Fadime Sahindal's speech at the Swedish Parliament
On the 20th November 2001 the Violence against Women network arranged a seminar about the topic "Integration on who's terms?". Below you will find the speech held by Fadime Sahindal at the Swedish Parliament during the seminar.
I'm going to talk about how hard it is to be caught between the demands of your family and the demands of society. I want to point out that this is not only about women from the absmiddle East.

I'm 25 years old and come from a small village in the Turkish part of Kurdistan. I come from a happy family with clear role divisions. When I was 7 years old, my family came to Sweden. They told me not to play with Swedish children, to come straight home from school every day.

My parents thought that school was a good thing as long as you learned to read and write, but that girls didn't need a higher education. The most important thing was for me to go back to Turkey one day and get married.

But when the time came, I refused because I thought that I was too young. Besides, I wanted to choose my own husband. I told them I wouldn't go back to Turkey.

For them, my marriage was for the good of the entire family Even if I didn't want to get married, it was better for one member of the family to feel disgraced than the whole family. But I considered myself to be a member of Swedish society.

I began to test my limits more and more. I hung out with my Swedish friends and came home later than I was supposed to. It was important for me to stand on my own two feet, to get an education and develop my abilities. My family was against that. They regarded Swedish girls as loose - with no respect for their families. Swedes switch partners without worrying about the honor of their family.

My family's opinions were riddled with prejudice. They made me confused and ambivalent. I was forced to lead a double life.

One day I met a Swedish guy named Patrik and we fell in love. But it was important that my family not find out about it. I was afraid of what would happen if my family found out that I had met a Swedish guy.

After being together for a year, we became less and less careful. Then the unthinkable thing happened - my dad caught us. His first reaction was to strike both Patrik and me. According to him, the role of a father is to defend and protect his daughter.

He assumed that Patrik and I had a sexual relationship. It is important to be a virgin - the tradition of showing the spot of blood on the sheet after the wedding night is still alive.

For my family, the purpose of my life was to marry a Kurdish man. All of a sudden, I had been transformed from a nice Kurdish girl into a slut. I decided to break with my family and move to Sundsvall. My brother found me and threatened me. The situation got worse and worse. The reason that my brother came was that he was a minor and wouldn't be punished as severely by the law.

I reported the incident to the police, but they didn't take me seriously. They advised me to talk with my family and ask them not to threaten me any more.

So I turned to the media instead. The event attracted a great deal of attention. A number of similar cases had arisen around the same time. I gave a voice and a face to the oppression.

When I went to the police a second time, I was received by a policeman who had experience with similar cases. He understood the seriousness of the situation and offered me protected identity.

My report lead to a court case. My father was convicted of unlawful threat. My mother got the blame for my having left the family. She also accused herself.

Today I live and go to school in …stersund. I feel strong and stable, but it has been a long process to get this far. I have had to give up my background and create a new identity. I have had to leave my family.

I've paid a high price for that. My friends have become my new family. I don't regret having left my family, but I'm sad that I was forced to do it. My family lost both their honor and a daughter.

It could have been prevented. If society had assumed its responsibility for integrating my family, it could have been prevented. If the Kurdish Association had helped my family, it could have been prevented.

I don't feel any bitterness, but I think it's important to learn from what has happened to me. I hope that it doesn't happen again. I think it's important not to shut our eyes to the situation of girls from immigrant families.

Fadime Sahindal
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Adress: Box 115 44, 100 61 Stockholm
Telefon: 08-714 48 00
E-post: fadimesminne@ssu.se
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