have to take those clothes back to the market, and they told my girls how they had bought them new clothes and how sad they would be if the girls went back to the USA. In a way it was very sad,but our situation was dangerous, and the girls had to get out. In the end, they had banned my girls from their home, and we didn’t see them as much anyway.
The drive to the airport was very upsetting and we were all anxious. My daughter felt sick but was better when we got to the airport. The police were there to make sure that my husband and others did not prevent the children from leaving . They guided us to a place for me to wait with the girls until they boarded the plane.
The girls seemed to feel free now that they were safe from Yavuz. They were excited to get back to America. The wait and anticipation at the airport was upsetting. We knew it would be our last time together for awhile. We had never been separated, before but had always been together as a family. The girls had taken of the Islamic clothes they wore in Turkey and their head scarves.
Finally the host came, who would look after the girls on the flight to take them to the plane, along with another girl who was also traveling alone. It was a painful and sad moment when we hugged goodbye. I watched as the girls walked through the airport to the plane. My heart ached but I was so afraid of leaving my husband at the time I didn’t do what was right:to leave with them and keep our family together. It hurts to look back on it having the strength and wisdom that I have now but didn’t have then.
I was looking for a taxi and walking in the opposite direction,but I kept looking back at my girls watching them walk towards their flight until I could no longer see them. My heart sunk if only I had been able to find the heroine inside myself and do what deep within was right. But I chose the wrong and deadly path –I went towards Islam and back to my abusive husband. I was lost and brainwashed and trauma bonded bound by fear within myself.
Fear is a natural emotion . It can help to protect us and it can be a gift to guide us away from danger and lead us down the right path. But if fear controls us as it did me it is harmful and deleterious to our well being. We must tame our fear and discriminate between fear that helps us against fear that will harm us.
That moment of separation remains forever imprinted in my mind and heart. It is daunting to me that I ever let us as a family be separated. The pain of it will always live within me ,but I know it has been more painful for my daughters and has caused them a lot of trauma that they are still healing from. I always with I could change that moment of separation into one of leaving together. But I can’t change time.
The girls were finally free. I was not able to become free from Islam until a long time later. I always wish we stayed together. But I am grateful I didn’t keep them with me in Islam. They are free to choose the lives they have know and to learn and grow. They aren’t trapped in the Islamic system that I was misguided and lost in. They are forever free.